Ron the bassist
This page is comprised mostly of a lengthy and self-indulgent essay concerning my life in the world of music as a bassist for various local groups. In addition, there are some sections on my efforts as a composer, and my interaction with some of the folks I've had the great pleasure and privilege to get to know as musicians and friends.
This of course isn't all of my gear but these are my instruments and amps:
Kramer XKB-20, Rickenbacker 4003, Fender Precision Bass Special, Gibson Q80, Martin DC-1, Breedlove AC250/SM-12, Kay M-3, Yamaha SLB-200
Amps, Accessories, and Cabinets
Ashdown MiBass 2.0, Eden EX110, Marshall VBA400, Traynor TC112, Traynor TC115, NADY RMX 6, Fender RT1000, Crown CE2000, JBL K-151, Marshall Lead20, Marshall MBC410 (x2)
My Life as a Bassist
As a note of explanation, I've organized this essay around the instruments I've acquired and played throughout the years. I'm naming the bands, but I'm only mentioning the first names of the members of those bands because most of those mentioned aren't aware that I've written about them. So here it is, my life as a bassist to the best of my recollection:
Pictured above from left to right are my brother Mark playing his Goya electric, my sister Pam holding an acoustic guitar, my mother Joni holding an unusual looking baritone ukulele, and me with my Palmer bass.
I got my first bass guitar in 1965 when I was 16 years old. It was a Palmer which I think was a homegrown brand of the store where my parents bought it. My brother, Mark, had gotten a Gibson ES-335 guitar for his birthday, and though he was 5 years younger than I, he became pretty good fairly quick, and soon, he organized a band.
Seeing how well my young brother was doing, I asked for an instrument of my own. That Christmas, the Palmer bass was under the tree. My brother convinced our parents that he needed an amplifier, and our dad, being an electronics buff, ordered and built a Heathkit 212 amp for Mark to play guitar through. When I asked for an amp for my bass, he built me a plywood amp made of an old 15 watt Heathkit stereo amp and four 12” speakers. Unlikely as it seems, we got our first gig with those amps and a home stereo converted into a P.A. system. My brother had no problem organizing musicians, and he put together a band called Madison Balloon; but there were no singers in their band so he asked me to join them, and I did. We had two guitarists (my brother and his friend Wayne,) a drummer named Jeff, and I sang lead and played bass. Later Wayne had to quit, and my friend Bobby took his place.
We played at a tavern for four weeks before a fight between some customers had cleared the place out. The police who responded to the fracas convinced my parents that the bar was too rough for us to continue playing there. Despite the brevity of our first gig, my brother and I got a taste of the musician’s lifestyle, and we’ve both been in the music business ever since. We played a couple more times after that, but in the fall of 1967, I left home and joined the service. I’m not sure what happened to that Palmer bass, but I never saw it after I left for boot camp.
While I was in the service I bought an old box guitar from one of the guys in the barracks and banged around on it. After my release from active duty, I got a job delivering auto parts and bought a short scale Gibson 125 acoustic six string.
Late in 1971, I ran across a long time acquaintance, John, who told me that he was playing music and trying to put a band together. John is the consummate working class entrepreneur. He delivers newspapers, runs a photo development route and plays music for the simple reason that he prefers not to be someone’s employee. He is a freelance contractor in whatever he does. A free spirit, he encouraged me to develop whatever musical talent I had, and he helped me a great deal in the early years. We hit it off fairly well, and we both wanted to make music pay for us so soon we had formed a band of our own and played a few gigs as a duo. Another great thing about John is that he always had the ready cash to snag a deal on equipment if it became available. I bought a few of my first amp components and some instruments from John.
Pictured here from left to right: Bill the guitarist, a fellow named Jack who used to sit in and sing, and me playing the "borrowed" P bass. This photo was taken during a band gig with Caption. Notice the Traynor YBA-3A amp and 8-10" cabinet in the background.
Fender Precision Bass
At the same time, my younger brother had continued to form bands and play at various functions. When I saw him that year, his band had dissolved because most of its members had gone away to college. The summer before my brother left for college, we hung around with each other quite a bit even living in the same rented house for a few weeks. During that time, I told him that I wanted to play bass, but I didn’t have one to play. He told me that one of his band mates had left a 1963 blue/green Fender Precision Bass behind, and since I needed a bass, he didn’t see the harm in my using it until his bassist returned.
I “borrowed” that P Bass for almost a year. In that time, I played some jobs with John, saved my money, and was able to buy a brand new red burst Rickenbacker 4001 from a now defunct music store called Howard Music. Additionally, I bought a Martin D28-12 string from the same store about two months later.
Eventually my brother’s bassist friend returned and showed up at my door demanding his instrument. After a few tense moments in which he realized that no harm had come to his P bass, he conceded that he hadn’t had a band gig and hadn’t needed the bass while I used it, but he was still pretty upset about my “borrowing” his P. At last reports, he’s still upset about it. Fact is I haven’t seen that bass in 30 years, and still, to this day, I’ve played that P Bass more than any other human being—perhaps more than all others put together. Better to have played it than to let it disappear in the case—at least that’s the story I’m sticking with.
I was also buying some equipment from John that included a Traynor “YBA-3A” 200 watt tube amp with an 8x10” speaker cabinet. Unable to stuff the Traynor 8x10” cabinet into my Ford Falcon sedan, I was forced to downsize my speaker cabinets. I bought two Sound City bass cabinets: a 4x10” and a 1x15” folded horn that would fit in the back seat of my gold Falcon.
After that, I was always playing in one band or another. I was a part time musician trying to turn my passion for music into a fulltime occupation. I remained in Cincinnati and networked at jam sessions. Eventually I started playing in better bands.
The first such band was called Caption. The lineup was John, me, a guitarist named Bill, and a drummer who turned out to be my very good friend Mike (who was also in Loco Yokels years later.) Caption’s song list ranged from the Electric Light Orchestra to the Ventures with one or two Hank Williams and Ernest Tubb tunes thrown in. We played together for almost a year, and for the first time, I was beginning to turn a profit in music, but I needed to keep a day job to make ends meet. Still it was music for fun and profit. Inevitably, the band split up, but we all remain friendly to this day.
