“I tell Bob Marley, this is the bass player I’m bringing up – let him play”: How Robbie Shakespeare wound up playing bass on The Wailers’ Concrete Jungle

Aston Barrett of The Wailers performs on stage at O2 Academy on July 6, 2012 in Leeds, United Kingdom.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Known as ‘Family Man’, due to his voluminous offspring count, Aston Barrett is something of an institution in reggae realms. His heavy, loping basslines beneath Bob Marley’s biggest hits have enthralled audiences for decades. Songs like Kaya, Could You Be Loved, One Drop and Three Little Birds all owe much of their success to his melodic bass playing.

As basses go, the Hofner 'Beatle' bass is not a widely recognized part of reggae’s roots – that spot being reserved primarily for the Fender Jazz Bass – but it did figure prominently in Barrett’s early years, as well as those of another bass guitar prodigy out of Jamaica. “I gave Robbie Shakespeare his first Hofner bass,” Family Man told BP in 2007. “I tell him that when I’m out of Jamaica on the road with Bob and the Wailers, he must dominate the place with bass. And he did.”

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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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