Episode 024: The Genius of Jamerson, Part 1

James Jamerson is probably the one bass player who has influenced more players than anyone else in the history of popular music. How did he affect the PB crew?

Music: JahzzarPlease Listen Carefully; Jesse Spillane, Cardboard Engineering.

Show notes

Where did you first hear Tamla/Motown where Jamerson played such an integral part?

  • Dave:
    • In the womb?
    • My folks grew up in New York in the 50’s/60’s (not Detroit but still integral)
    • Mostly Stevie, Temptations, Gladys Night and Marvin Gaye
    • I totally didn’t know what the bass was at a young age, but I learned how to dance at age 5 (I was made to love her)
  • Paul
    • I grew up listening to soul music — a big part of what I heard as a young child
    • But having said that, a lot of what I got was on Atlantic, like Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Booker T and the MGs, etc.
    • Got into Motown when I was about 12 because Thriller (right?!?), and then there was the Motown 25 special, and so on

When did you first start paying attention to Jamerson individually as a player? What was that like, how did he influence you early on?

  • Dave:
    • My early influences included a lot of early Stevie. Still didn’t connect the dots, but that really drove me to groove and feel. (Uptight?)
    • It wasn’t until I was 10 years in that I heard the pattern of so many famous bassists being influenced by JJ
    • This was at a time when I started to transpose – Mind blowing (Simple/complex)
  • Paul:
    • I took up bass when I was in college, and that was also when Allan Slutsky’s book Standing in the Shadows of Motown came out
    • All these players I knew from rock were kind of worshipping at the JJ altar
    • So I really started to dive deeper into Motown and listen to his parts
    • This very emotional sound in the bass, could be deep and sad, or bouncy and joyous… you could almost turn everything else down, just have the bass and vocal and it would still be a great song

Photo by Ted Eytan.

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