After Caption, I wound up following Bill the guitarist into a non-paying gig backing up a keyboard player named Bob. We played blues and country, but Bob had a way to put a southern gospel feel into every song he sang. It was great training for me and expanded my view of music. Bob’s left hand taught me some tangible basics in bass lines, and I continued to practice for hours every day that winter. My principal influences were Barry Oakley, Billy Cox, Jack Bruce, Rick Laird, and Bill Wyman. I had also met a bassist named Boxie at a jam session who took the time to show me some of the really funky bass lines he’d learned over the years.
Also during that time, John had called me to join a band that included himself, a drummer named Doug, a guitarist named Essell, and an energetic young musician named Larry who played banjo and some guitar. Larry would figure greatly in my musical future despite the fact that I decided not to join the band that they were putting together. They formed a band without me, and even cut a record.
Ohio Bluegrass Review
That summer, John called me and asked me, for the second time, to join his band. They had landed a house gig at a small country and western bar, and their singer and principle performer, Larry, had taken a night shift factory job so they were offering me his position in the band. I gigged in that band, called The Ohio Bluegrass Review, for about a month. The lineup was John on guitar and vocal, a guitarist/vocalist named Travis, Essell on guitar, Doug on drums, and myself on bass and vocal.
Every Sunday we hosted a jam session. That was the most fun I had at that job. During those jam sessions I met a guy who would weigh heavily in my musical future. His name was Gradual.
His girlfriend told me that Gradual’s mother had named him after spending 48 hours in labor to deliver him. Truly enigmatic, Gradual was a young black man who could belt out a country standard and wail the blues as well as anyone. He had a beautiful gold top Gibson Les Paul and could wail on that as well. Gradual had a manner and charisma that gave him the ability to win over heavily redneck audiences. Gradual was, as Hendrix would say, bold as love.
Gradual played in bars where “nigger” was one of the first words that would be spoken after he walked through the door. Gradual would calmly ignore the slur and set up his equipment. Then, when he struck up the band for the first song, it was inevitably a foot-stompin’ country classic like “Rocky Top.” He’d take great joy in dedicating the song to “my buddy” pointing out whomever it was that had emitted that darkest racial epithet. As the band played the lead solo, he’d set his guitar down, jump off the bandstand, and go stand next to the person who had called him nigger and dance a country jig. Sometimes the offender would join Gradual in the dance. It was one of the most incredible paradoxes I’ve ever witnessed. My young black friend Gradual was dancin’ with the Klan. Dude had stones of steel. I was proud to play with him. Gradual was doing incredible things with his music.
Larry began to return to jam with us. Young Larry had taken on music in a big way. He practiced incessantly and developed his musical talent at an incredible rate. Coupled with an innate ability, he was quickly becoming one of the best musicians around. Gradual, Larry and I hit it off very well during those jam sessions.
Larry and I would become great friends and play in bands together for years to follow. (In fact, we play in a band together today.)
The time I’d spent with Bob and Bill paid dividends because Gradual was better than Bob at doing essentially the same thing. Gradual had a perfect voice plus he was a fine guitarist and harmonica player as well. Larry was a burgeoning talent as a guitarist and vocalist even pulling out a banjo or mandolin once in a while.
Those jam sessions were my first opportunity to show better musicians how much work I had been putting into developing my skills. As it turned out, Larry and Gradual were sufficiently impressed.
It was during this time, I made my first professional recording. Called “Barroom Boogie,” it was produced by a fellow named Junior who encouraged me to continue writing songs, and we developed a limited, but friendly acquaintanceship. Junior was a fine violin player who knew his way around a country fiddle as well. He was a first rate musician and a first class act, and he really liked the songs I was writing. I began to record my songs, and even tried to pitch them in Nashville.
In the mean time, I had been jamming with a number of other musicians that my friend Mike the drummer had introduced to me. Along with jamming and gigging, I began to try my hand at songwriting while playing covers in the clubs at night. A local radio station began to release “album projects” which were compiled from recordings submitted by local musicians. I recorded one of my tunes with Mike, our guitarist friend Mike, Bill the guitarist, and another guitarist named Frank. I submitted the finished recording to the radio station for the upcoming album project, but we didn’t make the cut in the end. I continued to record for many years.
I played a couple of gigs with John as well.
During this time, I married my first wife.
My young brother had, at this point, began a career as a producer soon after he graduated from college. As he explains in his book, he began as a songwriter and went to Nashville to sell his wares. He wound up signing away the rights to most of his song catalogue to a publishing company that didn’t make much of an effort to market his tunes. After that, he changed directions in his career and went to New York to get into the recording industry.
My income was growing steadily and I bought a house. Soon after, my wife became pregnant.
Left to right: Larry, Essell, Dallas, Me
After the demise of the Ohio Bluegrass Review, Larry, Essell and I formed a group with a drummer named Dallas. We called the group Crisis and it lasted for exactly one job. The best development that came from that band was the fact that we practiced regularly as a group.
Left to right: Gradual, Larry, Michael, Me
Gradual Taylor and Stagefright
The next band I played in was called Gradual Taylor and Stagefright. Unlike Crisis, we never practiced as a group. Gradual had a philosophy of “learn as you earn.” The lineup was: Gradual on guitar, vocal and harmonica; Larry on guitar and vocal; a highly competent drummer named Michael; and me on bass and vocal. This band had cohesion. We were exceeding our audiences’ expectations. Essell ran sound for us. It was an electric experience for me to be playing in one of Cincinnati’s best bands. Not only that, my musical career had turned into a fair paying part time job. Our gigs were steady, and I had found a day job in the automotive field that paid well so the eagle, as they say, was flying about then.
Gradual is a fairly clever songwriter, a fine showman, and an exceptional singer. While I was with Gradual’s band, in the spring of 1979, he recorded a 45 rpm single of two of his songs with Michael and guy called Mad Dog on drums, Larry on guitar and backing vocals, and I sang backup and played bass along with another bassist named Don. Gradual sang lead and played guitar.
