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How To Play The Bass. Lesson One: Don’t Play The Bass, You Idiot, Play Something Else

[Editor’s Note: Written in December of 2008 and never used, then recycled twice. Not sure why]
Author’s Note: Don’t ask me; I just write the stuff. There is no editor]


Play That Fonkee Music, White Boy

I (used to) play the electric bass. It’s not a bass guitar, although everyone calls it that. There actually is an instrument called a “bass guitar.” It has six strings and is tuned lower than a regular guitar, but it’s not a bass. A bass is that doghouse with the four strings. The electric kind hangs on your neck and gives you a bad back (left side), deafness, and a couple hundred bucks a night for as many nights as you’ll show up, because every other person in the world is an unemployed guitar player. Own a bass and you’ll always work.

That’s what my brother told me all those years ago. He actually knows how to play the thing properly. Everything I learned about it he taught me in one afternoon in his freezing cold, decidedly downscale apartment in Providence RI. I never had to learn anything other than what he taught me that day, and I’ve forgot half of that, and I could still work every night if I wanted to. I don’t. No one owns one, shows up, and plays bass — instead of monkeying around like the guitar player they wish they were on the wrong part of the neck.

But you need bass lessons, and I’m busy and don’t know how to play, and my brother’s busy and in lives in LA, so we’re stuck with YouTube. I’ll teach you everything you need to know, right now.

The Blues Is A Chair. Sit On It First

You have to play the blues first. It’s easy. Just shut the hell up and never venture past the fifth fret. There are only three chords, and if you play with John Lee Hooker he’s not even interested in all three of those; I did, and he wasn’t. Muddy Waters will show you how:

That’s the first song I played for money three days after my lesson. I stunk, but everybody else did too, but they practiced so they had no excuse. The audience was drunk, what difference did it make?


Movin’ On Up To Interstellar Blues

You can actually practice, and you can hang all sorts of musical drapes on that framework. Like Miles Davis’ friend Paul Chambers.

This song is a mere bagatelle; hell, two or three cloned kids can play it.


Next Up: Gigging At Bob’s Country Bunker

But you’re a hack whitebread dude. You gotta eat too. Duck Dunn will show you the way to play in barbands where the all the fights are merry and the dancing is violent:

This Is Where Those Tuba Lessons In Fourth Grade Really Pay Off

Nuffin’ to it. But what if you want to play pop music? Well, it’s really just tuba parts from the music hall. Macca gets it.

He sings OK, too. Remember, no matter how bad you sing, make sure there’s a microphone in front of you or you’ll make less money than the other guys. Even Ringo figured that out eventually.

Now It’s Time To Join The Chest Hair Club For Men

But you need rock music, too. The thudding kind, not the Beatles kind. You only need to learn one song –any song– by any one of a dozen bands with guys that go to Chest Hair Club for Men. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Lynyrd Skynyrd; makes no nevermind. This is as good as any:

At The Session, They Said Play Like James Jamerson. So I Left

If you want to play like a real bass player, you’ll have to devote your life to figuring out what the hell got into James Jamerson to make him play like that on all those Motown records. Good luck. How Einstein came up with the special theory of relativity is an easier poser.

Got all that? Me neither. I used to try to play like 10 percent of that and had to sing over it, too. The seizures are getting better, now.

Reggae: The Audience Is Blitzed, They’ll Never Notice If You Don’t Play On The One

Reggae bass playing is easy. Just play like James Jamerson, only backwards.

I Know What Boys Like. I Know What Guys Want. And I Don’t Care

But you’ve got to learn one lesson, and learn it fast: Girls don’t want any of that. They want to dance, and they don’t want it too sophisticated. This was the National Anthem of girls in a tube top right up to the present day: Easy, too. The song, I mean:

See, even Helen Reddy will have an extra sloe gin fizz and get jiggy when that’s going on.

