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Reader Spotlight: Jon Willis

Jon WillisMeet Jon Willis, a bassist from Savannah, Georgia who got his start studying with Beaver Felton, and has more than 20 years experience as a bassist. Jon is our player in the spotlight for August 30, 2011.

Bio:

Began playing bass in early 90’s. I bought a Hot Licks VHS featuring Beaver Felton and soon found out that he lived in Savannah, and I immediately began taking lessons from him. I started with a weekly one hour lesson which later turned into two one hour lessons per week. Taking personal lessons from Beaver gave me an incredible jump start. He later moved to Orlando, so I was on my own to continue learning. I started playing in bands, and doing any studio work I possibly could. Money was never the driving factor in my career, so staying employed was easy. My former band gigged three to four nights per week for about four years before it finally came to a close.

For the past two years I have been playing in a not-so-typical blues trio, playing the local circuit three to four nights per week, which seems to be harder to do these days with so many clubs turning to DJ’s or even satellite radio.

I never got into the slap bass thing, I can do it but my attention was always set towards tapping, which is paying off to be quite useful in a blues trio.

I have been a full time bass/guitar instructor for the past four years and have recently opened a music lesson studio with many other local music teachers in my area. Teaching is a great way to evaluate you own technique on a daily level. And everyday I not only push my students to do better but I have to push myself to keep on top of my studies as well.

Location:

Savannah GA USA

Day gig:

I am a bass/guitar instructor at a local music school I opened with several other teachers.

Years experience:

Over 20 years.

Bands & Gigs:

I am the bassist for The Fletcher Trio, a not-so-typical blues band we formed in the Savannah Georgia area. We play a very danceable form of the blues and are able to incorporate musical instrumental sections into our show as well. Just the right mix of musical virtuosity and danceable blues.

Gear:

I use a custom bass amp built by Swamp Works Amplifiers from Alabama. It is called the Possum Stomper and it is the most musical bass amp I have ever played through. It is the perfect blend of an SVT and B-15.

My cabinet is also Swamp Works, loaded with 4 Sica PL10B25S Premium Lite Series 10″ speakers.

My bass of choice for the past 15 years has been my Yamaha Attitude Ltd.

I am about to retire that bass and start playing a custom made Bluesman Vintage p-bass exclusively.

I use no pedals at all.

Why I play the bass:

I always wanted to be Gene Simmons from KISS. My two best friends played guitar and needed a bassist, and that was the excuse I needed to start playing.

My bass superpower/claim to fame

Most people comment on my speed and ability to navigate the fretboard, but I always say speed is just a trick. I feel my greatest “superpower” is how clean my playing is. I worked for many years to get my technique to sound like it was being perfectly compressed without using a compressor. Many hours of practicing with compressor on and then playing same thing with it off and trying to mimic was I was hearing. Impressive or not but that is the thing I decided to work on the most, playing a super clean, well defined bass lines to do my part of being a supportive role in my band.

My influences

Beaver Felton, Billy Sheehan, John Entwistle, James Jamerson, Stu Hamm, Michael Manring, Geddy Lee and of course Gene Simmons.

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