Carl Radle: Unsung Bass Hero

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1942, Carl Radle was one of the most influential bassists in the 1960s and ’70s, even if many bass players don’t know it.

Radle, who played mainly Fender Precision basses, was a regular sideman with some of rock’s most famous artists and a highly respected session bassist among his peers.

Best known for his longtime association with Eric Clapton, Radle was also a much sought after session bassists by many top rock and blues acts, including Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Joe Cocker, and Buddy Guy.

Carl Radle’s playing style is rooted in rock-solid blues punctuated with tasteful fills and a warm, round tone. Radle knew exactly what was needed in the low end to make a song work and avoided flashy overplaying. However, if a song required a busy bass line, Radle could deliver the goods.

His playing on Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs with Derek and the Dominos features some of his finest work. Working with Clapton and Duane Allman on this seminal recording, Radle more than holds his own with his superb bass work on such classics as “Bell Bottom Blues,” “Layla,” and the scorching “Why Does Love Got to Be So Sad?”

Laying it Down

Radle was the ultimate groove player, fitting his playing style to match any type of song. If the song called for repetitive quarter notes, then Carl would lay those down in perfect time. If the track was uptempo and busy, he could hammer out fast walking lines or complex syncopated grooves with ease, always sounding smooth and effortless.

Carl’s main strength, though, was supporting the band down low and keeping everything tied together like glue, allowing the lead guitarists to roam free. He was the perfect bass player for guitar virtuosos like Clapton and Allman.

Throughout the 1970s, Radle played on several albums and singles and was highly respected in the music industry. Sadly, Carl Radle died in 1980 at only 37 years of age from a kidney infection after years of struggling with alcohol and drug problems.

Carl’s tremendous playing has been a huge inspiration to many bass players over the years, and his legacy as one of the premier bassists of his era is secure.

Leave a Comment