“I started recording for Henry Stone in 1969, when I was 16 years old. Latimore took me over there to play bass on a session for him.
I’ll tell ya what Henry Stone did for me, what really Henry Stone did for me more than anything else, more than I could say anybody in the music industry. He gave me trust.
Anybody who gives you the keys to a multimillion dollar studio and you’re a kid, give you an office, give you the clout of a star and recognize that you have a talent that not only he can use but that you need to develop because you are different, he gave me that, he gave me that opportunity, he opened the doors literally and said without saying it in words, “Let’s see what you got.”
There were a lot of people walkin around there that I heard on the radio every day. It was an amazing sight. You’d pull up and you’d see Latimore sitting out front, having a conversation with Timmy Thomas. Then you’d see Betty Wright pull up. Then George and Gwen McCrae. And all these cats are playing on other people’s songs. They’re doing the sessions for other people in T.K. You got Timmy Thomas playing keyboards for Little Beaver and all that stuff, Latimore playing keyboards for Betty Wright, and so everybody was there at the same time, all the time; and were all using each other’s talent which was so cooler than fun because every one of em was a talent in their own right. We had the best of every world really because Beaver was our guitar player. Willie Hale, a cat that writes, sings, and is an an unbelievable guitarist, playing on everybody’s stuff.
Bobby Caldwell, Betty Wright, everybody, Gwen McCrae, George McCrae, all that stuff that everybody is playing on and helped singing on…what came out of TK was really classic from the beginning. It didn’t have to grow into a classic. It was classic. It was labeled a classic from the beginning because if you knew the makeup of each record you automatically knew it was going down in the generation as far as legendary. Period. You already knew that it had the marks of legendary when it came out. You knew it at that time.
This was even before Latimore did “Let’s Straighten It Out,” because I played bass on that one. This was even before Little Beaver’s “Party Down,” because I played bass on that one.
All of those years it was, I played bass on all of those.
Betty Wright, I was on Betty Wright’s album, I was on Betty Wright’s record, way before I even started producing out there.
See, when it comes to playing bass, there’s some space in between the notes that’s also music. Silence is also music. I had to learn that. And by learning, that gave me an insight I think to a lot of different genres. I could play rock and roll. I could play R&B. It led me to record for John Cougar Mellencamp, and go from that to Neil Young. Go from that to Dionne Warwick. And go from that to Dolly Parton. And so it led me to understand all of the layers, the parts, the particulars, and it led me to understand all of that. I found out that I could play the right notes, and interpret the spaces as well.
T.K. taught me balance. There’s a balance. It taught me a lot more than that, but it started out by teaching me balance. Now, I don’t mean the volume of things. There’s a drum part, there’s a bass part, there’s a keyboard part, there’s a guitar part, and they all have to play together. If you’ve got one of those parts over-playing the other one, then the balance is off. But when you’ve got balance you can play drums, you can play guitar, you can play piano, you can play bass, and nothing gets in the way of each other.
If you don’t understand how to play with balance, then you get a lot of everybody trying to overplay like, “Oh watch me do this and watch me do that.” No. The reason why John Cougar Mellencamp’s songs are balanced like they are, like “Jack and Diane,” is because of what I didn’t play. Think about that for a second. “Jack and Diane” is because of what i didn’t play. The bass comes in the middle of the stuff and plays like a “Rockin’ Chair” solo. A lot of people didn’t know that. “Jack and Diane” is a “Rockin’ Chair” bassline. I know, because that’s me playing bass on both, and I wrote my own parts.
And now, the “Rockin’ Chair” bassline is a challenge on youtube. My song had children of its own.”
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Article ©Jake Katel 2017, story by ©George Perry.
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