Earl Palmer Memorial Website Online

The family of legendary drummer Earl Palmer launched the website earlpalmermemorial.

You can share your memories and photos of Earl Palmer and there’s a discography compiled by electric bassist/guitarist Carol Kaye, who played on many records with Earl Palmer.

Earl Palmer died last week at his home in Banning, California. He was 83. From 1947 until the nineteen-eighties, Earl Palmer’s drumming was an essential part of  many important popular recordings and film soundtracks.

TV-Documentary About Electric Bass Legend Carol Kaye

In 2004 Pekka Rautionmaa produced the 52 minutes music-documentary “First Lady Of Bass” about electric bass innovator Carol Kaye for the Finnish broadcaster YLE. There’s a long extract of it on YouTube.

Carol Kaye started her career as jazz guitarist in the late nineteen-forties. In the late nineteen-fifties she started working in the music studios of Los Angeles, playing guitar for legends like Sam Cooke and Ritchie Valens. In the early sixties she picked up the electric bass. Thanks to her talent of creating catchy bass lines, her music reading ability and her versatility in all kinds of styles, she soon became the number one electric bass player in Los Angeles.

Carol Kaye recorded among others for Elvis, Ray Charles, The Beach Boys, Simon and Garfunkel, The Byrds, The Monkees, The Doors, Frank and Nancy Sinatra, Count Basie, Hampton Hawes, Mel Tormé and Barbara Streisand. Her TV and movie credits include Mission Impossible, Hawaii 5-O, M*A*S*H, Streets of San Francisco, In The Heat Of The Night, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, Bullitt and Sugarland Express.

In the documentary Carol Kaye demonstrates her electric bass and electric guitar playing and plays together with Brian Wilson. There’s a lot of interesting first hand information about the studio musicians of Los Angeles who played on many great pop, rock, easy listening and soundtrack recordings.

The extract on YouTube contains quotes by Perry Botkin (composer/arranger), Don Peake (guitar player/composer) and sound engineer David Gold, co-owner of Hollywood music studio “Gold Star” where among others Ritchie Valens, Eddie Cochran, Herb Alpert and Phil Spector recorded.

To my knowledge the documentary is not available on DVD.

‘Wrecking Crew’ Live Reunion in Los Angeles

Los Angeles Studio Musicians Chuck Berghofer, Don Randi, Hal Blaine, Carol Kaye

IMPORTANT UPDATE (June 23rd, 2008)
According to a statement on her forum, Carol Kaye won’t perform on June 28th.

Legendary studio musicians Carol Kaye (electric bass), Hal Blaine (drums), Don Randi (piano) and Chuck Berghofer (upright bass) will perform live in Los Angeles on June 28th.

This exclusive reunion takes place after the Los Angeles premiere of Denny Tedesco’s documentary movie The Wrecking Crew as part of the Grand Performances Program in downtown Los Angeles. According to Carol Kaye’s forum Glen Campbell and Nancy Sinatra will probably perform, too. Though this has yet to be confirmed.

In the nineteen-sixties Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, Don Randi and Chuck Berghofer were part of a big group of Los Angeles studio musicians – many of them jazz musicians – who worked day and night in the music studios. Together they left an indelible sonic mark upon thousands of pop songs, movie soundtracks and commercials. They actually were not a group. Studio musicians were all hired individually, usually by contractors. But because they performed together on famous records, music lovers and journalists often wrongly think that the studio musicians were a kind of a rock band.

Here’s just a small example of artists Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, Don Randi and Chuck Berghofer played for together or individually: Beach Boys, Nancy Sinatra, Simon and Garfunkel, Elvis Presley, Henry Mancin, The Mamas & Papas, Connie Francis, Herb Alpert, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, James Brown, Sonny and Cher, Quincy Jones, Bobby Darin, The Monkees, Barbara Streisand, Diana Ross, Neil Diamond, Phil Spector and Motown productions and … OK, I think you get the picture. The list would go on and on.

You ask for more? Fine, here are some movie and TV soundtracks they played on: Mission Impossible, Planet Of The Apes, The Bill Cosby Show, Streets Of San Francisco, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, In The Heat Of The Night and, The Pawnbroker, Airport and, and, and…

Related links

Carol Kaye Gives Away Guitar And Electric Bass Secrets In Radio Interview

Carol Kaye

In a great NPR interview Carol Kaye not only tells about how she started playing jazz guitar and became an innovative electric bass player, but she also plays live on guitar and electric bass. Actually it’s more a music lesson about how pop music was played in the sixties than just an interview.

If you love the music of the sixties make sure to listen to it. You get first hand information from the woman who recorded with Ray Charles, Sam Cook, The Doors, Ritchie Valens, Joe Cocker, Barbara Streisand, the Beach Boys and many others.

‘Variety’ Gives Music Docu ‘The Wrecking Crew’ Thumbs Up

Logo of Documentary \

There’s a positive review of the music documentary The Wrecking Crew on the Variety website. The documentary features some of the Los Angeles studio musicians who recorded many of the hits of the nineteen-sixties.

The film features legendary musicians such as Carol Kaye, Plas Johnson, Tommy Tedesco, Earl Palmer, Hal Blaine, Don Randi and stars like Nancy Sinatra, Cher, Brian Wilson and Glen Campbell.

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.

Electric Bass Legend Carol Kaye: L.A. Studio Musicians Were Never Called ‘Wrecking Crew’

Carol Kaye

Picture: ibanez.com

Since studio drummer legend Hal Blaine published his biography “Hal Blaine And The Wrecking Crew” in 1990 (Rebeats Publications, Alma, Michigan) a lot of people – especially journalists – started calling the Los Angeles studio musicians of the nineteen-sixties “The Wrecking Crew”.

Soon a documentary called The Wrecking Crew will be released. It tells the story of the Los Angeles studio musicians.

According to bass player Carol Kaye however – who worked as a studio musician in Los Angeles from the fifties until the seventies – the name “The Wrecking Crew” wasn’t used in the sixties. On her homepage she puts the record straight:

Where did the term “wrecking crew” come from?

That is the name of Hal Blaine’s interesting book about our business. He said the older studio musicians tho’t we 60s studio musicians are going to “wreck the business”, the way we dressed and recorded rock and roll (blue jeans, no shaves sometimes…we worked around the clock, even as many as 4-5 recording dates a day).

To be honest with you, no-one heard that term until he put out his book (about 1990). He got his term (imo) from the backup 80’s NYC group for singer Darlene Love. Our group (50-60 of us) of successful 60s studio musicians were known only as “studio musicians”, or sometimes as the “clique”, never the “wrecking crew” at all (and most don’t like that sort of passe term also).

Phil Spector probably used Earl Palmer on drums more than Hal, so the term didn’t come from Phil either….there were about 350 fine studio musicians making good money steadily (“doctors’ pay”) in recording in LA studios at that time, but most of us are retired and there’s less work for studio musicians these days.

There’s another misconception regarding the studio musicians of the sixties that I think is more disturbing than the fact, that the name “The Wrecking Crew” apparently wasn’t used back in the sixties. Because of the now well known name “The Wrecking Crew”, many journalists and music fans think, that studio musicians like Blaine, Kaye, Don Randi, Plas Johnson, Billy Strange, Tommy Tedesco and others were a kind of band. Which is not true.

In fact, they all were hired individually for recording sessions, usually through a contractor and they all worked independently. In Earl Palmer’s Biography “Backbeat” (Da Capo Press) there’s information about how the contracting business in Los Angeles worked back in the nineteen-sixties.

See also: The Invisible Musicians Who Played On All The Sixties Hits.