DescriptionJames Jamerson Owned and Played 1961 Fender Precision Bass, Serial Number 60228, with Strap, Case, and Photo Archive. A well-loved and well-worn P-Bass originally from the master himself: the man recently named by Bass Player magazine as the number one "Greatest Bass Player" of all time; the man who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 (the first year they honored session players); the man who, along with the other "Funk Brothers" was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award as well as a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; the man about whom Paul McCartney once said, "As time went on, James Jamerson became my hero... because he was so good and melodic."
Born in South Carolina, Jamerson moved to Detroit with his mother in 1954 and began playing the local jazz and blues clubs. This led to session work in local studios and, in 1959, he found a steady gig at Berry Gordy's Hitsville U.S.A., home of the Motown label. Jamerson quickly became an integral part of the studio musicians known as The Funk Brothers; they played on most of the Motown recordings of the 1960s. Early on, he used a double bass but switched to the Fender P-Bass in the early 1960s. His unique style of playing can be heard on thirty Billboard #1 hits as well as more than seventy #1 R&B hits, a feat that will never be surpassed. It is estimated that he played bass on 95% of Motown recordings during this period. When Marvin Gaye was recording "What's Going On," he was desperate to have Jamerson add the bass line. When he could not be found, Gaye searched several bars he was known to frequent, located him, and brought him back to the studio where Jamerson recorded the famous line lying flat on his back.
Jamerson was not just a proficient and talented player, his style revolutionized how the bass was viewed and used in popular music. He took the typical bassline from a simple and basic root/ fifth pattern to a unique complex, syncopated, and melodic style that totally complemented the vocals but was still in lockstep with the drummer in laying down the beat. Experts often cite the songs "Bernadette," "What's Going On," "For Once in My Life," "Darling Dear," and "I was Made to Love Her" as prime examples of his much-imitated style. The afore-mentioned Paul McCartney isn't the only modern bassist to acknowledge him as a primary influence. Others include John Entwistle, John Paul Jones, Bootsy Collins, Brian Wilson, Bill Wyman, Tommy Shannon, and Donald "Duck" Dunn.
This particular bass was owned by Jamerson from 1962 until about 1967 or 1968 when he loaned it to a close friend and fellow Detroit bassist "Billy" Hayes who had a gig but no instrument. Jamerson never asked for the instrument back and he kept playing it. Hayes played bass with John Lee Hooker for a period and accompanied numerous Detroit acts. Through his years of ownership, he changed only one string (the "G"); this bass has three of the original La Bella flatwound strings James preferred. Nothing else has been changed or modified since Jamerson owned and played it. A signed Letter of Authenticity from Hayes is included with the guitar.
Owning a beloved Fender Precision from the absolute maestro of that instrument would be the dream of any bass player or collector. Heritage is thrilled to have been chosen to offer this important instrument to someone who will treasure it and hopefully keep the funk alive with it.
To Whom It May Concern:
I, Sherman Williott Hayes (aka "Billy" Hayes) declare the following to be true to the best of my recollection:
Upon my discharge from the US Navy in 1953, I began to play music in my hometown of Detroit, Michigan. I started playing guitar and transitioned to electric bass. Over the years I performed at numerous clubs in the Detroit area alongside artists such as Little Junior Canady, Joe Weaver, Bobo Jenkins and Willie D. Warren. I also spent a number of years playing in John Lee Hooker's band.
For my day job, I was an executive chef at the Lafayette Clinic. That's where I met and befriended a co-worker and fellow bass player, Horace "Chili" Ruth. He, in turn, introduced me to his dear friend, James Jamerson. We all became very close friends, spending countless hours together eating, drinking, playing cards, jamming and checking out music all over Detroit. We shared a special bond because of the instrument we all played and were supportive of one another. On occasion, we would borrow one another's instrument.
Somewhere around 1967 or 1968, I don't recall specifically, I had a gig but no instrument. Occasionally, I found myself in that situation. I mentioned it to James and he offered to help. He said he had a bass I could borrow. It was a 1962 Fender Precision Bass with a sunburst finish. He never asked for it back and I continued to use it for years with his blessing. James and his family left Detroit for California when Motown Records moved to Los Angeles and we never saw each other again.
The instrument is completely original as is the case. I only ever replaced one of the strings, the "G". The remaining three are the original La Bella flatwound strings James preferred and that were on the bass when I received it.
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