Side A took three hours to record. Side B was done in a single take. The song on side A, “You Funked It Up,” was quickly forgotten, but Side B, a song called “Shake That Hiney,” had an unmistakable swing to it which appealed to the local folks that bought Gradual’s record. “Shake that Hiney,” is what Gradual became known for. Gradual had five pressings of 1000 of “Shake that Hiney,” and sold nearly every one of them.
I made no income from Gradual’s record except from the residual effect of being in the band whose record was a small time hit.
One day on a string buying trip to my local music store, the manager, Dave, handed me a brochure from Kramer guitars. They were developing a new 8 string bass and had offered a few options. My Rickenbacker 4001 had become somewhat undependable. I play with a lot of movement and enthusiasm so I’m relatively physical with the instruments when I play. The Rick had two pickups, the forward one was set into the body about one inch from the base of the fret board, and the other was also recessed into the body and mounted on springs with a chromed cover over the top of it. Through the jouncing I had given it for three years, its electronics were coming apart.
I ordered one of the XL8 basses from Kramer. The Rick had retained its value despite its electronics woes, and I traded it in when the Kramer arrived. I had decided upon a Kramer when I saw Michael Bany playing for a group named Wheels. I wanted his sound. Though he played a Kramer for years, his sound, as it turns out, was mostly through the components of his amplification system, and, of course, his stellar technique; but my Kramer has turned out to be a fine and durable instrument so Bany’s influence paid off in the end regarding my choice of a Kramer bass.
The Kramer XL8 is an 8 string bass. An aluminum necked instrument, it has four Schaller tuners on the headstock and four on the body below the tailpiece. It uses two DiMarzio Model One humbucking pickups; has two three-position switches for the coils; and one three-position switch for phase. It has two volume and two tone knobs. It has a specially fitted Badass tailpiece to allow for the eight string configuration. I used it as an eight string on a couple of occasions and it is one of the most beautifully voiced instruments I’ve ever heard. As a four string, it had great action and the ebonal fretboard has stood the test of time. It is a great instrument and served me well for over twenty five years.
I also invested in a Peavey MarkIII bass head and an 18” folded horn bass cabinet which I used with my 4-10” sound City cabinet.
In less than a year, the drummer Michael was replaced in Stagefright by Dallas. Though Gradual had been blessed with an innate talent and drive, his business acumen left a lot to be desired. He continually found house band jobs at small bars while his record was reaching its peak of popularity. If Gradual ever had an opportunity to break into a regional or national scene, it was the year immediately following the release of “Shake that Hiney.”
One thing that Gradual did to me onstage, was to get into a really funky jam, then turn to the band and say "give the bass player some" at which time all but the drummer would stop playing, leaving me as the solo instrumentalist. I knew nothing of bass solos, and the first few times, I fumbled around trying find something that worked without much success.
Back at my favorite music store, I asked if they had someone who could show me some things on bass. They told me that their bass instructor was Michael Bany. I signed up for a month of lessons with one of my bass playing idols. Michael was a patient and resourceful teacher. He explained to me about playing in modes and had me practicing some exercises from a book written by another of my bass heroes, Rick Laird. He helped me to put together a passable solo in that month's time.
After that, if I went to see Michael Bany play, my money was no good. He always bought me a drink before I could send him one, and he always took the time to come over to where I was sitting to say hello. As it turned out, he tuned pianos as well, and came to my house a couple of times to tune an old upright we had. Bany liked my style of play, and though he was far more gifted than I, he always introduced me as one of the best bassists in the city--and he meant it.
Realizing that Gradual was content to remain in the smalltime bar scene of Cincinnati, I concentrated on my own songwriting career. I composed about 20 songs in the next year and went about trying to find a way to market my tunes. Eventually, I went back to the only person I’d ever known who had a job in the recording industry. Junior heard my new tunes and heaped praise on me for sticking with it. I began to record demos of my tunes and fretted over the copyright process. I didn’t want anyone to “steal” my tunes.
My brother had firmly established himself in the east coast recording industry, and when he heard my demo of “Barroom Boogie,” he offered to try to sell it for me. He found a group who was interested in recording the tune and sent me a contract. I was confused by some of the language of the contract and hired a lawyer to review it. He was not a music industry lawyer and admitted that he had no idea what the context of some of the language of the contract meant. My first wife didn’t hit it off with my brother and advised me not to trust him. A friend advised me likewise. To say the least, I was confused. In the end, I went to the one person who had seen a contract of this type, Junior. When Junior saw the contract, he said that it was a standard songwriter’s contract and told me that I should sign it. Unfortunately, several weeks had passed. When I contacted my brother to tell him that I was sending him the signed contract, he told me not to bother. The group had begun recording their next album and had finished picking out what tunes were going on the release.
I continued to play with Gradual for another year or so—nearly three years total. My son was born and the jobs that Gradual got for the band continued to be in the redneck bar scene, and I was growing weary of working in those places. I quit the band in the summer of 1980.
Gradual called me back a few times, and I continued to play the occasional fill in role. Larry quit soon after I did. So did Dallas. Essell left too. Gradual was well established and continued on with other players.
Pictured from left to right is Apex: Larry with his Les Paul, Dallas with sticks, and me with my Rickenbacker 4001.
Larry called me soon after we’d left Gradual’s band, and we put together another band with Dallas which we called Apex. I bought two Peavey SP-1 P.A. columns, a Peavey CS400 amplifier, a Peavey 120 monitor amp, an 8 channel Biamp mixing console, a Roland 101 Space Echo, and a 50 ft. Whirlwind microphone snake. I made two monitor cabinets using two 15” speakers I’d salvaged from some old bass cabinets. I found a used Ford van to haul my equipment.
Essell ran sound for us in Apex, and my next door neighbor Joe became our light man. We played rock as a three piece power trio, and we polished the music in rehearsals until we had taken it to the next level. When we got back into the bar scene, we were well accepted. With a great sound and lighting crew, we became very sought after. I became the band’s manager, and we started playing better clubs and making better money.
