Keyboard And Electric Bass Player Larry Knechtel Dies

According to the Yakima Herald keyboarder/electric bass player Larry Knechtel dies at age 69.

Larry Knechtel was a busy musician, working live and in the studios. He recently collaborated with The Dixie Chicks. Besides that he played with musicians and bands such as Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, The Doors, The Byrds, Neil Diamond, The Beach Boys, Steppenwolf, Randy Newman, Harry Nilsson and Elvis Presley.

Larry Knechtel received a Grammy award for arranging Simon and Garfunkel’s super hit Bridge Over Troubled Water, on which he also played keyboard. He was also a member of Bread.

As studio musician Larry Knechtel was an important part of the Los Angeles music studio scene of the nineteen-sixties.

Bo Diddley And His Women

Bo Diddley, Long Beach Blues Festival (1997). Photo: Masahiro Sumori.

The world of rock ‘n’ roll was full of Little Sixteens, Suzie Qs, Pretty Things, Donnas, Bette Jeans, Little Queenies, Peggy Sues or Lucillas. Rock ‘n’ Roll was mainly a male business and you could find women only in song titles and in the audience – but not on stage. Well, maybe as background singers, but certainly not on guitar.

Rock ‘n’ roll innovator Bo Diddley (1928-2008) was the exception to the rule. Throughout his long career he worked together with female instrumentalists. Let’s have a closer look at them.

Guitarist and Singer Lady Bo (Peggy Jones)

Guitarist and singer Lady Bo (Peggy Jones).

In 1957 Peggy Jones aka Lady Bo replaced Bo Diddley’s guitarist Jody Williams, who had been drafted for military service. Jones played with Diddley until 1961 in the recording studios and on stage. Her contribution to Bo Diddleys music was essential.

She played electric guitar on classic songs like “Hey, Bo Diddley”, “Mona”, “Say Man”, “Crackin’ Up”, “The Story of Bo Diddley”, “Say Man, Back Again”, “Road Runner” and “Bo Diddley’s A Gunslinger”. She not only played electric guitar, but sometimes she also sang or played piano. Besides working with Bo Diddley, she performed and recorded with many different groups and singers. From 1962 on Lady Bo concentrated on her own career, but she still played with Bo from time to time until 1993. (Sources: Lady Bo… Rock & Roll’s First Lady of Guitar and Allexperts, both by David Blakey).

The Duchess (Norma-Jean Wofford).

The Duchess (Norma-Jean Wofford).

Guitarist Norma-Jean Wofford (1942? – 2005) took  over  Lady Bo’s position. Soon she was named “The Duchess” by Bo Diddley.  There’s not much information available about Norma-Jean Wofford. According to Spectropop and Wikipedia she accompanied Bo Diddley on his first England tour in 1962 and played on following Bo Diddley albums: “Bo Diddley & Company”, “Bo Diddley’s Beach Party”, “Hey! Good Lookin’”, “500% More Man” and “The Originator”. Norma-Jean Wofford left the band in 1966 when she got married. See also her biography on allmusic.

Andi Deily.

Bo Diddley and Debby Hastings at Central Park Summerstage (1990). Photo: Andi Deily.

Another important collaborator of Bo Diddley was Debby Hastings. She stayed much longer with him than the Duchess and Lady Bo. The electric bass player joined him around 1984 and worked with him until his death in 2008. From 1994 on she was also his music director. She played with him live and in the studio. You can hear her on Bo Diddley’s Grammy nominated album “A Man Amongst Men”.

Debby Hastings started her career in Wisconsin and then moved to Memphis, TN where she opened for Muddy Waters and recorded at Stax Records under Isaac Hayes. She later settled in New York before joining Bo Diddley. Besides Bo Diddley, Debby Hastings played with many soul, rock ‘n’ roll, blues and rock legends like Sam Moore (of Sam and Dave), Willie Dixon, Edgar Winter,  Dr. John, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and Jerry Lee Lewis. She toured with Ron Wood and Bo Diddley playing for both of them on the Gunslinger Tour and the subsequent DVD and live album called “Live At the Ritz”. In 2005 she played with Eric Clapton and  Robbie Robertson at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Debby Hastings was with Bo Diddley in May 2007 when he had the stroke that ended his performing career. At the memorial for Bo Diddley she said: “He was the rock that the roll is built on.” (Sources: Beat lives On at a Memorial for Bo Diddley, Debby Hastings – The lady still rocks with the blues and Bo Diddley, email from Debby Hastings).

More about Bo Diddley:

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.

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.

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.