Today’s Awesome Woman is musician Carol Kaye. Although you’ve probably never heard her name (I just discovered her last week), you have defininitely heard her play. As a session player, she played guitar or bass guitar on an estimated 10,000 recording sessions in a 55 year career. She started playing guitar in 1949 and plazed bebop jazz guitar in clubs around Los Angeles. In 1957 she did her first session for Sam Cooke. Carol describes her move into session work and her later move to bass guitar: “The session went well, so I decided to aim for the stability of studio work that paid good wages as I supported a family of 4 back in the late 1950s.” “In late 1963, when the Fender Bassist didn't show up for a record date at Capitol Records, I was asked to play someone's bass and liked it, liked its role, and liked creating good latin-funk lines of my own. I had been a successful pro musician since 1949, playing all styles of music so playing bass was easy as I knew what bass should sound like, been there doing the guitar dates for 5 years always thinking "I'd have played the bass parts differently" and so now I had my chance. It was fun to groove, and feel that power and responsibility as the basement of the band, so I started even a heavier work schedule playing elec. bass from 1963 on.” (1)
Carol became part of a group of about 350 musicians that worked steadily behind the scenes on albums, movie soundtracks & television themes. Throughout the 1960s, she played bass on a significant percentage of records appearing on the Billboard Hot 100, although she was almost wholly unknown to the general public at the time. She created some of the most distinctive & memorable bass lines of the era such as “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher and the theme song for the original tv series “Mission Impossible”. Here’s just some of the people she worked with The Beach Boys, Phil Spector, The Doors, Ritchie Valens, Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell, Sonny & Cher, Joe Cocker, Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Frank Zappa, Ike & Tina Turner, Johnny Mathis, Simon & Garfunkel, The Righteous Brothers, Herb Alpert, Paul Revere & The Raiders, The Monkees, and Buffalo Springfield. Beginning in 1969, Kaye wrote and published many tutorial books, audio cassettes, and video tapes instructing others how to play the bass. Kaye has also taught many now well-known bass players and has given workshops throughout the United States.
I could go on and on about her - I now have a major idol crush on her. I had never even heard of her until last week. During the Grammys someone on FB made a snide comment about Glen Campbell. As I was looking up info about him, I stumbled across her name and started looking into her. She is an amazing, awesome woman. Reading some of her notes about her work and watching some of her interviews - she is totally kick ass! Her confidence about her work & her professionalism inspires me by her ability to combine her creativity with getting the job done. And she provides a fascinating window into the creation of the music she worked on. So if you get a chance, take five minutes & watch the YouTube video - I hope you like her as much as I do!