During the time just before we began to gig as Apex, I recorded “Call it Reggae” which was inspired by my growing interest in the genre. It is the only time that I recorded one of my songs as the sole instrumentalist. I played flute, guitar, and bass and won an honorable mention for that year’s album project.
Joe and I were almost inseparable for the next two years. In the beginning of Apex, Joe and I built a homemade lighting system made of outdoor flood lights and a console of wall switches. In reality, it looked pretty good onstage, but as Joe became more familiar with lighting technology, he invested in a far more sophisticated system. When it came to music Joe and I went everywhere together: finding jobs for the band, scouting new places, and looking at how other bands were setting up their equipment. We also partied a lot. As Apex grew in popularity, Joe and I became closer friends.
Apex recorded two tunes of mine. “Punk City Kid” and “Do a Thing with Me.” We performed these songs at every gig.
The demise of Apex began when Dallas had issues with transportation. Becoming less and less available, he was nearly impossible to reach. After about a month, I received the inevitable phone call. He told me that he couldn’t continue to play for the band on a regular basis and offered no further explanation. For the first time, I was forced to cancel a booking.
We replaced Dallas briefly with my friend Mike, but Mike’s day job kept him from being available for many of our bookings. Several attempts were made to reorganize Apex, but in the end, it was over about two years after it began, but it had been a lot of fun. Dallas called me shortly after Apex, and we attempted to put a band together at his house with a guitarist named Will and with Larry. We went into the studio and recorded a tune by Will and one by me called "Love with You," but the band never took hold. The next thing I heard was that Dallas had left town. I didn't hear from him again for 23 years.
Joe and I did sound and lighting for a few bands while I was looking for another band to play bass. We had some great times running sound and lights! Joe was a wild man and was a lot of fun to work alongside.
I answered an ad in the newspaper for a top 40 band, auditioned, and became the newest member of a group called the Bash. The lineup was Bud on guitar, Mark on keyboard and vocal, John on sax and vocal, another Mike on drums, and me on bass and vocal. The Bash did a series of one-nighters over the next year and a half. We played all over the region mostly doing proms and frat parties for really good money. We did a little club work, but money was the driving force behind that band. My tenure with the Bash ended after about a year when the band disbanded for various reasons.
While playing with the Bash, I recorded one of my songs called “Girls” with John on sax and vocal, Dallas on drums, Bud on guitar, and me on bass and vocal. I entered that song in an international songwriting contest. I was sent a booklet that let me know that I’d won nothing. In the fall of 1984, about six months after the contest results, I got a call from a friend telling me that they were playing my song on MTV.
Sure enough, “Girls” was being performed by a musician named Dwight Twilley. The song he performed was amazingly similar to my song “Girls.” Among the judges at the songwriting contest was a representative from Bug Music who published Twilley’s version of “Girls.”
I made the connection and hired a copyright lawyer to pursue the matter. The lawyer agreed that Twilley’s song was, essentially, my song. The Twilley version faded into obscurity soon after we issued a cease and desist order, and my lawyer, who had contacted Twilley’s record company advised me to drop the matter because there wouldn’t be enough money involved to make a difference. I did.
Bud and I put another group together that we called 3-D at first. The lineup was: Bud on guitar and vocal, Michael from Stagefright on Drums and vocal, and me on bass, vocal, and keyboard. We played a job at a college bar, and opened for Queensryche and Honeymoon Suite at a regional venue. Joe ran lights at our gigs. Soon after that, Michael left the group. We replaced him with Mike from the Bash, and when that didn’t work out for various reasons, my old friend Mike from Caption played drums. After finding that another group had called itself 3-D, we changed the name to Living Proof. Our set was nearly all originals, and we played a concert at a punk rock bar in Newport, Ky recording the show. The show was almost perfect, and the recording turned out well. We released the recording as a cassette called “Living Proof,” which included six of my songs and two of Bud’s.
My first wife insisted that our relationship was over and filed for divorce in May 1985. As I dealt with the divorce process, I decided that my life in music had cost me too much, and I severed ties with nearly everyone I’d been involved with musically. I sold much of my P.A. equipment during this time and paid off most of my revolving debt.
Joe had been divorced for about a year, and we decided to share the rent on a two bedroom apartment. As I began to pick up the pieces of my life in the late summer of 1985, I met my second wife at a place where Joe was working as a light man.
Joe continued to encourage me to get back into music. After a six month layoff, a band contacted me to audition for them. I went to their audition, and they asked me to join, but the house where they practiced was about a 40 mile drive each way. I declined to join. A week later I was contacted by yet another band to audition. The second band was better than the first.
Stevie G and the Westside Stompers
They asked me to join their group and I did. It was called Stevie G and the Westside Stompers. The lineup for this band was: Stevie G. on guitar and vocals, Mike on keyboards, Mike on guitar, Mitch on drums and vocal, Jeff on Sax, and me on bass and vocal. This was an excellent band. We practiced and got tight. Like Gradual, Stevie insisted on running the band’s business, but he wasn’t very good at it. Because the band had most of the P.A. equipment we needed, I purchased a 12 channel Peavey mixing board to complete the P.A. Joe showed up at a couple of our gigs and ran lights for us.
That winter, we recorded two songs: one of Steve’s and one of mine called “No more talk about Love.” Steve submitted another earlier recording of his tune for the album project along with my song. His tune made the final album project.
Regardless, we were pressing Stevie to take this band to better places, going on the road if necessary. After six months of playing in mostly small local clubs and accepting pay that was far below our potential, the band broke up.
At this time, May 1986, I married my second wife and remain married to her to this day.
A month later Gradual called to tell me that he was looking for a bass player. I was paying child support and my wife had taken an entry level job in retail. Her two daughters moved in with us, and we really needed the income. I had a good job with benefits in the automotive field, but the supplemental income from music helped us make ends meet.
Over the next six years Gradual and I played with Stagefright’s original drummer Michael and a number of guitarists and utility musicians including a fellow named Tom who could also play keyboards, an energetic guy named Eddie, a talented young woman named Jessica, and finally an old acquaintance of ours, Bob. Michael was replaced by a guy named Thad.
