Kaye, Carol

views updated

Carol Kaye

Bass player, guitarist, studio musician

For the Record

Performed with Many Recording Artists

Gave How-to Advice

Music Added Sparkle to Life

Selected discography


The title, First Lady On Bass, Carol Kayes 1996 release as primary artist hints at her legendary career as an electric bass player. Beginning in 1957 as a guitarist, and spanning over 35 years, Kayes successful career as a studio musician includes performances on soundtracks recorded for television, film, and advertising, as well as several hit records. As of early 1998, she continued to hold the record for the most recorded performances on electric bass in the worldmale or female, with over 10, 000 studio recording performances to her credit. In addition to all her studio work, she has played live at festivals, tradeshows, clinics, and seminars, and is considered a leader in instruction on the Electric Bass. 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.

Carol Kaye was born on March 24, 1935 in Everett, Washington, to professional musician parents, Clyde and Dot Smith. Sixyears later, in 1941, the family moved to California, and lived in a housing project in Wilmington, California. At age 13, Kaye took guitar lessons for three months with Horace Hatchett and within one year, in 1949, she was teaching others on the guitar. Shortly after that, she began playing semi-jazz jobs and by the age of 20 was playing on the road with big bands.

Kaye was strongly influenced musically by both of her musician parents, Clyde and Dot Smith. Other notable influences include Ray Charles, Charlie Christian, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Hampton Hawes, Ralph Pena, Howard Roberts, Artie Shaw, Horace Silver, and Sonny Stitt.

From 195663 Kaye played behop with some of the most popular jazz groups from Los Angeles, mostly in black clubs, which were known to be the hot spots. Her earliest work as a studio performer had serendipitous beginnings; during 1957 she accidentally fell into studio work doing recordings with Sam Cooke. Bumps Black-well heard Kaye play at the Beverly Caverns when she was performing with the Teddy Edwards jazz group, which also included Curtis Counce on bass and Billy Higgins on drums. For the first five years of her studio recording career, from 1957-62, she played guitar on many big recordings including almost all of Phil Spectors 1960s sessions. She, along with others who worked with Spector, were known as The Wrecking Crew.

Her next lucky break occurred in 1963 when a bassist failed to show up for a recording date at Capitol

For the Record

Born March 24, 1935 in Everett, WA, to musician parents Clyde and Dot Smith.

Began playing professionally with big bands and top jazz groups, 1949; began studio work playing guitar, 1957; began playing Fender or Electric Bass, 1963; First Call on bass by studios recording music for records, movies, television and commercials, c. 196469; performed with many popular recording artists including The Beach Boys, Barbra Streisand, Sonny and Cher, The Monkees, Joe Cocker, Ike and Tina Turner, Johnny Mathis, Nancy Sinatra, Ray Charles, Glen Campbell, Frank Zappa, and Herb Albert; studio credits for performances on television show themes include MASH, Mission Impossible, Hawaii Five-0, The Brady Bunch, Room 222, Cannon, and Wonder Woman; began writing bass tutoring books, 1969; collaborations with other artists include Some People Can Do What They Like, with Robert Palmer (Island Records, 1989); Shades, with J.J. Cale (Mercury Records, 1991); Talkin Verve: Roots of Acid Jazz, with Jimmy Smith (Verve, 1996); and Out of Limits, with The Marketts (Sundazed Music, Inc., 1996).

Addresses: Carol Kaye, P.O. Box 2122, Canyon Country, CA 91386. E-mail [email protected].

Records. Kaye stepped in and that initiated her career as a bass player. She created an entirely new sound on the bass by using her guitar pick. After her accidental initiation on the electric bass in 1963, she quickly became the mospopular player on the electric bass, a position she held throughout the 1960s. Kaye was the first person called to play bass at recording studiosbe-cause of her ability to create good lines. She worked for record, film and television companies, and played in commercial advertising pieces. She worked under the direction of such notables as Quincy Jones, Elmer Bernstein, Ernie Freeman, John Williams, and David Rose.

