"Star Wars" English Kennedy - School Bass
This is my 1850 “Kennedy School” English Double Bass with a C extension, acquired through Robertsons and Sons violin shop in Albuquerque, NM. She has a warm, dark sound with a beautiful upper midrange sing. And one of the most BEAUTIFULLY dark chocolate B naturals on the A string I’ve ever heard. Before me, it was played by Dick Topper in the Cincinnati Orchestra for 20 years. Before HIM, it was one of the instruments owned by a London freelancer named Bruce B. Mollison, who was the principal bassist for “Star Wars”, “The Empire Strikes Back”, “Indiana Jones”, and others. I knew I wanted to become a musician from that very first Orchestra sound in “Star Wars” in 1977, so I love the heritage of this wonderful instrument.
1931 Kay O-series Bass with "Bobby Wills" Signature
When I was in high school, my main instrument was a Kay M1 bass, the same as Tommy Smothers. I still love everything about Kay basses. I acquired this bass through Mitch Moehring in Kilgore, TX, and use it for my jazz, country and folk playing. Before me, it was played by Ben Mitchell in the Dallas area. At some point in this beautiful blonde’s life, it was signed by another hero of mine growing up, Bob Wills. The signature is protected on the left shoulder.
1946 M-series Kay Bass with Gut Strings
This is my New Orleans jazz/rockabilly beauty. The gut strings are about 2 inches off the fingerboard. Aside from a new maple neck, the body, scroll and tailpiece are original. I’ve always loved the Kay tailpiece. My high school bass looked almost identical to this.
The scroll and hardware are in good shape. Ugly, but in good shape.
Even the glued-on clamshell on the scroll is original! I have the same type of scroll on my O-series Kay. Nothing elegant about this…
The label is in perfect shape.
Even the case is original. I remember this case from high school and my early days. Notice that the handle is on the opposite side from most modern cases. This thing is nothing but difficult to handle. But I love it.
They put these plastic suitcase handles on everything in the 1940s.
1996 Amano Shop Beijing Solo Bass
I acquired my solo bass around 2000 from Jim Scoggins in Houston, TX. At the time, I was playing a very large Jackstadt (#16!), and playing Bach on that was beyond trying. I needed a small bass with sloped shoulders, so I bought a simple shop bass that allowed me easy access to the upper register. When I got it, it was stuffy, the lower register was closed and tight, and it didn’t sing. After just 2 years of playing my scale routines, Bach, and developing my technique, the bass was singing with a fantastic resonant quality. I’ve played many recitals and concerti on this beauty, and wouldn’t trade it for the world. The bass is autographed by Victor Wooten with the inscription “Make Beautiful Music”. It’s a perfect compass for my playing.
2017 Music Man Stingray 5 Bass
My all-purpose 5-string Music Man in Pace Car blue, Pearloid pick guard and maple neck. I bought this one when my son, Max, started to take an interest in Primus and funk, and the laminated fingerboard of my Rickenbacker just wasn’t cutting it. I’ve used this bass in gospel, rock, funk, broadway and wedding gigs.
2014 Rickenbacker 4003 Fireglo
If you know, you know. I got my Fireglo 4003 Rickenbacker after seeing “Scott Pilgrim vs the World”. The supergroup “Yes” was a large part of my high school soundtrack, so it was a natural for me. This always brought a great vibe to my rock, gospel, country and wedding gigs. This baby got Max through his many years at “School of Rock”, as seen here. He played drums, bass and guitar there.
Orange 500-watt Terror Bass Hybrid Amp, Orange SP 210 Speaker Cabinet
My go-to hybrid amp setup. It’s portable, powerful, clean, and fits in any pit or stage. With the bass frequency turned all the way down, it’s a perfect club amp for my English bass with gut strings.
1987 French Bow by John Norwood Lee (Chicago)
I bought this bow during my sophomore year at Baylor, with the help of my teacher, Mark Whitney. It’s considered an inexpensive “student-level” bow, but it stood out of the batch of 10 bows that I tried out that year. It has a terrific grab and bright draw. I consider this to be the main component of my musical voice. With this bow, I can get almost any bass to sound like “me”. Around 2008, I owned an expensive “Fetique” bow, thinking that I needed to upgrade bows. But, when I played the two bows side-by-side for musicians in a “blind taste-test”, EVERYONE preferred the sound of the John Norwood Lee. I decided to make it my primary bow.
Classical Bow in Palm Wood by Scott Wallace (Vienna)
I bought this bow around 2003 from Scott Wallace in Vienna, and use it to play Mozart and Handel operas. It’s a simple stick with hair on it, and grabs the string easily. I can play it with plenty of arm weight, and it doesn’t sound as thick as my modern bow. That means that I don’t get fatigued when I play those 3-4 hour operas with non-stop notes. It’s easy to shape the long notes – what you see is what you get.
My FANGIRL Instruments
The Karr-Koussevitzky Bass
In 2013, The International Society of Bassists generously loaned me the famed “Karr/Koussevitzky” double bass for a recital with my accompanist, Timothy Hester, titled “The enduring legacies of Serge Koussevitzky and Gary Karr” at the University of Houston. This was the same bass I heard on his famous 1980 recording, with the Kansas City symphony in 1982, and with the Waco symphony in 1987. I can’t begin to describe the feeling of drawing a sound out of it. Once I got past the point of trying to make it sound like Gary, and just played it with my style, it was fine.
My Vintage 2-Pound 6-Inch Diameter Roth-Waller Solid Steel Endpin Rest
I don’t really use this. I just keep it in my locker at the Wortham Center for funsies, and to chock at my stand partner’s head when he plays in a rest.
Stanley Clarke's Upright Italian Bass
At Wooten Woods, playing Stanley Clarke’s bass that he used on “Desert Song” and “Spanish Phases”, two of my most influential albums in high school. This bass formed my conceptual tone for solo jazz playing.
Paul Reed Smith Guitar with Tortoise Shell Finish & Custom Seagull Inlay
This beauty belongs to my cousin Joe, but I get to play it. Lucky me.