Working With Nancy Sinatra, Lee Hazlewood and Elvis Presley: Part II Of Billy Strange Video-Documentary

Nancy Sinatra and Billy Strange in the recording studio

Nancy Sinatra in the studio with Billy Strange.

Part 2 of my mini-video-documentary is now online: Billy Strange – Hit Maker.

‘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

Bass Guitar? Electric Bass? Fender Bass? Danelectro Bass Guitar?

Electric Bass

There’s some confusion about how to call the electric bass. Many people call it “bass guitar”. Let’s look at the basics: the electric bass is shaped like a guitar, has four strings and is tuned like a string bass. Nowadays there are also electric basses with five and six strings.

Until the late nineteen-sixties the electric bass was called by many “Fender bass”, because Fender was the first company to market electric basses on a large scale. During the late sixties the term “electric bass” became also common. The term “bass guitar” is a little bit confusing, because there’s also an instrument called “Danelectro bass guitar”, which is a six string guitar tuned one octave down.

In the fifties and sixties the Danelectro bass guitar was often used in combination with a string bass and was responsible for the “click” sound that you can hear on many country songs. For example on Patsy Cline’s “Crazy”. Usually the Danelectro doubled (playing unison) the string bass or the electric bass. The combination of string bass and electric bass was also popular in the sixties. A good example is “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’”. Chuck Berghofer is on string bass, Carol Kaye on electric bass.

There are at least two famous songs that use a Danelectro and on which Carol Kaye also played: on the Richie Valens hit “La Bamba” you can hear Rene Hall on the Danelectro, Carol Kaye played the rhythm guitar. On “Wichita Lineman”, Glen Campbell plays a wonderful solo on a Danelectro he borrowed from Carol Kaye, while Kaye herself played the electric bass. And you can hear Carol Kaye playing the Danelectro on “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny and Cher.

Poem For A Bass Player

Did you ever read a poem about a bass player? There are not too many poems about bass players, I think. But there’s at least one. It’s written by – a bass player. His name is Jay Leonhart and he wrote a poem for bass player Chuck Berghofer.

Berghoffer

Once again I find myself out here on the road,
Schlepping crap and playing for a singer.
An ignominious chore but one I still adore,
Man I am not the swinger?

I am out here on the road, doing all the dirty work,
As I will with pleasure til I die. To-
Day an outdoor amphitheater in an amusement park where the
Rollar Coaster endless roars by.

During the show the singer proudly talks about her new CD
On which you’ll note I did not play.
You see I live here in the east and they live on the West Coast and they
Always make their records in LA.

So like a fool I read the personnel who made the record, and
Who’s name do I always come across?
Berghoffer Berghoffer my dear friend Chuck Berghoffer, like a
Big Oak tree surrounded by green moss.

Berghoffer, Berghoffer, playing all the cushy sessions,
Leading the good life in LA.
While I do battle with a rollar coaster in the amusement park,
Three thousand miles away.

Berghoffer Berghoffer, with glorious pitch and big fat sound,
Back in LA getting all glory.
While I fight with quacking ducks and laughing clowns and screaming children, Ah it’s just the same old story.

Oh well that’s the way it goes, I do all the grubby work so the
Singer can promote her new CD.
Then she can do another album, get Berghoffer to play the bass,
Makes perfect sense to me.

Berghoffer Berghoffer, I am not complaining, I
Surely would not wish to create dissension.
I’ll just ride the back roads, Play my bass in barns and bars
And try to help the poor guy’s pension.

I’m really not complaining, we all do our dirty work, be-
sides it all works out in the end.
And when I’m out there on the road, playing at the county fairs, I’m
Doing what I can to help my friend.

Berghoffer Berghoffer my dear friend Chuck Berghoffer, like a
Big Oak tree surrounded by rich green moss.
Every time I read the names on another hot CD
Who’s name do I always come across?

Sometimes I dream that I am playing the bass in hell,
Oh it’s a scary dream. The
Devil is Chuck Berghoffer and he makes you play “These Boots Are Made For Walking” and the Barney Miller theme.

© 2006 Jay Leonhart

See also: Chuck Berghofer And His Most Famous Slide

Chuck Berghofer And His Most Famous Bass Slide

Chuck Berghofer

Nancy Sinatra’s «These Boots Are Made For Walkin’» starts with the most famous bass sliding sound that has ever been recorded in pop music.

The song was arranged by Billy Strange and produced by Lee Hazlewood, who also wrote it. The simple, catchy, and ingenious slide was played on string bass by Chuck Berghofer (sometimes you find his name written «Berghoffer»). There’s also an electric bass on «Boots», played by Carol Kaye, that starts after the opening.

Chuck Berghofer (born 1937) is one of the many jazz musicians who helped with their skill to make pop and rock records sound good. In the jazz world Chuck Berghofer played with pianist Pete Jolly and drummer Shelly Manne among others. In the sixties he started playing on countless pop and rock records that were produced in Los Angeles. He kept playing jazz besides his studio work and is still active.

Here is a small sample of artists he played with during his many-sided and at least forty years long recording career as a string and electric bassist: Ella Fitzgerald, Howard Roberts, Merle Haggard, Joni Mitchell, The Beach Boys, Barry Manilow, Jody Miller, Elvis, Frank Zappa, Diane Krall, Michael Bublé, Christina Aguilera, Mary J. Blige, Dean Martin and many others.

See also: Poem For A Bass Player and Nancy Sinatra & Lee Hazlewood: The Forgotten CD