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"The Hardest Lick I Never Played"
~ A Tribute To James Jamerson ~

By: Pete Macbeth

James Jamerson
When I was asked if I'd like to write a piece about Tamla Motown bassist, James Jamerson I answered that I would like that very much. However, as to whether I could, is a different story. After all, he was, probably, the most influential electric bassist ever to exist and I certainly can't think of any of my bass playing mates who wouldn't kiss the hem of his garment given the chance. I guess what I'm trying to say is that there must have been thousands, if not millions, of words written about him over the past four decades and I can't think of anything original to add to what has already been said. So I'll try it from a personal point of view.

The first bass lick ever to hit me between the eyes and get my head spinning was on a Stevie Wonder track called Shoo-be-Doo-be-Doo-da-Day, from his 1968 album 'For Once in my Life'. There were no credits given on this album so I didn't know who the bass player was. As soon as I heard it I was reaching for my bass eager to 'cop the lick' but after several hours of trying, I could only play something approximately like the original. As time went by my efforts lessened in intensity as no progress was made and I eventually stopped trying.

In 1969, the band I was playing with, The Foundations, was booked to support Stevie Wonder on a tour of the UK. I met a tall, lean and very happy young bassist called Michael Henderson whom I assumed was the bass player on the track I tried so hard to copy. We struck up a fairly good relationship during the tour and I eventually asked him if he could show me the bass lick I had, so far, failed to get together. He obliged. But I was no better off. I didn't even see his fingers move he was so fast. He then went on to explain that he was not the player on the record. I asked him who was, and I still remember his reply:"That was some old cat called James Jamerson, he's a really baaaad bass player. There's no way he can play shit". I didn't realise it at the time, but he was paying JJ a compliment.

Well, after all these years, I still can't play the lick and James Jamerson is sadly no longer with us. Hopefully, when I eventually fall off the perch, I'll meet up with him and with a bit of luck he'll show me how it's played.
James Jamerson
Thankyou Peter, a fine tribute to James Jamerson, the musician who set the path all bass players follow today. I find myself repeating ~ there isn't a musician anywhere who picks up a bass guitar, even to tinker, who isn't influenced by this amazing soul filled man, whether they reolize it or not, makes no difference ~ they just are.
"The things we play today may sound a little different…but if you analyze the notes, you’ll find that the same patterns being played today are the ones this fellow was inventing 50 years ago
THANKYOU JAMES" ~ quote: Dave 'O'

* * * * * * * * * *

former bass player, founder member of The Foundations
and session musician

Pete Macbeth , former bass player and founder member of The Foundations
Born February 2nd 1943
Queen Charlotte's Hospital, West London

Peter was bought up in west London and finished his education at
Watford Technical College.
St Albans Art College. He was a muli - musican from an early age; his father started teaching him steel guitar when he was only 9 years old, at school he was learning to play trumpet, and his love for drums saw him playing in New Orleans jazz bands when he was 13 years old. By 1963 he was playing electric guitar in various R&R bands around London. Two years on Pete took up playing the electric bass studying the Simandl & Ray Brown method, he played with several R&B bands, then Soul bands. He finally went professional with the Rockhouse Band fronted by Ralph Denyer (later fronting Blonde on Blonde). 1966 see's Pete, Colin Young and Alan Warner forming the band The Foundations, who from their beginnings backed several visiting US soul singers including Edwin Starr.
Pye Records signed them in 1967 and they recorded 'Baby Now That I Found You' which became a Number 1 hit single in 23 countries. Two more Top-20 singles followed, 'Back On My Feet Again' and 'Any Old Time'. In 1968, Clem Curtis replaced by Colin Youngas lead singer, and they recorded the legendary track 'Build Me Up Buttercup', which became another international chart topping hit, this was followed by 'In the Bad Bad Old Days' a top 10 hit in many countries. In 1969 The Foundations tried and failed to reach a more mature and musically aware audience with 'Born To Live, Born To Die', a single which entered the top 50 at number 46, only to drop out two weeks later.
Peter Macbeth
Seeing the writing on the wall, Pete quit The Foundationns in 1970, resting for a few months before joining former East of Eden members Geoff Nicholson (guitar), Brian Holloway (drums), Bernie Livings (alto sax') from Manfred Mann and Simon Lait (vocals) from Alexis Korner, to form Bubastis, a jazz rock band. 1972 -1992 sees Pete as a freelance bass player/session man & occasional band member in London & Paris working with Link Wray, Freda Payne, Brian Parrish, Chris Jagger, Sammy Mitchell, Steve Swindells, Graham Bond, Robert Palmer and Algerian artist, Bouri Saib, among others. Sadly from 1992 to the present day, due to serious health problems, curtailed musical endeavours and Pete entered into the publishing world as Editor-in-Chief for EuroView, a Japanese language quarterly magazine promoting European business and culture to Japanese middle management. Later on Pete worked as Managing Editor for a company publishing the official programmes for seven golf tournaments on the European Tour. Much bigger health problems caused cessation of all work and a move to North Wales where Pete is currently receiving treatment for radiotherapy reaction in tandem with writing a novel and studying keyboards with the purchase of a Hammond organ and Lesley tone cabinet firmly in mind.

Peter Macbeth

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