Now You’re Ready To Enter The Leo Fender Memorial Couch Surfing Pageant

There you have it. You’re qualified to make a crummy living from 8 PM to 3 AM three nights a week and two weddings a month. Hope your girlfriend has a comfortable couch.

What’s that? Country music? Which country? Our country? Don’t bother. There’s only two notes, and neither is all that compelling.

Write It On A Twenty And Send It On Up

Ode To The Working Man: Tommy Tedesco

Yesterday’s blast of Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman corollary goodness elicited a few comments about the relative obscurity or importance, and the entertainment value, of Happy Kyne and The Mirth-Makers.

It was a joke that wasn’t funny for some, or one you didn’t get for others. It was mordantly funny, and a bit subversive for a devotee. I was one of those.

A commenter pointed out that Happy was Frank De Vol. Frank is one of those guys. Guys that work in Hollywood. It’s almost not possible to list Frank’s accomplishments. There are too many, and they’re all sort of notable, and even if no longer household words, they’re at least recognizable to almost any human in the United States, and plenty elsewhere, too.

Hollywood’s a weird place. It’s full of people that work. They’re not like the stars; they’re generally pleasant, hardworking, and more or less salubrious, and have real, cultivated talents. They make the whole place go, no matter how dissipated and ephemeral the people in front of the camera or the microphone might be. Frank was no doubt considered flighty in his social circle, as he was married twice; of course his first marriage lasted 54 years until his wife passed away — but still.

Martin Mull’s show was about breaking down the wall of phony between the audience and the host, and the host and the guests, and the talent and the heavy lifting, so it’s natural that he’d hire the fellows that usually sat anonymously in a studio and made the likes of Nancy Sinatra listenable for a few minutes on the radio, and use them right out front. Or misuse them, amusingly. That’s a very heavy bunch of musicians acting like they’re the worst wedding band you ever heard. Look in the back row. He’s not wearing his glasses, but I do believe that’s Tommy Tedesco playing the guitar. Tommy Tedesco is way more famous than Frank De Vol, who you never heard of. Tommy Tedesco might be twice as unheard of as Frank. If it was sorta square, but immensely popular, and it came out of the radio, Tommy played on it. Tommy Tedesco was well known for being anonymous.

Dude could play:

Hollywood is filled with lots and lots of waiters and personal trainers and dog walkers and assistants that pick up dry cleaning that are sure they’re gong to be big stars tomorrow. But they are all trying to compete in the sweepstakes of the talentless. They wish to be made into demi-gods for no apparent reason, the same reason the people they work for (while grumbling and smiling) were made famous. The only skill they cultivate is acting strange and rude, which will be useful if you eventually get a three-picture deal from Sony, but just makes you a garden variety jerk in real life.

Then there are guys like Tommy Tedesco. They are truly useful, and make themselves useful to the people that have enough to worry about, dealing with the neurotic people with no real talent that get nailed like wooden figureheads on the front of hit records and TV shows and movies. The producers have to sober up the talent, so they like guys and girls that show up and get real things done when money is on the line. Guys like Tommy.

How many hit records and TV shows and movies did Tommy Tedesco have a hand in? I bet Tommy couldn’t have told you. I bet he couldn’t remember half of them. Hell, just look at the list at IMDB of his movie and TV work. It’s insanely long. To someone my age, you could just say he’s the guitar you hear twanging away in the Bonanza theme. Someone has to play that. Guys like Tommy said it might as well be them, and never did anything else but work. They weren’t waiting for their big break. Every day is a big break. You’ll notice that almost everything he does says “uncredited” after it. Tommy got the best credit you can earn in Hollyweird — they write it on the lower right corner of a check.

Tommy was part of a loose agglomeration of musicians that made the Los Angeles music scene go for decades, often referred to as The Wrecking Crew. They played on every damn thing.

