Great ’60s Fender Bassists

There have been countless great Fender bass players since Leo introduced the first Fender electric bass in 1951.

I’ve decided to compile a list of who I thought were the most influential Fender bass players from the 1960s.

I chose that time period because, in my opinion, that was the golden age of bass playing.

To qualify for this list the bassist must have played a Fender Bass as their main axe during that decade.

James Jamerson

The father of electric bass guitar and probably the greatest bass player who ever lived, this Motown legend spent much of his career uncredited for all his amazing accomplishments. Jamerson’s stunning creativity, perfect time and pristine fat P-Bass tone set the standard for all bass playing that would come after him.

His main weapon for most of his recording career was “the funk machine,” a stock 1962 Fender Precision Bass strung with heavy gauge Labella flatwound strings that he never changed. Jamerson’s superb touch and sophisticated syncopation has been unmatched to this day.

Donald “Duck” Dunn

I’ve already written an article on Duck but he has to be on this list. Duck Dunn’s deceptively simple, rock solid lines anchored Stax Records’ house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s, all through the 1960s and beyond.

Armed with a Fender Precision Bass, Duck has laid down some of the tastiest grooves ever recorded. Always playing right in the pocket and with minimal flair, Duck has had a huge influence on thousands of bass players who know it’s often what you don’t play that matters most.

John Paul Jones

When Jimmy Page was forming Led Zeppelin in the late ’60s, he asked experienced session bassist John Paul Jones to join the band. Jones brought a savvy, bluesy approach that drew heavily from the Motown and Stax sound.

Teamed with drummer John Bonham, Zeppelin had a swing, and groove no other hard rock band could match. JPJ and his ’62 Fender Jazz could play virtually any style the band demanded and always seemed to come up with creative and bold bass lines. Jones has had an enormous influence on rock bassists to this day.

Carol Kaye

The most recorded bass player in history, Kaye started out as a guitarist who had to fill in one day for a bassist who didn’t show up for a session. Carol became the main session bassist at Capitol Records in Los Angeles and recorded on thousands of songs, film scores, T.V. themes, and commercials.

Her amazingly precise P-Bass pick playing and fantastic grooves made her one of the most in-demand bassists throughout the ’60s and ’70s. Playing on such historic tracks as The Beach Boy’s “Good Vibrations” and “Sloop John B” as well as countless classic television themes like “Mission Impossible” and “Hawaii Five-O,” Kaye is a legend in the bass community and still works and teaches to this day.

John Entwistle

The legendary Who bassist played many different bass models throughout his career, but during the 1960s Entwistle played mainly Fender Jazz and Precisions. Known for his very busy and treble heavy style, John was a key component to the Who’s massive sound.

A particular early Who highlight is Entwistle’s fantastic bass solo on “My Generation.” The melodic, powerful lead bass style that John established early in his career has had a huge impact on all kinds of bass players.

Joe Osborn

Though not many have heard of Joe Osborn, I can guarantee they’ve heard his bass playing. Joe has played on thousands of tracks during his long session career including several top hits and gold records.

Using his 1960 “stack knob” Fender Jazz and old flatwound strings, Joe’s clean, crisp and soulful pick playing was highly sought after by music producers, not only because of his awesome playing, but because it recorded so well in the studio. A major high point in his extensive career is his funky flat picking on “Let the Sun Shine In” with The 5th Dimension.

Jerry Jemmott

Another hugely influential bassist that many do not know about, Jemmott started his career with Atlantic records in the mid ’60s. Recording with Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles, B.B. King, Chuck Berry, King Curtis, and many other legends of soul and blues, Jerry has laid down some of the nastiest, funkiest grooves you’ll ever hear.

Using Fender Jazz Basses, Jemmott’s style was heavily syncopated and melodic, but always right in the pocket holding everything down. Jerry is a living bass legend that has influenced countless other players including the great Jaco Pastorius, who cited Jemmott has his hero.

So, that’s my list of great ’60s Fender Bassists. Obviously, I’ve left out many other great bass players from that era, but I decided to keep the list limited to seven. Some of my other favorite bassists were left off simply because they didn’t play Fender basses, at least as their main instrument.

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