Music

Carol Kaye, the Wrecking Crew Member Who Rocked the '60s

Screengrab via YouTube

Carol Kaye, born March 24, 1939, is one of the world's most notable bass guitar session musicians in pop and rock and roll music. According to the PremierGuitar, she has played bass on over 10,000 records during her career.

Kaye started playing the guitar when she was a teenager and eventually became an instructor of the instrument. She performed on the Los Angeles big band circuit, but after recording the rhythm guitar on Sam Cooke's "Summertime" and Ritchie Valen's "La Bamba," she decided she could make more money as a full-time session guitarist than in jazz clubs. Not long after this, she met producer Phil Spector and recorded guitar on Bob B. Soxx & The Blue Jeans' "Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah."

In 1963, a studio at Capitol Records had a no-show Fender bass player. Kaye stepped in and took over the session. After that, the rest was history. She became the most sought-after session musician of her time. She became a member of The Wrecking Crew, a group of studio musicians who played on pretty much all of the hit records of the 1960s in Los Angeles.

Her work with Spector opened doors for her she didn't know possible. Brian Wilson of The Beach Boys heard of Kaye and used her on several of their records, including Beach Boys Today, Summer Day's (And Summer Nights!!), Pet Sounds and Smile. She also played on The Beach Boys' single "Good Vibrations."

Her studio works include sessions with Frank Sinatra, Hal Blaine, Joe Cocker, Simon & Garfunkel, Sonny & Cher, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations, The Monkees, Nancy Sinatra, and Barbra Streisand. She is credited with writing the introduction for fellow session player Glen Campbells' "Wichita Lineman." Nearing the height of her career, she was making close to $10,000 a week. She played on everything from Motown to Hollywood.

In the late '60s, Kaye started to release tutoring books like How To Play The Electric Bass. She also started working with Quincy Jones and began playing on film soundtracks. She played bass lines for the theme songs of TV shows, like M.A.S.H., and movies, like Mission: Impossible.

In 1976, Kaye was involved in a car accident and decided to partly retire from her life as a studio guitar player and bassist. A working woman never truly retires, though. Even today, in 2021, you can take virtual bass and guitar lessons from her. You can still buy her tutoring books and learn how to play with the best of them.

Carol Kaye is going down in history as one of the best studio musicians to come out of the '60s and '70s.

"I was raised by musician-parents and just sort of grew up around music, we were poor, but when music was played, you had a sparkle in your life. And the sparkle is still there years later after all the recording we did, for when you turn on the radio, there are all my fellow musicians," Carol Kaye once said. "I grew fond of so many, we were all in it together, pulling together for a hit, and loved to groove together. The looks, the feel of the music, the inside quick joke, it was a warm feeling."

 

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Carol Kaye, the Wrecking Crew Member Who Rocked the '60s