Carol Kaye (born March 24, 1935) is an American musician, best known as one of the most prolific and widely heard bass guitarists in history, playing on an estimated 10,000 recording sessions in a 55 year career.
As a session musician, Kaye was the bassist on many Phil Spector and Brian Wilson productions in the 1960s and 1970s. She played guitar on Ritchie Valens' "La Bamba" and is credited with the bass tracks on several Simon & Garfunkel hits and many film scores by Quincy Jones and Lalo Schifrin. Among her most often cited work Kaye anchored the Beach Boys' album Pet Sounds.
Life and career
Kaye was born in Everett, Washington to professional musicians Clyde and Dot Smith. She grew up in poverty near the Port of Los Angeles and in 1949 at the age of fourteen began teaching guitar professionally. Throughout the 1950s, Kaye played bebop jazz guitar in dozens of nightclubs around Los Angeles with many noted bands including Bob Neal's jazz group, Jack Sheldon backing Lenny Bruce, Teddy Edwards and Billy Higgins. By her own account, Kaye got into lucrative studio work "accidentally" in late 1957 with Sam Cooke. A few years later, when a bass player failed to show for a session at Capitol Records in Hollywood, she was asked to fill in on what was then often called the "Fender bass".
Throughout the 1960s, she played bass on a significant percentage of records appearing on the Billboard Hot 100, although she was almost wholly unknown to the general public at the time. Kaye played bass on many of the Beach Boys hit recordings, including "Good Vibrations", "Help Me, Rhonda", "Sloop John B", and "California Girls". She worked on Brian Wilson's ill-fated but legendary Smile project (and was present at the "Fire" session in late November 1966 when Wilson reportedly asked the studio musicians to wear toy fire hats). Kaye's work also appears extensively on well-known television and film soundtracks from the 1960s and early 1970s.
She worked under most of the leading producers and musical directors in Los Angeles during that era, including Brian Wilson, Michel Legrand, Phil Spector, Elmer Bernstein, Lalo Schifrin, David Rose, Dave Grusin, Ernie Freeman, Hugo Montenegro, Leonard Rosenman, John Williams, Alfred Newman, David Axelrod and Lionel Newman. Kaye played the bass tracks on several of the Monkees hits, did soundtrack work (including sound effects on bass guitar) for a young Steven Spielberg and tracks for Quincy Jones whose 2001 autobiography Q noted, "... women like... Fender bass player Carol Kaye... could do anything and leave men in the dust."
Kaye performed on several American television themes including the Quinn Martin produced Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, Mission: Impossible, M*A*S*H, Kojak, Get Smart, Hogan's Heroes, The Love Boat, McCloud, Mannix, It Takes a Thief, Peyton Place and the Cosby Show. She is credited with performing on the soundtracks of Hawaii Five-O, The Addams Family and The Brady Bunch along with Ironside, Room 222, Bonanza, Wonder Woman, Alias Smith & Jones, Run for Your Life and Barnaby Jones.
Beginning in 1969, she wrote How To Play The Electric Bass, the first of many bass tutoring books and DVD courses. She gave lessons to thousands of students, including John Clayton, Mike Porcaro, Alf Clausen, David Hughes, Tony Sales, Karl E. H. Seigfried, Roy Vogt and David Hungate. Kaye retired from studio work during the 1970s because of arthritis. She later became active again as a session musician, live jazz performer and teacher of both bass and guitar, giving seminars and interviews.
Kaye played 12-string guitar on Frank Zappa's groundbreaking album Freak Out!. She also played on a few songs for his following album but declined to continue, saying she found some of the lyrics offensive. Kaye later said Zappa was good-natured and understanding about her qualms and they remained on friendly terms.
Kaye is a Jewish American musician, best known as one of the most prolific and widely heard bass guitarists in history, playing on an estimated 10,000 recording sessions in a 55 year career.
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