“I was in my sixth year as a studio guitarist when one day the bass player didn’t show up. The producer asked me...” How Carol Kaye became a session bass icon

Carol Kaye plays bass guitar in a Los Angeles recording studio in the mid 1960's
(Image credit: GAB Archive/Redferns)

If plucking a ripe plum from a tree had a sound, it would resemble Carol Kaye’s signature tone – a tone that made her a ‘first-call’ bassist in the highly competitive studio session world. It wasn’t just that, though. 

Kaye is arguably the first bassist to exploit the instrument in a truly melodic fashion, a nod perhaps to her early days as a jazz guitar prodigy. Her ability to invent memorable and influential bass and guitar parts on the spot in a high-pressure situation took her to – and kept her at – the very top of the studio scene and onto more than 10,000 recordings.

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Denny Ilett

Denny Ilett has been a professional guitarist, bandleader, teacher and writer for nearly 40 years. Specializing in Jazz and Blues, Denny has played all over the world with New Orleans artist Lillian Boutté. Also an experienced teacher, Denny regularly contributes to JTC and Guitarist magazine and is founder of the Electric Lady Big Band, a 16-piece ensemble playing new arrangements of the music of Jimi Hendrix. Denny has also worked with funk maestro Pee Wee Ellis and is the co-founder of Bristol Jazz & Blues festival.