Meet Carol Kaye, the Unsung Bassist Behind Your Favorite 60s Hits

Carol Kaye: you may not recognize her name but chances are you’re familiar with her work.

Now 79, the lady has laid down some deeply iconic bass tracks in a career spanning 55 years and something in the neighborhood of 10,000 recording sessions.

Joe Cocker’s “Feelin’ Alright”?

The Beach Boys hits “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Sloop John B,” and “California Girls.” 

The theme song to The Brady Bunch?

Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin‘”?!?

Holy cow, talk about something to tell the grandkids.

Her interview for a never completed documentary above left me with none of the melancholy I felt on behalf of the under-recognized back up singers populating the recent film Twenty Feet from Stardom. This may be due to some rock and roll gender inequality. The girls far outnumber the boys in the ranks of backing vocals, where looks play an undeniable part, at least when the band’s out on the road. Kaye’s contributions occurred in the recording studio. She appears plenty content to have numbered among an elite team of hard working, clean living Los Angeles session musicians.

Unsurprisingly, she was one of a very few women in the field, though girls, take note: her website has 115 playing tips for fledgling bass players. Boys are free to take note too…

Now that you’ve “discovered” this legend, may we suggest setting an hour aside to get to know her better in the longer interview below?

Related Content:

The Story of the Bass: New Video Gives Us 500 Years of Music History in 8 Minutes

Paul McCartney Offers a Short Tutorial on How to Play the Bass Guitar

Ayun Halliday is the author of seven books, and creator of the award winning East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday

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by | Permalink | Comments (3) |

  • Jeremy

    Laura Veirs has a nice song about her, entitled “Carol Kaye,” on her most recent album, “Warp and Weft.”

  • Kate S

    Thanks for bringing her to my attention. She’s wonderful and deserves to have her story told.

  • Rich

    I can’t see the vids above (work barrier) but she’s heavily featured in The Wrecking Crew, a great music docu about that West Coast era. Good stuff!