Meet Carol Kaye, the “First Lady of Bass” and one of the most prolific bass guitarists of all time. You may not recognize her name, but you have definitely heard her play.

Born on March 24, 1935 in Everett, Washington to musician parents, Carol has played guitar professionally since 1949. Starting her career playing nightclubs around the Los Angeles area, Carol “accidentally” got into studio work in late 1957, and has since played on over 10,000 tracks.

In 1963, when a bassist didn’t show up to a recording date, Carol put down her guitar and picked up a bass. And as the saying goes… the rest is history.

“A note doesn’t have sex to it – you either play it good or you don’t play it good. Except some people can’t handle that, especially some men… but when you hear somebody with balls, that’s me.”

Carol quickly became the most wanted player around. She has worked on records, films and television under the direction of leading producers, conductors and composers including: Quincy Jones, John Williams, Elmer Bernstein, David Grusin, Hugo Montenegro, Leonard Rosenman, Alfred & Lionel Newman, etc.

Carol Kaye, circa 1971

Carol Kaye, circa 1971

Carol has also been a big part of the songs and sounds of some of the greatest performers in music history including Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Sam Cooke, The Supremes, Sonny and Cher, The Beach Boys… just to name a few.

Studio musicians (aka session players) are considered the backbone of recorded music. Many times session players don’t get credit on an album or song, and are unlikely to become famous for their work. But it was the camaraderie of session work that kept Carol strumming in her over 50 year career.

In the video above (a proposed documentary by Nelson Torres), you’ll see Carol talk about her studio career, her contributions to some of the great music we all know and love, and what it was like being a woman in the world of sessions and recording.


To learn more about Carol and her career, check out her site

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