Five For Friday: Carol Kaye (One LADY, Multiple Acts)

If you’ve listened to popular music in the last 60 years, chances are good you’ve heard bassist Carol Kaye. It’s estimated she’s played on over 10,000 recordings over the years, some on guitar, but most on the bass guitar. Here is a very small sample of her work, cherry-picked from a more extensive list.

  1. The Beach Boys, "Good Vibrations": Brian Wison called Carol "the best damn bass player in the world." This was released in October 1966 and was an immediate hit, reaching #1 on the Hot 100 by the beginning of December.

  2. Nancy Sinatra, "Sugar Town": This was an earworm for my father late in his life. I remember him walking around the house singing it, except he thought the name of the song was "Sugar Fly." I would have used "These Boots Are Made For Walkin’," except it wasn’t Carol who played the bass line, it was double bassist Chuck Berghofer. "Sugar Town" peaked at #5 on the Hot 100 in December 1966 and at #1 on the Easy Listening chart in 1967.

  3. Joe Cocker, "Feelin’ Alright": Joe released his cover of this Traffic tune in 1969, reaching #69 on the Hot 100. A re-release in 1972 rose to #33. From his 1969 album With A Little Help From My Friends.

  4. Henry Mancini & Doc Severinsen, "Willow Weep For Me": Mancini and Severinsen (best known as the leader and trumpet player of the NBC Orchestra for The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson) joined forces on the 1973 album Brass On Ivory, and Carol was there to provide the bass.

  5. Billy Goldenburg, "Theme From Kojak": One of Carol’s best-known bass lines is the one that she created for the theme song from the 1973-78 TV series Kojak, which starred Telly Savalas. This was the theme that was used in all but the last season of the show.

I have a feeling we’ll be returning to Carol Kaye very soon. That’s Five For Friday for March 26, 2021.

10 thoughts on “Five For Friday: Carol Kaye (One LADY, Multiple Acts)

  1. She may have played on more sessions than anyone. She had such a great feel for bass.

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      1. I read at Dave’s site where she did have that…I never saw that. The only manual I had was Mel Bay.

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        1. For the longest time, I thought Mel Bay was a pseudonym, but he was a real person. I never especially liked his “Modern Method For Guitar,” which is how I started learning that. I didn’t think there was much value to it beyond maybe the first book. The rest of his books are good, though.

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    1. Like with a lot of things, we didn’t watch it when it was first on the air, but started watching it in reruns. He’s an interesting character: gruff and tough, but with a real heart and love for people. Telly Savalas was perfect in the role.

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