I was working five days and six nights much of the time, grabbing sleep when I could, and working on my songwriting career as well.
My brother had become very successful as a record producer and after getting married, moved back to Cincinnati. He asked me to help him to do some of the wiring for his new studio. Also, I helped him to make the initial move and setup his new studio facility. During this time, I recorded and released a 45rpm single called “Real Mean Woman.” As repayment for my help in building the studio, Mark let me record three demos of songs. I recorded one called "Leather and Chrome" and later one called "Down Home." The third was a cassette demo of cover tunes for the Microns.
I purchased some home recording equipment and made my final unsuccessful effort to sell my tunes. At a songwriter’s meeting, I met a woman named Ginny who had written several outstanding tunes. I agreed to help her record her tunes and try to market them as well. We recorded demos of five of her tunes. Virgin records showed some interest along with A & M records, but in the end there were no signings. We ended our professional association amicably.
I left Gradual’s band in the summer of 1992.
My longtime friend Mike the drummer and our guitarist friend Mike began to jam and formed a group called the Microns (because everyone was named Mike or Ron.) I bought two Peavy SP-3 P.A. cabinets, and a small Peavey powered P.A. head. We added a younger guitarist named Darrel. Darrel left shortly and another guitarist named Joe joined the group. We played several jobs over the next six months. Mike the guitarist left the group to reform with one of his former bands. Mike, Darrel and I carried on for two months afterward. Darrel was forced to leave the group for personal reasons so the Microns were finally broken up.
I was called by Gradual’s former guitarist Bob who asked me to audition for a band that he had joined. I joined this band briefly but left shortly thereafter. They were extremely under-rehearsed and attempted to play music that was beyond their scope as a band. Jim, the drummer, while affable, appeared to be challenged as a drummer, and the mix of musicians just could not gel as a unit. In the end, I left out of frustration.
I played a few gigs for Gradual after that, but in the fall of 1994, I stopped playing music altogether. I sold all of my P.A. and recording equipment and used the money to settle most of my debt.
My friend Larry called me the next summer to tell me that he had organized a pig roast and asked if I’d be interested in playing there. I agreed, and when I showed up I was pleased that John, Doug, and Essell were there as well. For the next seven years, the only time I played bass was at Larry’s annual pig roast with all of my old friends.
In 2003, my wife and I organized a party to commemorate her 50th birthday. I asked my friends Larry and Mike to play at the party. They very heartily and graciously accepted. They even agreed to rehearse for the party.
Everyone at the party was pleasantly surprised at how well we sounded. We mused that we should put a group together. We kicked the idea around for about a year, and in September of 2004 we formed the Loco Yokels to play at Mike’s 50th birthday party and at Larry’s annual pig roast. I invited our guitarist friend Mike to join us at Mike’s birthday party, and again at Larry’s pig roast, and the current lineup of the Loco Yokels took shape. Mike the guitarist left the band after about a year, but we've carried on as a three piece. We sounded good in the beginning, but after years of steady rehearsal and gigs, our sound has really come together.
The primary factor that brings this band together is that we’re all good friends, we’re experienced musicians, and we’re really enjoying what we’re doing which comes across to audiences so we’re becoming in demand very quickly.
We’re all in a financial position to keep our musical pursuits in perspective, and we’re having a great time playing the music we love with some of our best friends.
Loco Yokels broke up in 2012
Larry and I have formed a new group called Toneshiners with a drummer named Bill who is the son of my mentor Boxie. We are recording and have played a few gigs so music continues in my life.
I've also gone on an equipment buying binge, but I haven't taken it over the top--yet! Well maybe a little. Most of these basses are gone now. The only ones remaining are shown at the top of this page, but it took a journey through all of this gear to arrive at what I have now which all sounds and works great.
Dean Performer bass
I found this used Dean in a Sam Ash store. I played every electric acoustic bass I could find and when I played this one, the action and tone set it apart from the others. It has a medium scale rosewood fret board and a spruce top with an onboard preamp. As with most acoustic/electric instruments, I have some difficulty keeping it from feeding back through the amp, but its tone is very lively and unique so I use it frequently.
'94 Jerry Jones Longhorn bass4
At first glance, this Jones Longhorn grabbed me, and I said somewhat involuntarily, "this is the most beautiful instrument I've ever seen." It's called "Copperburst" but it's like a key lime pastel green with a spray-spatter to solid blended copper edge paint trim. It wasn't in perfect shape, had a few road scars (a little belt rash and nicks around the edges), but after playing it for ten minutes or so, I knew I wasn't leaving the store without it. Along with the trademark longhorn shape of the body, the wedge shaped tailpiece, lipsticktube pickups, clear pickguard, and appliance style knobs give it a retro appearance.
The Longhorn is a semi-hollow body bass with two passive, but hot, lipstick tube pickups. A simplistic design, it uses two sheets of 1/4" masonite for the front and back of the body, some ash reinforcements, and a textured vinyl trim around the edge. It's a short scale bass (30.5") with a 24 fret rosewood fingerboard. The tailpiece is minimal, but very effective. It has tremendous action and is a great sounding instrument. I found it at a Guitar Center and traded the Washburn MB2 I'd bought as a backup for my Kramer. The Jones has a tone very much like my old Rickenbacker and is very light as it is a semi-hollow bodied instrument. I'm having a great time playing this great looking bass.
Schecter Devil Tribal Diamond Series bass
My most recent acquisition, this Schecter has a dazzling inlay design on the neck, active electronics, two EMG-HZ pickups, and a nice high mass brige . A solid bodyied instrument, it weighs and feels similar to my old Rickenbacker. It's a 34" scale and its action is unbelievably easy. It sounds great, a little on the high end side tone-wise, but it's very much a bottom note instrument.
