Carol Kaye, 81-Year-Old Pioneer of Rock, Gives Kiss’ Gene Simmons a Bass Lesson

If you asked me to name the best rep­re­sen­ta­tive of rock and roll as a boy’s club, KISS would be high on my list. Despite their com­mit­ment to a gen­der-bend­ing glam style, Front­men Gene Sim­mons and Paul Stanley’s chest hair rugs, wag­ging tongues, and stud­ded cod­pieces are exag­ger­at­ed exam­ples of sev­en­ties virility—a rock era known for pro­gres­sive music, but not pro­gres­sive gen­der pol­i­tics.

If you asked me to name a musi­cian who had chal­lenged and defied gen­der stereo­types in rock and roll, Car­ol Kaye— bassist and mem­ber of L.A.’s top flight ses­sion musi­cians the Wreck­ing Crew—would be high on my list. Kaye and her crew helped cre­ate the sound of Phil Spec­tor records, the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, and so many oth­er clas­sic six­ties artists.

Kaye nev­er par­tic­u­lar­ly saw her­self as a pio­neer or path­break­er, but her smooth, unpre­ten­tious pro­fes­sion­al­ism car­ried her through a career most musi­cians, male and female, would envy, even if she nev­er stood in the spot­light her­self. Her atti­tude, approach, and play­ing are pret­ty much the oppo­site of the bom­bas­tic, mer­ce­nary Sim­mons, who has on more than one occa­sion weath­ered charges of sex­ism in his pur­suit of big­ger, loud­er, dumb­er music and more tawdry real­i­ty TV.

In the short clip above, the two leg­ends meet, and Kaye sits Sim­mons down and shows him how it’s done.

She has taught hun­dreds of stu­dents to imi­tate, though nev­er dupli­cate, her chops, and earned the clout to take Sim­mons to school (though she seems sur­prised to be doing so); Kaye large­ly helped invent the sound of rock bass and ele­vat­ed the instru­ment from a sup­port­ing play­er to an indis­pens­able lead one as well.

The clip comes from an unfin­ished doc­u­men­tary that fea­tures over an hour of inter­view footage in which Kaye dis­cuss­es her start in music and long­time suc­cess, and demon­strates more of her phe­nom­e­nal, under­stat­ed play­ing.

via No Tre­ble

Relat­ed Con­tent:

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

7 Female Bass Play­ers Who Helped Shape Mod­ern Music: Kim Gor­don, Tina Wey­mouth, Kim Deal & More

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

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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