Willie Weeks: King of Tone & Taste
Some bass players impress us with their chops and fancy playing.
Willie Weeks does it with great tone, perfect time, and an uncanny ability to know exactly what to play and when for any given tune.
Of course Willie has the chops to play virtually anything, but it's how he uses his skills that sets him apart from many other bass players.
Listening to Weeks play bass is like listening to a waterfall or hearing waves lap against the shore. It's so natural and right that you get the feeling it's effortless for him, as if he was born to play bass from day one. The reality is that Willie is and has been the consummate professional musician. Weeks has honed is craft over many years of practice and study that continues to this day.
Born in North Carolina in 1947 Weeks began playing electric bass in the early 1960's. Strongly influenced by Motown great James Jamerson, Willie quickly developed his own style based on soul, R&B, and pop music he heard on the radio. Playing a 1962 Fender Precision, Weeks started working as a studio bassist and quickly became a first call session player for many top bands and singers.
Willie has worked with Stevie Wonder, George Harrison, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, The Rolling Stones, Aretha Franklin, The Doobie Brothers, Buddy Guy, Isaac Hayes, Gregg Allman, Joe Walsh, Rod Stewart, and Bo Diddley plus many others.
Probably his best known work however is with soul singer Donnie Hathaway. Willie's bass playing on Hathaway's Live album is nothing short of genius. His 3 1/2 minute bass solo on "Voices Inside (Everything is Everything)" is considered by many to be one of the finest ever recorded.
Always in the Pocket
Playing his 62' Precision Bass with flatwound strings, Weeks starts it slow with a steady and funky rhythm. Willie gradually raises the tempo and the syncopation while throwing in inventive high note fills and perfectly placed ghost notes. His amazing playing just soars, while still keeping the solo consistent and musically logical (not an easy thing to do).
Another highlight on the Hathaway album is "Little Ghetto Boy" which showcases Week's ability to stretch out and really lay down some funky bass lines that weave in and out of Hathaway's soulful singing perfectly. Willie always seems to add just the right amount flair and funk to a song without stepping on the vocals or getting in the way of the other musicians.
Weeks is still performing and recording today and is still one the most sought after session bassists around. Most notably he has recently played with Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood during their world tour with the Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Besides his 62' Fender Presicison Bass Willie also has a 1958 Fender Precision, a 1964 Fender Jazz Bass, a '63 Fender Precision, a Fender Marcus Miller Jazz, and has been known to use Fender reissue models as well.
Truly a living legend, Willie Weeks is the king of tone and taste and any bass player looking to improve their playing should check out his work. Not only can you go to school listening to Willie play but you will love every minute of his tasty bass lines as well.