Bassist Bob Babbitt passed away this morning at the age of 74. He was an enormously influential musician who played on many truly classic recordings, and was a personal hero of mine. His discography speaks for itself and is pretty staggering.
Just before I moved to Nashville in 2002 I contacted Bob through his website, and he was very nice and suggested that I call him during my visit, which I did. We ended up meeting for lunch and he was as gracious as could be. He told me really great stories about his time in Detroit, NYC, and Philly, and gave me some professional advice:
-Always be on time, prepared, and wear clean clothes
-No drinking or drug using while working. He was very adamant about this and had seen it ruin a lot of lives and careers
-If you’re on the road and get called for a session just say you’re booked–they don’t have to know where you are–“You could be in China for all they know!!”
We also hung out at his place and I got to check out his basses–including “the bass”–that late 60’s Pbass that he played on all those old records! He was really great to me–and he certainly didn’t have to be–a genuinely kind man.
When I first became interested in music it was a slow start because I didn’t know any musicians and there were few resources close to me to learn more about it. My mother took me to the closest store–which sold more PA and DJ equipment than musical instruments–and they didn’t have much in the way of guitars or basses, but I did leave with a copy of Bass Player magazine. The March 1994 issue to be exact. Inside there was a feature story on Babbitt and it recounted his entire career–playing on many hits as a member of the Funk Brothers, the Motown label’s house rhythm section, and other Detroit based labels. After that, a move to New Jersey which started a busy decade of session work in New York and Philadelphia–more hits, more classic recordings. In the 1980’s a move to Nashville and more recording and touring. I found it really inspiring. This one guy had been in recording studios for decades working on great records, including some of my favorite music. Before reading this I didn’t even know that you could do that as a job. An idea has gotta start somewhere I guess. And there it is–pictured above–I’ve had it since I was 13 years old.