Doug Rauch (14 September 1950 – 23 April 1979)
I’m a huge fan of Doug Rauch, a unique bassist who sadly was taken from us at a young age. He had a funky, bubbling, percolating style based on 16th notes which never failed to ignite the music. I wrote a blogpost about him and am always pleased (and a little satisfied) that it gets daily traffic which implies that there are people out there that love what Doug did and want to find out more. Only a few years ago there was little about him on the net and a few tireless souls have spent a good deal of time rectifying that.
Doug was active in music from 1969 until 1976 – an exciting and special time in popular music. Racial barriers were breaking down and funk was everywhere. This was a time when jazz fusion or jazz rock was an experiment rather than a genre. It was a time when Santana’s mainstream crowd roared their approval at a live gig on recognizing the opening strains of Miles Davis’ ëIn a Silent Way’. Can you imagine the equivalent of that today? It was a time with fewer boundaries.
Doug played his modified pre-CBS Fender Jazz in a unique and highly funky style. He was capable of laying down a solid fingerstyle Latin line as on Santana’s Lotus or playing funky lines with fast chromatic runs as on Billy Cobham’s Life and Times and Santana’s Welcome. Guys like Victor Wooten and Marcus Miller use up and down thumb technique now, but it’s notable that Doug was using a version of this as early as 1971. His technique is impressive but it’s the sheer life affirming energy and joy of his playing that always grabs me.
Doug’s trademark Fender Jazz was heavily modified. It had an additional Gibson EB-pickup (a.k.a “mudbucker”) in the neck position anf the original jazz bass neck pickup was replaced with a P-bass pickup. There were a number of additional non-original knobs and switches. He also used a stock pre-CBS era Precision Bass for some of his work with Santana.
For me the greatest example of Doug’s animated funky grooving is on Lenny White’s Venusian Summer – outrageously out of print at the moment, this is one of the greatest fusion records made. The rhythm section of White, Rauch, Jimmy Smith (on some tracks) and Doug Rodrigues on guitar combine with the creative playing of guys like Hubert Laws, Larry Young, Onaje Allan Gumbs, David Sancious, Larry Coryell, Tom Harrell and others as well as early synthesiser stylings devised by the great Patrick Gleeson.
Rauch was born in New York and played in a number of bands there before moving to San Francisco, notably with Bunky and Jake, Buzzy Linhart and on a session with Carly Simon. He was part of the same Greenwich Village scene as Jimi Hendrix. Moving to the Bay Area at the invitation of Michael Shrieve, Rauch connected with Tom Coster (Santana, Vital Information) and they played together in the band Loading Zone, in Gabor Szabo’s band, and later in Santana. Rauch’s style fit perfectly with the Bay Area funk approach as typified by Sly and the Family Stone and Tower of Power.
Recordings from 1971 explicitly demonstrate this connection on the album Giants (finally released under the name of Greg Errico, the original drummer from Sly and the Family Stone, in 1978): a record that combines funk, Latin grooves and rock. It was intended as Santana founder member Michael Carabello’s solo album but abandoned. Errico recorded additional tracks in 1978 to complete the project. The record features Rauch and also Bobby Vega on fuzz bass (from the later recording) as well as a number of Santana members and musicians from the Bay Area scene of that time.
Doug Rauch played in Santana’s group in it’s most jazz influenced phase. This was vital and experimental music. Records like Caravanserai, Welcome and Lotus document a band at the height of their creative powers. There is a DVD of the band from this period available in Japan and that highlights the excitement this band could engender. Doug brought a love of the Mahvishnu Orchestra’s fusion to Santana’s sound.
Rauch also rehearsed with a version Tony Williams Lifetime that sadly never played live but did tour in 1975 with the Billy Cobham Group (featuring George Duke and a young John Scofield) that would go on to become better known with Alphonso Johnson on bass. A Cobham CD from this period (Life and Times) is an exciting document and there are live recordings from this period doing the rounds.
Rauch recorded with the fabulous Betty Davis (way ahead of her time and very influential on her husband Miles’ 70s recordings). He toured with David Bowie on the September leg of the Diamond Dogs tour, appearing in a documentary recorded at the time. Recordings from the tour show Rauch adding his own approach to Bowie’s classic songs. In 1975 he recorded with Shigeru Suzuki and played with Jan Hammer before drug problems led to his withdrawal from the scene, and he was replaced in Hammer’s band by Fernando Saunders.
John McLaughlin and Carlos Santana’s collaboration Love Devotion and Surrender features Doug Rauch’s playing. It’s a cathartic, intense record that also features Billy Cobham, Larry Young and others. There were live recordings of this band and a number of studio out-takes were also recorded. Most people will know Doug’s effervescent playing from Caravanserai though on tracks like Look up to See What’s Coming Down, even if they don’t know anything else about him.
Sad that Doug’s life was ended so early (at the age of 28) by drugs and depression. He was a great musical force – if you don’t know of him, now’s the time to check him out. Search him out on Youtube, buy a copy of Love Devotion and Surrender, Caravanserai, Welcome, Life and Times or Venusian Summer and be inspired!
Importantly, this article would not exist without the assistance of some huge fans of Doug’s music who have provided me with information, links, music and video over the years. Thank you Pekka Ranta, Stefan Lindblom and Ulrik Volgsten.
Doug Rauch Discography
- Bunky & Jake: L.A.M.F. (1969)
- Music: s/t (1970, re-released as “Buzzy Linhart is Music”)
- Carly Simon: s/t (1971)
- Papa John Creach: s/t (1971)
- Giants: (recorded 1971, released 1978)
- Santana: Caravanserai (1972)
- Betty Davis: Betty Davis (1973)
- John McLaughlin & Carlos Santana: Love Devotion Surrender (1973)
- Santana: Welcome (1973)
- Santana: Lotus (1974)
- Jose Chepito Areas: s/t (1974)
- Shigeru Suzuki: Bandwagon (1975)
- Lenny White: Venusian Summer (1975)
- Billy Cobham: Life & Times (1976)
Doug Rauch Links:
- Doug Rauch Appreciation Group on Facebook
- Wikipedia on Doug
- My original blogpost on Doug
- Video: Chicken Fried Steak – Lenny White
Jeff Berlin: “… another slap bass player who would have been as big as anybody, but who died unfortunately, named Doug Rauch. He played with Cobham. Astonishing bass player.”.
Tom Coster: “Doug Rauch was a unique person and a great bass player who definitely had his own thing happening. He was very colorful, to say the least. He was also a troubled man and had some things happen in his childhood that definitely affected his personality and his life in general. I loved him, and he left us much too early. I feel that Doug would have been one of the greatest of our time if he were still with us.”
Pino Palladino: “…Lenny White’s Venusian Summer [Nemperor], with the late Doug Rauche played some stinky funk that blew me away.”