It’s telling that Tommy Tedesco’s son Denny’s tribute to his father and his colleagues will likely never be widely released, because the people that had the least to do with how all the entertainment sounded –the people with their names and faces on the covers of the albums, and a bunch of guys in suits — will never agree to the licensing of their songs for the project. It’s a pound of flesh, first, last and always in the entertainment business.

Guys like Tommy Tedesco were smart, though, if anonymous. They had the distilled wisdom of everyone that’s ever performed music for money:

 “If you have a request, write it on a twenty and send it on up.”

Everyone did, from Barbra Streisand to Frank Zappa.

I Just Wanted To Listen To An Ashford And Simpson Song But An Opera Broke Out

Now let me tell ya one more thing
Ain’t no harm to have a little taste
But don’t lose your cool
And start messing up a man’s place
Ain’t no harm to take a little nip
But don’t fall down and bust your lip

Always wanted to write a busker song. A country canticle. A roadhouse anthem. A barroom ballad that crept into every heart and jumped out through every set of lips. It would say next to nothing, but everyone says: Yes.

I wanted the high school band to butcher it, and its ground carcass peddled internationally. I wanted it hammered into the top of everyone’s head in the elevator, all the while tickling the agoraphobe’s feet through the ceiling of those people downstairs. I wanted it blaring from the jukebox until the bouncer unplugs it and the
disreputable band in the corner starts playing it. When they stop playing it, you’d be able to hear the doppler of its sing-song lyrics as a car passed and rolled it through the wedged front

I wanted to write a song and then sit in the front row of a restaurant
while someone else sings it. I’ll sing along, I guess. Everyone does

I wanted to sit right down and write Let’s Go Get Stoned, but that seat was already taken.

Let’s Go Get Stoned.(Wikipedia)

Let’s Go Get Stoned on Amazon

Back When Driving And Drinking Was An Activity

The Flying Burrito Brothers. I could write all sorts of tidbits from Wikipedia and my foggy memory about them, but all you really need to know is that there’s a chain of Mexican restaurants in New Zealand named after them. Do you have a chain of Mexican restaurants in New Zealand named after you?

I didn’t think so.

Six Days On The Road

Well, I pulled out of Pittsburgh,
Rollin’ down the Eastern Seaboard.
I’ve got my diesel wound up,
And she’s running like never before.
There’s a speed zone ahead, all right,
I don’t see a cop in sight.
Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight.

I got ten forward gears,
And a Georgia overdrive.
I’m taking little white pills,
And my eyes are open wide.
I just passed a ‘Jimmy’ and a ‘White’:
I’ve been passin’ everything in sight.
Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight.

Well, it seems like a month,
Since I kissed my baby good-bye.
I could have a lot of women,
But I’m not like some other guys.
I could find one to hold me tight,
But I could never believe that it’s right.
Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight.

I.C.C. is checking on down the line.
I’m a little overweight and my log’s three days behind.
But nothing bothers me tonight.
I can dodge all the scales all right,
Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight.

Well my rig’s a little old,
But that don’t mean she’s slow.
There’s a flame from her stack,
And the smoke’s rolling black as coal.
My hometown’s coming in sight,
If you think I’m happy your right.
Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight.
Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight.
Six days on the road and I’m gonna make it home tonight.

(Dave Dudley)

I’d Give You Everything I’ve Got For A Little Peace Of Mind

The Blind Boys of Alabama

Satisfied Mind

How many times have you heard someone say
“If I had his money, I could do things my way?”
Little they know that it’s so hard to find
One rich man in ten with a satisfied mind.

Once I was winning in fortune and fame
Everything that I dreamed for to get a start in life’s game
Suddenly it happened, I lost every dime
But I’m richer by far with a satisfied mind

Money can’t buy back your youth when you’re old
Or a friend when you’re lonely, or a love that’s grown cold
The wealthiest person is a pauper at times
Compared to the man with a satisfied mind

When my life is ended, my time has run out
My trials and my loved ones, I’ll leave them no doubt
But one thing’s for certain, when it comes my time
I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind
I’ll leave this old world with a satisfied mind

My older brother used to say: “Happy won’t make you money.”

