10.) Donald “Duck” Dunn (Booker T & the MGs/Studio bassist) – A man who knew his way around 4 strings and a fretboard, Dunn held down the low end of some of the greatest rock and soul hits of his time. As a founding member of Booker T & the MGs, the STAX/Atlantic house band, he played on tunes like “Green Onions” (Booker T & the MGs); “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” (Otis Redding); “Born Under a Bad Sign” (Albert King); “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers); “Soul Man” (Sam & Dave) along with a myriad of others – Not to mention that he’s the cool corncob pipe smoking bass player in the original Blues Brothers Band. There can’t be an all-time bass player list without Donald “Duck” Dunn. That would be ridiculous.
9.) Gezzer Butler (Black Sabbath) – From the band that brought heavy metal to the world, Geezer Butler has had Sabbath fans throwing devil horns in the air since their 1970 self-titled debut album. Butler’s bass licks paved the way for all metal bassists that would come after him. You can hear his influence in the playing of modern metal guys like Bob Daisley (Ozzy Osbourne/Uriah Heap), Frank Bello (Anthrax), and Cliff Burton (Metallica). Just for good measure click below and check out the sick bass intro that he lays down for “N.I.B.”
8.) Jack Bruce (Cream) – The man my #9 pick (Geezer Butler) chose as his main influence. Despite being in a band with 2 other huge musicians, (Eric Clapton on guitar and Ginger Baker on drums) he not only held his own but was able to rise to the top on many occasions stealing the spotlight for himself. But for bass players it’s not necessarily the solos they are judged on but how they hold down the rhythm while their band is cooking. If you hold up Jack Bruce in this light he is amazing. Case in point – Listen to the song “Crossroads” and at the midpoint of the song when Clapton tears into his ripping blues solo, Bruce is all over his fretboard supporting and sometimes leading what Clapton does. Well done Mr. Bruce.
7.) Paul McCartney (Beatles/Wings/Solo) – One half of the most prolific songwriting duo in popular music history, Lennon/McCartney, his catalog alone is so long you could probably get through “Atlas Shrugged” before you got through his complete works. His playing is diverse and ranges many styles allowing him to explore his instrument while still churning out hit after hit. My favourite McCartney flavour is from the song “Think For Yourself” off of the album “Rubber Soul”. While you are listening keep in mind that the main ‘guitar’ tone you’re hearing is Paul McCarney’s bass with a fuzz tone on it – not George Harrison’s guitar. Well ahead of his time.
6.) Les Claypool (Primus) – The master of the six string fretless bass, no one does it like Les. The first time I heard this guy was when a friend of mine brought over the album “Sailing the Seas of Cheese” and put on the song “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver”. Blew my mind. The guy turns his bass into a syncopated rocket capable of thumping some of the most complex riffs imaginable. His biggest influence is Geddy Lee of Rush and it shows with his ability to lead his band on bass AND lead vocals. He also wrote and performed the South Park theme song with his band. He’s out there on the fringe and you may not even dig his tunes, but the man’s level of both talent and skill are undeniable.