In the past two years, I traded my Peavey Mark III bass amp and a 1-15” Peavey speaker cabinet for an Ampeg B2R amp, an Alembic F1X preamp, and two SWR 15” Speaker cabinets. I've made some major changes since then. First, I removed one of the SWRs and replaced it with a mongrel NADY sub woofer cabinet which I loaded with a JBL K151 18" speaker. I ran the Alembic to the Ampeg which drove one SWR 1 x 15" and the mongrel NADY 18". The JBL K151 is so much better voiced than the SWR that I had to do something. I finally traded both of the SWR 1 x 15" cabinets for an Ampeg BA115 combo amp. Then I found a Peavey CEL 2 compressor which I hooked up through the effects loop of the Alembic F1X. I was biamped out of the F1X running highs to the Ampeg BA115, with the lows through the Ampeg B2R and the Nady/JBL 18". At that time, I thought it was the best setup for my money.
I still have my Kramer XL8 which I have restrung as an 8 string, but I’ve added the Jerry Jones Longhorn bass, the Dean Performer acoustic-electric bass, and the Schecter Tribal bass. I use all four each time we play a job. With all this high grade gear, I'm sounding better, and I'm having a lot of fun playing bass these days.
Update on my rig
After nearly two years of building my first rig and carrying it around, I got tired of lugging all that gear, hooking everything up, and setting everything for the room every time I played a live gig. It was taking me about 1/2 hour just to get my rig in place. Once I get set up, I sound great with that rig. The two Ampeg units were great sounding and performed wonderfully. The Alembic preamp had that classic dual showman punch, and the Peavey remains as one of the finest compressor units available. But let me tell you, that stuff weighs a ton! And I'm not getting any younger. Something had to give.
I knew I had to simplify if I wanted to sound like I have been sounding. By biamping my rig, I got the full range of my sound and was pushing considerable air, but it took so much gear and so much time to get myself in place.
So I began to search for a single unit that would knock down my load to two pieces. The main lines of gear I looked at were Ampeg, Fender, Galien-Kruger, Hartke, Peavey, Ashdown, and Eden including Nemesis. Many came close to what I wanted. I was looking for a split amp for biamping with a crossover, a compressor, adequate eq, and enough wattage to create headroom.
During a visit to my local Sam Ash store, I came across this unit.
This unit is a 600watt stereo bass amp in a 2 x 10" combo. It has a crossover, compressor, dialed and graphic eq, and a noise gate. It is the first 2 x 10" combo I've ever played that didn't rattle on the low E at my settings. Sweet unit.
So I traded my Alembic F1X preamp, Peavey CEL2 compressor, Ampeg B2R amplifier and my Ampeg BA-115 combo for this single unit.
After about three days I realized that the unit was not for me. It broke down easily and slid into thermal overload without much of a workout.
The one thing I did hear when I got the Carvin going right was how well the JBL sounded with a 500 watt amp pushing it.
I returned the unit, and after the salesmen calmed me down a little, I brought home a Hartke combo that I didn't like. When I took it back, I looked at the Hartke HA5500 head and brought it home.
It's a 500 watt head with a tube and a solid state preamp, a compressor, graphic eq, and a tone shaping circuit called contour. At 8 ohms it runs at 350 watts and at 4 ohms at 500 watts.
This Hartke is simple to use, plenty powerful, and my JBL sings. I'm pretty much back where I started with this rig, only bigger and more powerful. I'm thinking about adding a 1 x 15" 8 ohm cab to get the full effect from this amp.
The Hartke head is easy to carry. There's a strap type handle on the right side. if they had put feet on the left side, that would have allowed the head to be set down with the handle up. I'll add some feet to the left side soon. I really like the sound of this amp, and as I said, it works really well with my JBL 18".
Today, it just so happens that one of the local music stores is having a promotion where they're asking you to trade in your old stuff. I've had a Fender Squire II 6 string Stratocaster guitar in my closet for about 10 years now and a Fender Mexican Stratocaster for about 6 years. I haven't played either one for over five years. So I traded both of them in and got a slightly used Hartke 115XL cabinet which is a 1 x 15" 8 ohm enclosure. Now my rig looks like this.
Now the Harke HA5500 runs at 500 watts pushing the 200 watt Hartke 115XL and the 300 watt NADY/JBL 1 x 18", and it THUMPS!
I'm still having fun putting this rig together.
I've decided that I'm in love with this rig. Two nights ago, I sat down and wrote a love poem to my rig:
That’s what I love about bass.
That’s what I want from my gear.
It’s what I strive to achieve
Each time I strike a note
So each riff I relate
Is clear and to the point—
Telling the tune
As it’s meant to sound.
Relating from the spirit
And mind and soul
And body and purpose
With one thing in mind:
Call me romantic, but that's how I feel. ;^)
Well, I went and done it.
Years ago, I had the chance to buy a Fender Precision fretless bass for $75. It was a 1960s model, but I wasn't learning bass fast enough to attempt a fretless at the time.
Now it's different.
I just traded in my Jerry Jones Longhorn for this:
From what I've been able to gather, it's a 2002 Steinberger Spirit XZ25F fretless 5 string. It needs a little work, but I really like the way it sounds and plays. More later.
Well I put new strings on it and it really kicks. It's a great instrument and I'm having a great time learning and playing this bass. I don't use this lowest string much, but I do have to remember which strings to play for a certain note and where to put my finger one the string to get a particular note. A lot of fun.
Fender MIM active Deluxe P Bass Special
I read about this bass in a Musician's Friend flyer I got in the mail. It has a Jazz neck and a Precision bass body. It has one "noiseless" domino pickup on the neck side and a Jazz style pickup on the bridge side. Man, this thing's got a lot of GREAT tone. I traded in my Kramer XL8 and got this and some cash too. I really like this bass. The Kramer's a great bass and some lucky bassist will add it to his collection.
Fender MIJ Aerodyne Jazz Bass
I was looking to get another Fender because I'm so happy with the Deluxe P Special. I read about this Aerodyne Jazz and went to GC to try it. I traded the Schecter Tribal Bass for it. This Fender's a beauty, plays superbly, and sounds better than any passive bass I've ever owned. The Schecter had a 24 fret fingerboard and I've grown to like the 20 fret board so much, that I wanted to get another Fender with a Jazz neck. I think I'm set on basses for awhile.
