In Memoriam: Remembering the Bassists We Lost in 2021
As one year ends and we look forward to another, it’s important to stop and remember the incredible talents we lost. This year was particularly tough on the bass community with the passing of iconic heroes and innovators. We know these people may be gone, but their impact will continue to be felt throughout the world.
Join us as we remember the bassists we lost in 2021.
Tim Bogert (January 13, 2021)
Bogert was the bassist for Vanilla Fudge, who reimagined hit songs like “You Keep Hangin’ On” with a psychedelic edge. The hugely influential bassist teamed with drummer Carmine Appice to form Cactus as well as record a pair of albums with Jeff Beck.
Jim Stinnett (February 7, 2021)
As a bass professor at Berklee College of Music, Stinnett’s impact on the bass world is immeasurable. He mentored a plethora of bass greats and published many books including The Music of Paul Chambers, All Cows Eat Grass, and Creating Jazz Bass Lines. Prior to his teaching career, Stinnett performed with artists ranging from Clark Terry to Sam Rivers.
Douglas Grigsby (February 17, 2021)
Grigsby was just 13 years old when he got a gig playing for soul queen Patti Labelle. Through the years, he played bass and served as music director for Schooly D, Taj Mahal, Teddy Pendergrass, and more. Many will remember him for his decades of work with Teena Marie.
Alan Cartwright (March 4, 2021)
Cartwright served as the bassist in Procol Harum from 1971 to 1976. His tenure included four albums: Live: In Concert with the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, Grand Hotel, Exotic Birds and Fruit, and Procol’s Ninth.
Paul Jackson (March 18, 2021)
Most bassists felt the impact of Paul Jackson. His work with Herbie Hancock and the Headhunters crafted a fusion of jazz and funk that still reigns today. He also appeared on the soundtracks to “Death Wish” and “Dirty Harry,” later working with everyone from The Pointer Sisters to Santana. His final solo album, Groove or Die, came out in 2014.
Morris “B.B.” Dickerson (April 2, 2021)
War bassist B.B. Dickerson co-founded the band and was an integral part of the group’s sound. His bass lines on “Low Rider”, “Why Can’t We Be Friends” and “The Cisco Kid” dominated the ‘70s.
Sérgio Brandão (April 2, 2021)
Brandão was one of the most sought-after bassists in the Brazilian and Latin music scenes. He performed with Jan Lucien, Flora Purim, Herbie Mann, Chico Freeman, and more. Brandão won a Latin Grammy for his work on Sergio Mendes’ “Timeless”.
Joe Long (April 21, 2021)
Joe Long was a longtime bassist for the Four Seasons, starting in 1965 and ending in 1975. His first hit with the group was “Opus 17.” After his time in the group, he formed the bands LaBracio and Jersey Bounce.
Tony Markellis (April 30, 2021)
Tony Markellis was a master of many styles, but fans knew him best for playing in Phish guitarist Trey Anastasio’s solo projects. Additionally, he recorded on over 100 albums for everyone from Bonnie Raitt to Dr. John.
Rob Farr (May 9, 2021)
Rob Farr was the bassist for Warrior and is featured on their latest album, The Wars of Gods and Men. Other credits include stints with National Dust and Détente.
Juan Nelson (Jun 9, 2021)
Groove was a way of life for Juan Nelson, who joined Ben Harper’s band in 1994 and served over 25 years in the group. “Beloved husband, father, musical genius, band member of 27 years, and the finest man I’ve ever known,” Harper wrote after his passing. “It’s near impossible for me to put words to this pain and loss. Rest In Glory our beloved Reverend Juan.”
Rick Laird (July 4, 2021)
Laird was a jazz bassist best known for his run in the Mahavishnu Orchestra. After serving as house bassist for Ronnie Scott’s in London, he moved to Boston and eventually met guitarist John McLaughlin. Laird recorded the albums The Inner Mounting Flame and Birds of Fire before the lineup broke up in 1973. He toured with a who’s who of the jazz world and turned to photography later in life.
Arthur “Juini” Booth (July 11, 2021)
Booth was a mainstay of the New York City jazz scene in the ‘60s alongside stars like Eddie Harris and Art Blakey. The ‘70s saw him join the Tony Williams Lifetime Band. His longtime association with the Sun Ra Arkestra began in 1967 and continued for decades.
Dusty Hill (July 28, 2021)
Few bands are as recognizable as ZZ Top, and Dusty Hill was a part of that image and sound. The long-bearded bassist formed the Warlocks and Cellar Dwellers before he and drummer Frank Beard joined Billy Gibbons’s new blues-rock outfit. “That Little Ol’ Band From Texas” would tour the world with mega-hits like “Sharp Dressed Man,” “Tush”, and “La Grange.” Hill was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame with ZZ Top in 2004.
Peter Ind (August 20, 2021)
Peter Ind was a British jazz bassist that started on violin and switched to bass in the mid-’40s, just in time for him to become enthralled with the growing sound of bebop. He moved to New York in 1951 and became a sideman for Lee Konitz, Lennie Tristano, Buddy Rich, and more. He moved back to the UK, where he created the country’s first full-time college jazz course as well as two jazz clubs including the Bass Clef.
