“I'd never heard somebody play the bass like that”: How Don Blackman’s 1982 classic album inspired a young Marcus Miller

Bassist/Producer Marcus Miller performs at Freedom Hill Amphitheater on August 10, 2016 in Sterling Heights, Michigan.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

It seemed the entire music world was clued in to the wealth of talent pulsating from Jamaica, New York, as the 1970s turned to the 1980s. While Marcus Miller, Tom Browne, and Omar Hakim claimed the lion’s share of the limelight, just beyond the glare were other major talents like keyboardists Bernard Wright, Denzil Miller, Donald Blackman and bassist Barry ‘SunJohn’ Johnson.

“Barry Johnson was one of my earliest bass heroes,” Marcus Miller told BP. “I first heard him in a basement in Jamaica, Queens, at a band rehearsal. I had never seen a Rickenbacker before, which was the bass he was playing, and I had never heard somebody play the bass like that. 

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Chris Jisi was Contributing Editor, Senior Contributing Editor, and Editor In Chief on Bass Player 1989-2018. He is the author of Brave New Bass, a compilation of interviews with bass players like Marcus Miller, Flea, Will Lee, Tony Levin, Jeff Berlin, Les Claypool and more, and The Fretless Bass, with insight from over 25 masters including Tony Levin, Marcus Miller, Gary Willis, Richard Bona, Jimmy Haslip, and Percy Jones.