“I credit half of that bassline to James Jamerson. I’ve always been proud of knowing him”: Listen to Chuck Rainey’s isolated bass on Kid Charlemagne

Bassist Chuck Rainey poses for fans during Summer NAMM Show Opening at Music City Center on July 13, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee.
(Image credit: Alamy)

Considering the length and diversity of Chuck Rainey’s resume as one of the bass world’s most prolific studio musicians, a bassline would have to be pretty special to rank among the best of his career. Such is the case with Kid Charlemagne, from Steely Dan’s 1976 album The Royal Scam. “Kid Charlemagne is one of my most prized accomplishments as a recording bassist making up bass guitar patterns,” Rainey told BP, while also citing Allen Toussaint’s Just A Kiss Away from 1978’s Motion, as another personal highpoint. 

The overwhelming influence on Rainey's bassline is that of Motown legend James Jamerson, with its plentiful root-5-octave shapes, drop-down moves to the 3rd, chromatic approach notes, and funky use of ‘wrong’ open notes as harmonic stepping stones. “I credit at least half of that bassline to Jamerson,” said Rainey, who recorded direct with his prized 1957 Fender Precision – long since retired from duty. “I’ve always been extremely proud of knowing him. We met around 1958, when we were both just starting to play the electric bass.”

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.

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