Baron Browne (September 2, 2021)
Browne turned heads with his superb playing with Jean Luc Ponty as well as Vital Information. He also worked with fusion legends Billy Cobham, Steps Ahead, and Gary Burton.
Roger Newell (September 10, 2021)
Newell was a collaborator with Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, joining him for his English Rock Ensemble and Journey to the Centre of the Earth projects. The triple neck bass Chris Squire is known for was actually built for Newell to perform the King Arthur concerts at Wembley. He also served as deputy editor for the UK’s Bassist magazine in the ‘90s.
Melvin Dunlap (September 13, 2021)
Whether they know it or not, thousands and thousands of bassists have played bass lines by Melvin Dunlap. After a touring job with the O’Jays, Dunlap landed in Los Angeles and created the 103rd Street Rhythm Band with Charles Wright, scoring the hit “Express Yourself”. He then hooked up with Bill Withers and played on classics like “Lean On Me,” “Use Me,” and “Who Is He (And What Is He To You)?”
George Mraz (September 16, 2021)
Born in what is now the Czech Republic, Mraz studied double bass at the Prague Conservatory and heard jazz via the Voice of America radio broadcasts. He was awarded a scholarship to Berklee and moved to the United States, where he would go on to play with Clark Terry, Carmen McRae, Dizzy Gillespie, Oscar Peterson, and more. He also released 10 albums as a leader.
Bob Moore (September 22, 2021)
Bob Moore’s bass is the foundation of classic country. As a member of Nashville’s “A-Team” session musicians, he recorded on a bevy of hits: Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” Roger Miller’s “King of the Road,” Marty Robbins’s “El Paso,” Conway Twitty’s “Hello, Darlin’,” and more. He was inducted into Nashville’s Musicians Hall of Fame as part of the A-Team in 2007.
Alan Lancaster (September 26, 2021)
Lancaster was a founding member of Status Quo and recorded 16 albums with them, up to 1983’s Back to Back. He would move to Australia and form the bands The Party Boys and The Bombers, eventually joining Quo for their “Frantic Four” reunions in 2013 and 2014.
Steve Rabe (September 30, 2021)
Rabe was the founder and chief engineer of SWR Engineering. His designs and innovations became industry standards, including mixing tube preamps with solid-state power. He sold SWR in 1997 and crated Raven Labs, retiring from the industry in 2005.
Deon Estus (October 11, 2021)
A native of Detroit, Estus was a student of Motown legend James Jamerson. A move to Europe in the early ‘80s led to a healthy career as a studio musician. It also landed him in the band Wham! With George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley. It was his bass lines on hits like “Wake Me Up,” “Careless Whisper,” and “Faith”. Estus scored a hit with his own song “Heaven Help Me”, later playing with artists from Elton John to Tina Turner.
Tommy DeBarge (October 21, 2021)
DeBarge was the bassist for the R&B band Switch, whose debut album on Motown garnered the hit “There’ll Never Be”. He stayed with the group for five albums before leaving to mentor a family band called DeBarge.
Bill Conklin (October 29, 2021)
Conklin was a world-class luthier renowned for his experimental designs, particularly in the realm of extended-range basses. He created seven, eight, nine, and even eleven-string basses while incorporating exotic woods, onboard parametric EQs, and other forward-thinking elements.
Emmett Chapman (November 1, 2021)
Chapman was a musician and inventor. His main creating, the Chapman Stick, became a hit with bassists looking to expand their palette. Players like Alphonso Johnson and Tony Leven utilized the instrument and its unique qualities.
Teppo Hauta Aho (November 27, 2021)
Teppo Hauta Aho was a double bassist and composer, notably one of the most prolific writers for double bass works of our time. He wrote over 300 pieces for bass spanning skill ranges and genres.
Robbie Shakespeare (December 8, 2021)
Along with drummer Sly Dunbar, Shakespeare was an icon of reggae. He first learned by watching Wailers bassist Aston “Family Man” Barrett before becoming a pillar of the studio scene. Sly & Robbie would work with reggae artists like U-Roy, Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh, Yellowman, and Black Uhuru, but their influence spread internationally. They played and produced for everyone from Bob Dylan to Mick Jagger to Grace Jones. Rolling Stone named Shakespeare the 17th greatest bassist of all time.
Phil Chen (December 14, 2021)
Phil Chen was born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica where joined the Vagabonds. What was scheduled to be a six-month tour of the UK turned into a 19-year stay for Chen. He found a niche doing session work in London, where he recorded on albums with Jeff Beck (Blow By Blow), Rod Stewart (Blondes Have More Fun), Donovan (Cosmic Wheels), Joan Armatrading (Back to the Night), and more. He also became a longtime collaborator with members of the Doors.
Leon Hubbard (December 16, 2021)
“Hub” was the bassist for The Roots from 1992 to 2007 and played on their groundbreaking albums including 1999’s Things Fall Apart and 2004’s The Tipping Point. Hit songs like “You Got Me” put Hubbard’s bass lines at the forefront of hip hop, setting the standard for modern players. He left the band in 2007 after a cancer diagnosis but continued to play and write. He recently finished a piece called “The Awakening”.