As we reflect on the musical highs of 2015, let us not forget those bassists we lost. Our community lost some of its brightest stars this year, but their musical legacies will never go away. Join us as we take a moment to remember the lives and legacies of the bass players we lost this year.
Tim Drummond (January 10, 2015)
Drummond was a prolific and diverse bassist whose resumé includes work with James Brown, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and Miles Davis. The bassist honed his craft in Cincinnati, Ohio, where he would eventually work with Brown, playing live and recording tracks like “Licking Stick”. After a stint in Nashville, Drummond located to California and played on Neil Young’s iconic Harvest album, as well as every one of the songwriter’s albums up until 1980.
Danny McCulloch (January 29, 2015)
McCulloch played bass for the second incarnation of iconic rock band The Animals. Vocalist Eric Burdon recruited the bassist for his newly reformed group, which scored hits with “San Franciscan Nights,” “Monterey,” and “Sky Pilot.” McCulloch exited the band in 1968 along with Vic Briggs and promptly released an album, Wings of Man. He left music to become a psychiatric nurse during the ‘80s, but returned to his calling to form a new Animals group, record a second solo album, and continue to tour with different variations of the Animals.
Joe B. Mauldin (February 7, 2015)
Mauldin was part of the first wave of rock and roll as the bassist for Buddy Holly and the Crickets. He joined the Crickets at just 16 years old and was featured on the hit songs “That’ll Be the Day,” “Oh Boy!,” “It’s So Easy,” “Maybe Baby,” and “Think It Over.” After Holly’s death in 1959, Mauldin went on to play with the Everly Brothers as well as recording his own albums and playing occasionally with the Crickets. He was inducted into the West Texas Walk of Fame, the Music City Walk of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 as a member of the Crickets.
Mike Porcaro (March 15, 2015)
Toto bassist Mike Porcaro passed away this year after a long battle with ALS. Brothers Jeff and Steve Porcaro founded Toto in 1977 with bassist David Hungate, but Mike became a full-time member after Hungate’s departure in 1982. He was first featured on 1984’s Isolation and subsequently played on every album up until 2006’s Falling in Between. Besides Toto, Porcaro worked as an in-demand L.A. session player, touring with Seals & Crofts, Boz Scaggs, Michael Franks, Joe Walsh, and Larry Carlton, among others. His solo album Brotherly Love was released in 2011.
Andy Fraser (March 16, 2015)
Fraser was the bassist and a founding member of the ‘60s rock band Free. Starting on guitar, he was taken under the wing of blues guitarist Alexis Korner, who helped land Fraser his first big gig with John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers when he was just fifteen. He formed Free with vocalist Paul Rodgers, guitarist Paul Kossoff, and drummer Simon Kirke in 1968, landing the huge hit “All Right Now.” After Free split for good in 1973, Fraser worked and wrote for artists including Rod Stewart, Chaka Khan, Paul Young, Joe Cocker, Paul Carrack, Wilson Pickett, Three Dog Night, and many more. He was also an outspoken human rights activist.
Scott Clendenin (March 24, 2015)
As a member of Death, Clendenin was a solid member of the metal community. He joined the iconic death metal band in 1996 and was featured on 1998’s The Sound of Perseverance. The bassist continued with Death until frontman Chuck Schuldiner’s passing in 2001. He also played in Schuldiner’s side project Control Denied from 1997 to 1999 and participated in the “Death to All” tour in honor of Schuldiner.
Rutger Gunnarsson (April 30, 2015)
Swedish bassist Gunnarsson was the hearbeat for pop sensation ABBA. He joined the fold in 1972 and helped them win their career changing Eurovision contest in 1974 with “Waterloo”. Gunnarsson played on all eight of the group’s albums in addition to multiple world tours. He played the bass lines on “Dancing Queen,” “Money Money Money,” and many more. After ABBA’s demise, he continued to play bass and arrange for artists like Celine Dion, Elton John, Gwen Stefani, Adam Ant, and others.
Craig Gruber (May 5, 2015)
Gruber was a rock and metal mainstay. An original member of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Gruber got his start with the Ronnie James Dio-fronted band Elf in 1973. He also worked with Gary Moore in the early ‘80s and briefly worked as the bassist in Black Sabbath when Geezer Butler split.
Louis Johnson (May 21, 2015)
Johnson is one of the forefathers of modern bass playing for his unique slap style. The funk session player nicknamed “Thunder Thumbs” began as a duo with his guitar-playing brother George. Their tight bond led to work with Bobby Womack, the Supremes, and Billy Preston throughout the ‘70s. The duo hooked up with producer Quincy Jones to create their own music under the name The Brothers Johnson, scoring several hits including “I’ll Be Good to You,” “Get the Funk Out Ma Face,” “Strawberry Letter 23,” and “Stomp”. The brothers parted ways in 1982 to work on their own projects with Louis releasing Passage and Evolution. It was the bassist’s studio work with Michael Jackson that led to even greater heights. Johnson is featured on The King of Pop’s albums Off the Wall, Thriller, and Dangerous. He went on to play with a who’s who of the music industry with a resume that includes Rufus, Stanley Clarke, Stevie Wonder, Paul McCartney, Herbie Hancock, George Duke, Bill Withers, Andrae Crouch, and many more.
Chris Squire (June 27, 2015)
As founder and bassist for Yes, Squire was one of the foremost musicians in progressive rock. He formed the band in 1968 and was the only original member of the band that lasted its entire history. He released 21 studio albums, 10 live albums, 32 compilation albums, 34 singles and 19 videos with Yes. “For the entirety of Yes’ existence, Chris was the band’s linchpin and, in so many ways, the glue that held it together over all these years,” the band wrote in a statement. “Because of his phenomenal bass-playing prowess, Chris influenced countless bassists around the world, including many of today’s well-known artists.”
Wilton Felder (September 27, 2015)
Photo credit: Don Peake
His main instrument may have been saxophone, but Wilton Felder’s early work as a bass guitarist launched him into the history books of the low end. He played bass on the hit Jackson 5 songs “I Want You Back,” “ABC,” “The Love You Save,” and many others. The Jazz Crusaders founder also played bass for Dizzy Gillespie, Jimmy Smith, America, Seals and Crofts, John Cale, Billy Joel, Randy Newman, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, and Michael Franks.
Terry Horbury (December 15, 2015)
Horbury had a long career in the hard rock world featuring gigs with Ozzy Osbourne, Dirty Tricks, Winner, McKitty, Strategy, Paddy Goes To Holyhead and more. Most recently he was working with the power trio Vardis, which he originally joined in 1986.
Lemmy Kilmister (December 28, 2015)
As bassist and lead singer for Motörhead, Kilmister inspired legions of people to pick up the bass. His heavy style came from his background starting as a rhythm guitarist. After several bands and working as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix, Kilmister first picked up the bass for the space rock band Hawkwind in 1970. He founded Motörhead in 1975 and went on to release twenty-three studio albums, ten live recordings, twelve compilation albums and five EPs.