The low end: Best bass guitarists and riffs

All about that bass, ’bout that bass. We gave drummers their flowers a few weeks ago and I thought it was time to sing for/about the unsung heroes of most bands, the bass guitarists. What a joy to also engage some fabulous local bass players — Ryan Madora, Mason Hadley and our very own Jason Moon Wilkins! Thanks to your requests that made for a really groovy, and eclectic as always, mixtape on WNXP.

Stream (👇🏼) the latest #ThematicStatic show and send in your requests for future themes on Twitter or Instagram @WNXPNashville.

#ThematicStatic Playlist – 4/6/23

Gil Scott-Heron – The Revolution Will Not Be Televised – Jem on Instagram said Ron Carter appears on this track, and Carter was (still is?) the most-recorded session bassist of all time. “Plus,” wrote Jem, “feels awfully relevant.”

The Strokes “Is This It” – Nikolai’s riff on this title track never really leaves you. Danielle knows what’s up.

Talking Heads – “Crosseyed and Painless” – Shoutout to Tina Weymouth, who was reluctant at first to play music at all, and had barely even started playing bass when she joined this absolutely crucial American band (and went on to form Tom Tom Club with husband/bandmate Chris Frantz). Love this recent article from The Guardian about their love-and-music story. Thanks, Kevin, for the rec!

Lala Schifrin – “Mission: Impossible TV Theme” – This is one of many many recognizable tracks — “These Boots Are Made for Walking” by Nancy Sinatra, “Feeling Alright” by Joe Cocker, “Good Vibrations” by The Beach Boys, “The Beat Goes On” by Sonny & Cher, my goodness the LIST goes on — featuring lines by bass wizard Carol Kaye, who’s laid down the low end on hits from the mid-20th Century onward. She was a member of The Wrecking Crew of session musicians in L.A. responsible for about a zillion memorable records. She’s now 88 years old. Legend. Here’s why she picked bass as her primary instrument, though she played many.

Primus – “Tommy The Cat” – Les Claypool is a hall of famer. And Evan, once again, your request has weirded-up the FM dial to an extreme degree. The selection during the encore broadcast was even Easter Sunday approved, thank heavens (to Betsy!)

Simon & Garfunkel – “My Little Town” – Nashville-based bass guitarist Ryan Madora sent a great and specific request raving about Muscle Shoals hustler David Hood’s bass on this S&G track. You might see Madora playing around town or on tour with any number of artists, including Allison Russell, with whom she played at the Love Rising benefit show at Bridgestone last month. Oh, by the way, Madora teaches bass lessons if you’re an aspiring rhythm section pro PLUS she wrote a book about masters of the instrument, so she knows what the heck she’s doing and talking about.

Thundercat – “Funny Thing” – Multiple folks requested Thundercat, born name Stephen Bruner, and Aaron wanted this one specifically.

The Supremes – “You Can’t Hurry Love” – Mason Hadley currently rocks the bass in Nashville band Crumbsnatchers (playing this weekend, in fact!) and has been really digging on James Jamerson’s (largely uncredited) work for the Motown greats lately. Bass Player Magazine ranked Jamerson as #1 best of all time back in 2017.

Victor Wooten – “Victa” – Steven was sorta tongue-in-cheek about this request, because the tune is so bombastic, but that’s what we both love about it. On his 2005 record, Wooten reliably brings the funk and the confidence with a song about himself. It (literally) slaps.

Robert Glasper ft. Esperanza Spalding – “Why We Speak” – Versatile bass player Spalding won the Best New Artist Grammy in 2011 has since won four more awards on “music’s biggest night.” She can play any variation of the instrument, including electirc, acoustic and double/upright bass. She has continued to stun with her jazzy playing combined with R&B vocals, like those shared on the also Grammy-winning album by pianist Glasper, who celebrated a birthday this week.

Death Cab for Cutie – “I Will Possess Your Heart” – Oh yeah, Dan, agreed: this bass line is as memorable as any in modern times.

Still Woozy – “That’s Life” – Dandy left a voice memo at and it was the happiest surprise to receive requests with audio samples woven throughout. He mentioned this band and others!

Garrison Star – “Blue Sky” – Jason Moon Wilkins — yes, this one, head honcho at WNXP — played super up-front, “riding shotgun” bass guitar on this track, among many others in one of his past lives in Music City. 🙂

The Who – “My Generation” – Speaking of shotgun, there’s no doubt The Who’s bassist John Entwistle was in the front seat of the British Invasion chariot thundering toward us all with this early single. Adam Culver requested this immediately when I brought up the planned theme.