Who Played On ‘La Bamba’?


Ritchie Valens

In 1958 Ritchie Valens recorded a rock and roll version of the traditional song “La Bamba” at Hollywood’s Gold Star studios:

Buddy Clark: string bass
Ernie Freeman: piano
Carol Kaye: rhythm guitar
Rene Hall: Danelectro guitar (six-string bass guitar)
Earl Palmer: drums
Ritchie Valens: vocals, guitar

Producer and owner of the “Del-Fi” label Bob Keane (a former clarinet player and big band leader) used some of the finest musicians to back up newcomer Ritchie Valens. They all had a jazz background. René Hall, Earl Palmer and Ernie Freeman worked for the Ernie Fields Orchestra at one time or the other.

Earl Palmer brought the “swamp beat” from New Orleans to Los Angeles. He started his career in New Orleans playing jazz and doing sessions for Fats Domino and Little Richard. In Los Angeles he became one of the best and most recorded studio drummers of the nineteen-sixties.

Jazz guitarist Carol Kaye switched to electric bass in the early sixties and would become a defining innovator of this instrument. With her bass lines she wrote music history. You can hear her playing on hundreds of pop songs, movie- and TV-soundtracks.

Ernie Freeman not only played piano, but was also an arranger and worked with Frank Sinatra, Petula Clark, Dean Martin and Connie Francis.

René Hall worked as studio guitarist on many R&B and pop records and wrote arrangements for Sam Cooke.

All these musicians were essential in creating the great US hits of the nineteen-fifties and -sixties. They used their jazz background to create legendary pop, soul and R&B music.

I’m not sure if bassist Buddy Clark is the same Buddy Clark who worked with Bud Freeman, Tex Beneke and Les Brown and later became a member of the Supersax band. NOTE: (April, 25th, 2008): It’s the same Buddy Clark. See following post: Who Played On ‘La Bamba’ Part 3

Learn about the historic background of “La Bamba”. And also read Who Played On “La Bamba”? Part 2.

Sources:

- Bob Keane, “The Oracle Of Del-Fi”, Los Angeles: Del-Fi International Books, 2005
- E. Olsen, P. Verna, C. Wollf, ”The Encyclopedia Of Record Producers”, New York: Billboard Books, 1999
- Tony Scherman, “Backbeat – Earl Palmer’s Story”, Da Capo Press, 2000
- www.carolkaye.com

Note: Studio musicians usually didn’t get credits until the late nineteen-sixties/early nineteenseventies. That’s why it’s sometimes hard to find out who played on records. I try to include as many sources as possible, but I don’t guarantee that my information is correct.

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One Response to Who Played On ‘La Bamba’?

  1. Richard says:

    who played the percussion (claves?)

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