By Andy J. Gordon and Jenny Peters
It was a bass-guitar lover’s night to remember, as this year’s Bass Player LIVE! annual musical event honored the amazing careers of bass-guitar legends George Porter Jr., Billy Sheehan and Tim Bogart.
Held at the Musician’s Institute in Hollywood on October 22, 2016, Bass Player LIVE! was a fantastic celebration of those bass-guitar virtuosos known for their contributions to classic funk and rock ‘n roll. Industry pros, fans and bass-guitar junkies packed the school’s concert hall to see Porter and Sheehan presented with their Lifetime Achievement Awards; unfortunately, Tim Bogart was unable to attend due to illness.
The highlights of the star-studded evening were the live sets performed by the honored musicians, ably aided with sit-in jams by talented guests.
George Porter Jr. is a founding member of the legendary New Orleans funk group The Meters. The band’s innovative funk sound begun in the 1960s has inspired many musicians that followed. Porter Jr. does occasional reunions with the original Meters, but his participation in the Funky Meters, as well as his long-term project The Runnin’ Pardners and his studio work have all solidified his recognition as one of the music industry’s greatest bass players. He is a regular participant on the jam-band and festival scene, where his mastery of rock, funk and R&B have made him a must-see performer for fans of all ages.
After Porter accepted his Lifetime Achievement Plaque from “American Idol” star Randy Jackson, he led The Runnin’ Pardners through a set of music that spanned his illustrious career. The band played Meters classics including “Hey Pocky Way,” “Cissy Strut,” “People Say” and “Africa.” Jerry Jemmott joined the jam during “Cissy Strut” and Tal Wilkenfeld came out to play on “People Say.” Porter also had his daughter Katrina helping on backup vocals. The craziest moment of the night happened when Porter broke a string on his bass and started playing Wilkenfeld’s — while she still had her instrument strapped to her body!
William “Billy” Sheehan is a rock bassist known for his playing with Talas, Steve Vai, David Lee Roth, Mr. Big, Niacin and The Winery Dogs. He has frequently won the readers’ poll for “Best Rock Bass Player” from Guitar Player Magazine. He is known for his use of a right-hand “three-finger picking” technique, chording, two-handed tapping and controlled feedback.
Sheehan accepted his Lifetime Achievement Award from Stanley Clarke, then brought out his band that featured Mike Bennett on drums and Richie Kotzen from The Winery Dogs on guitar and vocals. The band played powerful versions of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower,” Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” and The Faces’ “I’m Losing You.”
Sheehan talked about his love and admiration for Tim Bogart before bringing out an all-star group of musicians for the final jam session. The band consisted of Ray Luzier from Korn on drums, Doug Pinnick from King’s X on vocals, Tommy Baldwin on guitar, and three other bass players — Steve Bailey, Rex Brown from Pantera and Gerald Veasley. It was a low-end sonic assault as the improvised group wailed through versions of Freddie King’s “Goin’ Down” and Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition.”
The Bass Player LIVE! concert celebration ended with a standing ovation from the audience, who shouted out their appreciation for the legendary performers who showed off their chops during this raucous annual night of music and honorary awards. We cannot wait for next year!