Performed with Many Recording Artists

Just a tiny selection of the hit songs on which she performed include Help Me Rhonda (The Beach Boys), These Boots Are Made For Walking (Nancy Sinatra), Wichita Lineman (Glen Campbell), I Got You Babe (Sonny and Cher), and Feeling Alright (Joe Cocker). Some of the other recording artists she has worked with include Barbra Streisand, Ray Charles, Frank Zappa, Ike and Tina Turner, Johnny Mathis, Simon and Gar-funkel, The Righteous Brothers, The Marketts, Herb Alpert and The Tijuana Brass, Andy Williams, The Buckinghams, Paul Revere and The Raiders, Gary Lewis and The Playboys, and The Doors.

Television themes on which she has performed include Mission Impossible, M.A.S.H., Kojak, Get Smart, FBI, Hogans Heroes, The Love Boat, McCloud, Mannix, It Takes a Thief, The Streets of San Francisco, and Peyton Place. Kaye, who has recorded at the most prestigious studios including Universal, Fox, Warner Bros., and Paramount, recalled how Bill Cosby picked up a tambourine to play with the others during recording for the soundtrack of the first Cosby Show.

Gave How-to Advice

Life as a studio recording performer was anything but glamorous. The pace was frantic and many times Kaye remembered eating on the run, getting food from vending machines, and sleeping on the floor when the performers had a five minute break. She said that getting eight hours sleep at night was unknown, four or five hours was more likely. When outsiders would ask how to break into studio recording, Kaye responded in an online interview that one had to learn how to grab a parking place, dont be late, and carry a pencil, dont be egotistical, oh and yes, know howto create, read music, and play your ass off.

Although there was much comradery between musicians, the competition was fierce. Kaye said that you NEVER turned down a record date, or a movie/TV film call and you rarely announced an out-of-town vacation. She recalled one time when she got away with her family for a vacation on a houseboat in the Bay area, and they made their way to a lake in the Northern California area only to be tracked down by a movie contractor who demanded she return right away to do a movie score. Kaye felt that if she didnt obey such a directive from a contractor that another performer would gladly have stepped into her place.

Music Added Sparkle to Life

During the time Kaye worked as a studio recording artist in the 1960s and early 1970s, there were about 17, 000 other musicians doing similar work. They were called studio musicians, and were all independent artists belonging to the Local 47 Musicians Union in the Los Angeles, California, area. Membership in the Union included a listing in the Union book, which is still printed today, and each independent would place bookings via an answering service.

Although the competition between them could be intense, the musicians also created a sort of community among themselves and would encourage new talent whenever possible. Kaye and acore group of some 300 fellow musicians performed together regularly from 195881. From her earliest memories, Kaye had always found that music added a certain sparkle to her life whenever she heard it. During an online interview at her official website, she discussed the comradery between fellow musicians and the enjoyment she still gets upon hearing fellow performers years later on the radio: The sparkle is still there years later after all the recording we did. I grew fond of so many, we were all in it together. When asked if she missed the frantic pace of studio recording, she responded, You bet I do, nothing like it, and we all miss each other too, they were the best!

Selected discography

First Lady On Bass, EFA Records, 1996.

With Others

More of the Monkees, with The Monkees, 1967, reissued Rhino Records, 1994.

Sugar, with Nancy Sinatra as primary artist, 1967, reissued Sundazed Music, Inc., 1995.

Smackwater Jack, with Quincy Jones as primary artist, 1971, reissued Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, 1991.

Some People Can Do What They Like, Island Records, 1976.

Shades, with J.J. Cale, Mercury Records, 1981.

Out Of Limits, with The Marketts, Sundazed Music, Inc., 1996.

Talkin Verve: Roots Of Acid Jazz, with Jimmy Smith, Verve, 1996.

California Creamin, Carol Kaye and The Hitmen, EFA Records, 1997.

Selected Writings

How To Play The Electric Bass, (book and tape), Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.

Jazz Bass, cassette and guide book, Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.

Pros Jazz Phrases-bass clef, Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.

Pros Jazz Phrases-treble clef, Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.

Rock-Funk Bass, cassette and guide book, Alfred Publishing Co., Inc.



Musician, February 1998, p. 12.




Additional information provided by Carol Kaye.

Debra Reilly