Carol Kaye Responds to “Mrs. Maisel” Homage

Mrs. Maisel - Carole Keen

If you’ve been watching the latest season of Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” you may have noticed a new character who seems quite familiar. That’s because the fictional Carole Keen is based on real-life bass hero Carol Kaye, who played bass on countless hits from the ’60s. “Keen” is a character that represents Kaye’s life, even down to her cat-eye glasses.

While the character appears to pay homage to the session ace, Kaye doesn’t see it that way. Kaye made her views clear in an interview with the New York Post:

“It’s a Hollywood, silly fluff piece [that has] nothing to do with me or my history. They took a few things out of my book and created a character that’s not even me at all,” she said. “A lot of people are saying, ‘That must be you. I love it!’ But I am not a cartoon — and my life is not a joke. Nobody contacted me. I didn’t know a thing about it. I thought that was pretty bad — kind of like slander.”

Kaye is known as the First Lady of Bass for her groundbreaking work in the L.A. recording scene. She started session work in 1957 as a guitarist, switching to bass in 1963 when a bassist missed a session. She went on to record numerous hits for artists like The Beach Boys, Steve Wonder, Frank Sinatra, Glen Campbell, and more. She also recorded on the soundtracks for Mission: Impossible, M.A.S.H, Shaft, and Bullitt. She is currently retired, though she stays active on social media and still teaches lessons. Her autobiography, Studio Musician: Carol Kaye, 60s #1 Bassist, Guitarist, was released in 2017 and is available on her website.

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  1. Trey Smith

    I’ve watched the show and it is spectacular! I loved the fact that someone even thought to represent a real bass hero, however inaccurate. It isn’t a documentary after all and there are many other “real life” people represented in the show. I always thought the main character was modeled after Joan Rivers a bit. Lenny Bruce is represented and watching the show led me to research the real Lenny Bruce a bit. I knew the name but not really any specifics. One funny thing I caught in watching the show. The fictitious Carol starts off playing left handed for most of the third season but mysteriously switches to right handed (like the real Carol) at the very end. They even had to replace her bass! I wonder if someone pointed out the error to the production crew.

  2. BENJAMIN

    I think it’s pretty silly to take the inspiration for her character so out of sorts. It is no attempt at bringing her life to the foreground in the form of a video biography. It is simply a way to entertain the masses while also bringing to light the realities of the past and the disparities within society as a whole at that time, and a reminder of what work is still needed… Like it or not, I’m sure Carol Kaye had real detractors in real life and I’m sure that she has plenty of real life things that she’d prefer never went on screen, and there’s no reason not to appreciate the tip of the hat in bringing some deserved homage by the writers having a woman BASED on her life experiences (and let’s keep a heavy emphasis on the phrase “based on” in the context that it deserves).

  3. Tarheelgorl77

    I actually very much liked this character, and like another poster shared, I was prompted to research Carol Kaye and also Lenny Bruce based on this show and the portrayal of these characters. While I’m sure it was intended to be a tribute, I guess what is really important is how Carol Kaye feels about it, as it’s roughly based on her life. I have read a session drummer from her era really said some bad things about her and some other artists in a documentary a couple of years back, so it would appear she has been burned before and may not be so open-minded. I can certainly understand that. It seems to me that if you are going to even loosely base a fictional character on a living figure, and let’s be clear it’s obvious this is supposed to be Carol Kaye, it seems to me you would without question want to seek their approval and input. Had Amy sherman-palladino gone to the trouble to do that, we might be reading a very different story.

    • Rob Crumrine

      I totally agree with you about letting the real person know and getting some sort of approval and input. I know this isn’t always possible, and sometimes the facts of a story or things about the person are not things they are comfortable in sharing. Having said that, in a totally fictional fluff piece such as this, where the character is VERY loosely based on Carol, she should be a bit more forgiving of the producers; et al. They should, however at least get whatever things that are factual correct.

  4. LoraC

    It’s a shame she can’t just be grateful anyone THOUGHT of her in the first place.

  5. Jordan Winters

    Mrs. Maisel is a comedy show. A very good comedy show. It is not presented as being based in fact. Who is Sophie Lennon? Who is Shy Baldwin? (My guess, loosely based on Johnny Mathis). For that matter, who is Mrs. Maisel? After all, she is portrayed as having had a friendly relationship with Lenny Bruce, who we all know was a real person. My point is, Ms. Kaye needs to get over herself. I see it as someone who had a great career and is now looking to be relevant again.