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Old 25th January 2018
Lives for gear
Originally Posted by son of soulohio View Post
came for the invite
stayoin for the downlow
james jamerson
I may have told this story on Gearslutz, not sure...

When I first worked at Crystal in Hollywood in 1974, James was an occasional session player. He had that classic little flip-top tube Ampeg amp and a well used Fender Precision bass. I started as the setup/desk/coffee/wannabe apprentice, so I set up sessions regularly. I don’t remember that Crystal had or used direct boxes at that time, so the amp was most often captured with a Neumann U47 fet.
As the 70s rolled on, we saw less of James. The last time I saw him was probably early or mid-80s, when he came in to try to get some help from our tech guy. His problem was that he had broken a string on the Precision.
That wouldn’t be a problem for most people. You get a new set of strings, break them in and move on. But James Jamerson said that he had NEVER changed the strings on that bass. He had played different basses with different types of strings, and he didn’t think any kind of new string was going to get him his signature sound, and replacing the one string (which I think he had tried) didn’t work because the new string didn’t sound right with the old strings.
I think he revealed the essential secret of the bass sound driving “Stop, In The Name Of Love”, “You Keep Me Hanging On” and a whole list of hits. It wasn’t a magic signal chain, it was mainly the “thump” with no sustain of really old strings. I think Bob O. has written that Motown did have a home built bass direct. We didn’t have that at Crystal, unless Jamerson brought it with him. The sound of that bass was not the same at Crystal as it was at other studios, but it was as similar as I would expect considering different boards, machines, engineers, etc.
Our tech had no solutions. I never saw James Jamerson after that, and never heard that anyone had booked him. There are other issues that were at play, but it is possible that simply breaking one string helped end the career that made the bass something to listen to and listen for in popular music.