Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The Fender P-Bass & The Blues

Clavin "Fuzz" Jones backs John Lee Hooker, from the Blues Brothers movie.

It is of no secret that I am a huge fan of the Fender Precision Bass; I have 3 of them for god's sake. It's simple, classic, old school sound that has been featured on millions of recordings and it's enduring legacy lives on till today (it is the most selling bass in the world).

When Leo Fender designed the electric bass in 1951, his vision was to give bassists the opportunity to use a smaller and more amped version of the upright bass.

My P-Bass with it's ancestral father.
What followed was a huge explosion in the music world; bassists can now be heard just as loud as their guitarists, and music was never the same since then.

It quickly caught on, but it wasn't until 1957 when the first (and only) redesign of the Precision was made, using the split coil humbucking pickups which is now the standard in electric bass.

Of the first bands to embrace and use this bass were the blues bands. The blues is the father of rock n' roll, and it was the electric Chicago blues that started it all. From Muddy Waters to Howlin' Wolf to BB King and all in between, it was the P-Bass that held the low end, and the foundation was set in stone.

Muddy Waters was one of the first to embrace the Precision Bass in his band once we went full electric; and one of the key performances where it was brought to nationwide recognition was the 1960 Newport Jazz Festival, where bassist Andrew Stephens is seen holding a 57 or 58 Precision on the backline.

Another important recording in blues, which I rated at no 5, is 'Born Under a Bad Sign' by Albert King, which had the legendary Donald "Duck" Dunn on the P-Bass. The title track, and other songs like "Crosscut" are among the top blues tracks. This also led to huge recognition.

Turnin' goat piss into gasoline.
Another notable P-Bass in the blues world, with a rock edge, is Dusty Hill of ZZ Top. Their infectious grooves and riffs (and beards) set the stage for a new era in music.

One of their most famous tracks is "La Grange" and you can't get anymore hardcore than this:

The simplicity of the P-Bass and it's sturdy build has been a favorite of blues bands and musicians, and I don't expect this relationship to die down anytime soon.

Here's to more thumpin the blues on the down low!

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