Fender MIM Reggie Hamilton Jazz Bass
I found this sunburst beauty at a local music store. It has an 18 volt active p/j pickup configuration with a switch that can change it to passive. It's a beautiful three tone sunburst with a tortoise shell pick guard. Superior playing, sounding and responsive instrument.
I found this '06 Rickenbacker 4003 at the same store that I found the Reggie Hamilton jazz. If you've been reading this page, you know that I had a 4001 for many years. When I saw this Ric, it pulled on my heartstrings so much that I decided the aerodyne had to go. So now I have the great grand nephew of my original 4001. Rics are legendary for their tone and playability. It's simply a beautiful and expertly crafted instrument.
I went to the local mega music store to inquire about a bass that I've been wanting for a long time. As I talked to the salesman about making that purchase, another bass caught my eye.
It's a beautiful sunburst Fender Precision Bass. This Precision Deluxe Special bass is made in the U.S. and features string through construction, an 18 volt active preamp with 3 band eq, a 5 bolt neck, Hipshot precision tuning keys and "domino" split pickups on the neck side along with a "musicman" style humbucker pickup on the bridge side.
Not only is this a beautiful looking bass, it sounds incredible. I'd brought my MIM Precision Deluxe along for a side by side comparison, and though the MIM has a beautiful growl and is a joy to play, this bass takes all the great sound and playability of a Deluxe Special to yet another level. So I traded the MIM in on this bass.
I went back to the music store to pick up the bass I'd ordered.
It's a Gibson Thunderbird--brand new and right out of the box. The finish on this Thunderbird is called vintage sunburst. It's a gorgeous bass and has a sleek neck with tremendous action while supplying the big low end that Gibson basses are famous for delivering.
Some months ago, it occurred to me that the Reggie Hamilton jazz bass was the most complex instrument I own. It's both active and passive, and though I really liked it, I just didn't use it too much. Also the five string fretless Steinberger wasn't getting much use either. The low B string was in my way for the most part and it just sat in it's case most of the time. I still wanted a fretless bass because of the sound it delivers, and the jazz bass remains one of my favorite designs.
Last August while reading an interview with Geddy Lee, he spoke of a Fender fretless jazz he played on his current album with Rush. I asked around about the availability of this model and ordered one from one of the local music chains, trading in both the Reggie Hamilton jazz and the Steinberger for a Jaco Pastorius signature fretless Fender Jazz Bass. The luthiers at Fender have been very attentive to detail with this bass obviously taking into consideration the regard that it's namesake holds among all serious bassists.
Jaco Pastorius is widely acknowledged as the finest fretless electric bass player ever, and the innovator of much of the technique that is used today in jazz and fusion both on fretted and fretless bass. Jaco's fretless jazz is better known as the "Bass of Doom" and its whereabouts had been unknown since his death until it was discovered in New York last year. The accounts of Jaco's early bass playing days are fairly consistent. The story goes that Jaco "rescued" two stock sunburst jazz basses from a south Florida pawn shop. One evening, before a show with Wayne Cochran and the CC Riders, he personally defretted one of the jazzes, removed the pickguards and bridge covers from both jazz basses and replaced their black plastic knobs with the chromed steel knobs used on precision basses. The account I read of the defretting of the "Bass of Doom" claims that Jaco used a butter knife and needle-nosed pliers to remove the frets, back-filled the grooves cut for the frets with wood putty, then finished the fingerboard with a coat of epoxy resin. From there, he went on to make history with the two Fender jazz basses.
This bass is a tribute to Jaco's legendary "Bass of Doom" and this photo hardly does the instrument's beauty justice. Note that the pickguard is furnished unmounted as well as the bridge cover.
With this acquisition, I still have a fretless and a jazz bass, and this U.S. made instrument rounds out the upgrade of my collection very well.
Update on my rig 6/15/07
As much as I love my rig, I sure got tired of lugging around a 1 x 18" and a 1 x 15" cabinet to every gig and practice.
So I started shopping for a versatile combo that was powerful enough for practice, provided for an extension cabinet, and was reasonably priced.
I tried dozens and studied the combo market for a couple of months before I made a choice.
What I found was this:
It's an Ashdown Electric Blue 180-12 which is 180 watts with a 1 x 12" speaker enclosure. I've used this combo for practice only over the past 6 months, but as I've said, my main rig was getting very heavy. I really like the tone I get from this combo. That amp appears to be nothing special, but the 12" speaker is a quality driver.
I was so impressed with the sound of this Ashdown 12" Blueline speaker, that I began to see what 1 x 12" enclosures were on the market. Only a few are available and they cost about $500 on average. After further inspection, I realized that the speaker enclosure simply unplugs from the amp on this combo. The 180 watt amp in the combo isn't quite powerful enough to gig with even if I add an extension cab.
So with a little effort I was able to connect the 1 x 12" speaker enclosure from the combo to my 500 watt Hartke head along with the 1 x 15" Hartke cabinet which gives me all the highs and lows I'm looking to get from my bass and takes about 30lbs from the total weight of my rig and compacts it in size as well.
Now my working rig looks like this:
Hartke HA5500 500 watt amp, 1 x 12" Ashdown Blueline enclosure and a Hartke 115xl 1 x 15" cabinet.
Alas, the Hartke HA5500 had a fatal flaw after all. I love the sound I got from the Hartke gear, but we played a couple of gigs where I was having trouble hearing myself, and every time I turned up, the rest of the band got louder too. The best solution for that would be for us to feed our signal into the mixing console and put some of that signal into the monitor system. Problem was, the Hartke's direct input (d.i.) was inoperable. I used the Ashdown combo with the Hartke 115xl at a party this summer and the Ashdown's d.i. worked fine. Great for practice and rehearsals, the only problem I have with using the Ashdown combo at gigs is that it's a little underpowered for live shows at 180watts and lacks headroom . I have to push the Ashdown way too hard to keep up with a live show.
