This page contains a few thoughts and links to some other Web pages relating to music, bands that I perform with, performers or recordings that I recommend, etc.
Rock City Band
I am the bass player for Rock City Band. Our current lineup is Johnny Descoteaux on lead vocals, Colleen Desmond lead guitar and vocals, Daryl Desmond on guitars, keys and vocals, Chris Harris drums, and me on bass. (more photos, schedule).
A few short clips with me on bass:
- Already Gone: recorded live in March, 2009, with me sitting in on bass, Charlie Sweeney (drums), Colleen Desmond (guitar and vocals), Daryl Desmond (guitar and vocals), and Brenda White (lead vocals). That's Daryl doing the guitar solo at the end of the clip.
- Authority Song and Hurts So Bad, recorded live at the Payson Park Music Festival in Belmont, MA, summer of 2010. Todd McLellan plays drums on these, and Karen Slusher sings lead on Hurts so Bad.
As of summer 2018 my main bass is a gold Mike Lull P4. For most gigs my amp is one of the last Eden WT-550s ever built; I also have the rack-style SansAmp VT that I use ahead of the Eden maybe 1/4 of the time; it's less smooth and warm than the Eden itself, but adds some grit and tube-style compression. My main cabinets are a pair of Bergantino REF 112 cabinets which I stack (of sometimes I use the cabinet that I used as my main one for years, a Bergantino AE410 4x10). For smaller gigs and practice I use an Aguillar Tonehammer 500 typically with one of the 1x12s.
I recently acquired a Fender American Vintage Reissue '62 Precision bass that was built 2014. This particular bass was the pride and joy of my dear friend, the late Chuck Callahan, who nearly 40 years ago was the rhythm player in my first band, Ramblin' Fever.
I still have and often use the older bass and rig that were my main setup for almost 10 years with Rock City:
For many years I played a year 2000 Fender "Hot Rod" Precision bass. As far as I know it resembles and is wired like a traditional Jazz bass, except for the P-Bass split pickup on the neck side. Fender claims the neck is from a Precision but it's very close in size and feel to the neck on my first bass, which was a 1972 Jazz. Fender made the Hot Rod P/J models for just a few years and discontinued them shortly after mine was manufactured. In early 2021 I replaced the pickups with the Aguilar P/J set.
For my first 8 years with Rock City I used an old SWR SM-400 amp. This particular SM-400 turns out to have been on tour for years with John Garnache, who played with Jefferson Starship, and who used this amp while backing Ry Cooder.
My traditional rig
The SWR was in stereo mode, driving an Electrovoice EVX-155 driver in an old Hartke 1x15 cabinet and an SWR 2x10 to add some punch to the mids and highs. I skip the crossover in the SM-400 and drive both full range, but with the balance control set to heavily favor the 1x15. At most clubs where there's dancing, we sweeten the bottom a bit by feeding the SWR direct output into the 18" cabinets in the house PA.
For smaller gigs I used just the 2x10. One interesting twist is that for some reason this bass is unusually bright for a passive pickup bass, so I often wind up turning down the tone control on the bass, and also on the amps.
My 2x10 cabinet blew a speaker and while waiting for it to be fixed I found a used Bergantino AE 410, and that's now my main cabinet. It's incredibly punchy, and you really hear your timing. I'm still getting used to the more modern tone, and I can't quite warm up to the notes below low G, but overall it's an amazing cabinet that sounds terrific. It's also incredibly efficient. On my first few gigs I was using the SM-400 bridged, but the volume control had to be set so low that it was difficult to adjust. I'm now just using one channel of the stereo mode, leaving the other idle. I still seldom get above 9- or 10-o-clock even at gigs.
Sadly, the SWR went through a near-death experience when it was ejected from the back of a car at 40 MPH during a serious accident. To my amazement, after putting back in the tube that was flying around the inside, it seems to work but I can no longer trust it for use on gigs. So, it's been replaced by one of the last of the Eden WT-550s, driving the Bergantino. I also have a rackmounted Sansamp VT tube rig emulator that I run through the Eden power section. I probably use the Eden straight about 2/3 of the time, but for more punch I go through the Sansamp.
Some Interesting Musicians
Everyone knows the Beatles, Beethoven, and Vladimir Horowitz. Here's a list of some less well known performers and composers I like (in no particular order).
- Ivan Moravec: a really wonderful classical pianist.
- Gram Parsons: Yes, he's become a cult figure, but his harmony singing with Emmylou Harris was marvelous, his songwriting was good, and he created a style that's been hugely influential. Check out GP/Grievous Angel; Live is very rough, but the Love Hurts cut won a Grammy; Commemerativo is not the official tribute CD, but it's truer to his spirit.
- James Jamerson: Arguably the greatest pop bass player ever, Jamerson was the heart of the Motown Funk Brothers Rhythmn section. He was a key influence on Paul McCartney and on most all the great rock/pop bass players. If you play bass, you should absolutely get and work through Dr. Licks' terrific Standing in the Shadows of Motown. It's got top players like Will Lee doing Jamerson's parts, isolated in one channel, or pan to the other channel and play along. Careful note-for-note transcriptions and interesting background on Jamerson is provided in the accompanying book.
- If Jamerson has slowly become famous and belatedly recognized for his incredible contributions, Tommy Cogbill was a marvelous bass player who seems hardly to be known at all. Great examples of his work include Dusty Springfield's Son of a Preacher Man, on which Cogbill's part really defines the song, and Aretha Franklin's Respect. Cogbill's playing reminds in some ways of the legendary Donald "Duck" Dunn, but if Dunn is a bit more driving in his style, Cogbill is beautifully fluid and melodically creative. Both were wonderful, wonderful players. (Bass Player article on Tommy Cogbill)
- Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson: was a wonderful blues & jazz sax player. I heard him live with Pinetop Perkins at a great show at the Bach, Dancing and Dynamite Society in Miramar in about 1979.
- Clarence White just about invented bluegrass lead guitar, a great country picker who played on the Byrd's Sweetheart Album and with the legendary Nashville West — a truly fine guitar player...and he invented the b-bender (here's the original)! He was hit and killed by a drunk driver while loading up up after a gig in 1973.
- James Burton: an absolutely spectacular country guitarist who can play many other styles too. From Ricky Nelson (Hello Mary Lou) to the lead position in Elvis' band for years, Jerry Lee Lewis, Merle Haggard (Lonesome Fugitive, Mama Tried), and eventually Elvis Costello, Burton has played with an astonishing collection of the best. After playing lead in the Elvis band, he got drafted by Gram Parsons for his pioneering country-rock albums GP and Greivous Angel (check out astonishing the Burton solo on Ooh Las Vegas). When Gram died, Emmylou Harris convinced Burton to anchor the Hot Band, which he did for a few years, and since then he's played with many others. That's him playing guitar on the Roy Orbison Black & White special that PBS shows at fundraising time. (biography, discography)
- More to come!