(Thanks to realder Al Johnson for sending that one along)

Welcome To The Buckets Of Blood, Son

The Heir had a happening at our house yesterday. He called, or texted, or Facebooked, or Skyped — or some damn thing — three of his friends, and invited them over to our hovel to take advantage of the eight inches of packed powder on our twelve-pitch unshoveled driveway. They assembled all sorts of slippery things and bombed down to the rocky three-foot drop into the back yard, over and over, and wouldn’t rest until they fell over it into the thistles. Then they sat in the snowbank out front like off-duty Cardinals or mobsters and decided things. The Spare tagged along in glorious me-too fashion.

We bankrupted ourselves to feed them all pizza after they got too cold to tire themselves out anymore, or got too tired to freeze themselves anymore, or most likely got too bored to be tired and frozen anymore and came inside.  They bivouacked like bedouins in the living room, and killed each other mercilessly on the screen for a while. The little one circled them like a sparrow in a McDonald’s parking lot, and seemed to think it was funny to look at each of his brother’s friends in turn and say, “Take a bath, hippie!” It was all meet.

The heir later approached me in a manner I can identify at ten paces. He’s going to ask me a question he expects to hear No after. A little hangdog. Peaches’ dad plays country music in the lodge at the ski area, and lets Peaches play along with him. He says I can play too. Can I go.

When I was just a couple years older than my son, I began playing for money in roadhouses, or, as my father used to call them, “buckets of blood”. I supplied the soundtrack to the Sack of Rome With A Two-Dollar Cover three nights a week for a good, long time. I had to support myself and needed the money. I eventually ended up in about as well-paying and benign an appendix of the non-original music business as you can name, but it’s not a wholesome industry, even there. It’s hard for me to hand the kid over to it. I said yes.

It’s as salubrious a situation as he’s going to get. The operative words were “Country Music.” The persons arranging for entertainment to be presented to bunny-slope refugees near the fireplace have to have a rule of thumb to use to avoid having the Anal Lesions Of Fiery Megadeath Massacre Of The Innocents playing at flight deck volume and driving people out into the parking lot. No matter what any rock band they hire to “entertain” says when they’re trying to get the gig, they don’t care what the audience or management wants to hear, and don’t care if 110 decibels is a lot of decibels. “Country” is a code word for quiet and inoffensive.

There was an amusing list of The 50 Greatest Guitar Riffs In Rock and Roll making the rounds of the aggregators last week. It’s gargantuanly misnamed. With very few exceptions, it’s really 50 Random Ringtones A Plumber’s Heavily Tattooed Helper Might Like, Gleaned From Songs Nobody Female Will Sit Through If Played By A Cover Band. My son is being trained to know better.

He does have music lessons, but they’re almost entirely on an autodidactic basis. He’s taught himself most everything he knows, and has bought his own instruments with money he earned himself. I did give him some advice, though, I’ll admit it. No; not advice exactly. It was too gruffly delivered to be advice. I told him to learn songs, all the way through, and learn the words and sing them as best he can. I told him no matter what happens, to keep going. I told him to entirely ignore what anyone male says they want to hear, or to play. Otherwise you’ll forever only be able to play The 50 Greatest Guitar Riffs In Rock And Roll, wrong, while the clerk in the music store rolls his eyes — because the music store and your friend’s garage and other assorted sausage fests are the only place you’re ever going to play. He took that advice to heart.

They stuck him out front after about five minutes and played along with him, and after a while he played some songs alone because they can’t keep up. The snow bunnies crowded around him after while he sipped his root beer.

We’re almost all done with him. You can have him for good, soon. Our loss.

[Related: Money Changes Everything]

Tag: songs i’ve performed in a chinese restaurant in los angeles in the 1980s

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