Small things matter more to me these days. I'd gotten that Hartke HA5500 brand new and took it out of the box myself. It's never been abused or dropped or anything like that, but the d.i. didn't work. That, to me is unacceptable. When my buddys asked me why I wasn't going to get it fixed, I told them I bought a new amp, not a repaired one, and even if the d.i. gets fixed, I'd be afraid to trust it.
If you've read through this page, you know that I've always considered a combo as a possible solution in my quest to find the ultimate rig. Of course, the band still laughs about the failed Carvin combo experiment--what a piece of crap that combo was. Anyway, Mike and Larry sing a blues song in practice that starts out, "I wish I had a Carvin...." I'm sure the lyric will change to, "I wish I had a Hartke" now.
I traded the Hartke in for this unit.
This Mesa Venture combo is my main rig now.
The Venture combo has the 600watt M-Pulse amp driving a 2 x 12" tri-ported cabinet with neo drivers. It has a pile of 12ax7 tubes in the preamp circuitry and supplies an awesome thump that only a quality mosfet amp can deliver. It has a transformer isolated d.i. and can handle an extension cabinet. It has 2 casters and a handle for easy tilt-back transport, and it's built to withstand a car wreck.
I could have gone in a lot of different directions with my amp selection, but this particular combo caught my attention when I did the ultimate test. I put every rig through this test before I buy it. I play a riff that gets me to the lowest notes on my bass. Typically, every rig I've played with all the dials set flat or with no additional color will make a flapping noise or "farting" sound. It seems to be a characteristic of bass cabinet design that those notes, as I play them, cause that resonance in the cabinet, so I look for a rig that I can dial that out of. I've never found a high powered combo that I could dial that out of completely. My Ashdown combo does fine in that department, but as I said before, it's underpowered and when I push it at live performances, the dreaded farting results for lack of headroom.
I'm able to dial out the farting with a single adjustment on the Venture combo. Using the parametric e.q. I can pinpoint the frequncy causing the fart and defeat it enough to keep the cabinet from resonating and the sound from farting. The great thing is: by being able to dial in the exact frequency causing the resonance, it doesn't detract from or cancel any other frequencies so the signal remains intact. This is a great sounding rig, and Mesa has a great track record in the field. I think this rig is all I'm ever going to need, but I've said that before. We'll see.
My latest acquisition is an electric upright bass. I shopped around for an upright bass for more than a year, but it wasn't until I had this one in my hands that I felt like I could actually play one at gigs.
It's a Yamaha Silent Bass SLB200 that I found used at a local store. The Silent Bass was originally developed to use with headphones so students could practice orchestral instruments without disrupting school classes or neighbors. After trying the original slb100 model, some pros told Yamaha they'd like to see a model they could gig with. So Yamaha came up with the SLB200 for pros who wanted a great eub for gigs. This bass has a semihollow body design with an internal pickup and it sounds like a big upright bass through my amp. The "doghouse" uprights have an inherent feedback issue when amplified that this model does not have. I'm really happy with this bass.
Rig update Summer of 2012
I sold the Mesa combo and traded the Pastorius Jazz bass for a 1969 Kay M3 upright bass in decent condition, a Fender Bassman combo amp and a Shure Beta 52 microphone. I sold the Fender combo and used the combined money from the sale of the Mesa and Fender combos to get a Peavey Alpha Bass all tube 160 watt amp and a Yorkville Bassmaster 800 watt mosfet amp. Additionally I was able to get a Traynor TC112 1 x 12" cabinet and a TC115 1 x 15" cabinet with the money remaining from the sale of the combos. During a couple periods of boredom I had put together a 1 x 18" cabinet using a sub cabinet and an old JBL K-151 speaker. Then I built a 1 x 10" cabinet from scratch using a Studio Pro sub driver and materials lying around my garage.
My gear choices keep evolving. The intro picture shows what I have to date. I'm 67 years old now and am still having fun playing music with all sorts of interesting folks. My friend Larry and I have been involved in a recording project for the past three years with a drummer named Bill who is the son of my bass mentor Boxie. We're getting close to wrapping up the recording project so excitement is building. I'm jamming with some folks who play old country and bluegrass -- reminds me of the old days. Music has been a giant part of my life, and I intend to keep going!
Here's some pics of me at an outdoor party gig. We played right on the lawn in May 2006.
All of the musicians and associates I have mentioned here are part of my extended family. To play any form of organized music with anyone, it is necessary to establish a relationship with those individuals in order to communicate with them through a discipline like music. It is common for musicians to form communities like these, and in my case, I regard all of them as family. As in most families, I get along with some better than others, there are a few with whom I have formed lasting bonds, and there are those that I’d rather not see again; but all of us will always have common experiences that keep us in a family-like status. This, in my opinion, is the greatest benefit that I’ve derived from my experience as a bassist.
One year after Ginny and I recorded her songs, I was informed that she had passed away as a result of a brain tumor. Her trust in me as a musical talent meant a great deal, and in many ways, changed how I look upon my life now. She was an inspiration to me when there were few others.
In the winter of 1994, I heard that my friend Junior was killed in a tragic automobile accident. Junior had been my connection to the professional recording field and always had a warm greeting and words of praise for me. Junior was a true gentleman and a great musician. I was quite shaken by the news of his passing.
In the last days of December 1995, Michael Bany was gunned down as he was being robbed of his gig money outside a downtown bar. His murder was one of the most high profile cases in the history of Hamilton County, and his killer was found and convicted. Michael was a brilliant bassist, a clever performer, and an all around good guy. The local music scene wants for his absence.
In the early summer of 2001, our wild friend and former Apex light man Joe passed away from complications arising from diabetes. He was a good and loyal friend and a talented and imaginative light man. I continue to mourn the loss.
My long time friend Bobby (who played with my brother and myself in our first band) passed away the first week of May 2005. Bobby didn't play music long, quitting just after he played in our band, but he was a true music lover, and I'll always remember him as a fine individual and a good guy.
Early 2014, Michael, the drummer in Stagefright, lost his battle with cancer. Michael was a fine drummer and a lot of fun to play with. Going to miss that guy.