Working with an Elvis tribute artist (ETA) Lee Memphis King (LMK) I play lots of Elvis music. Jerry Scheff who played during the 70’s with Elvis was a favourite bass player of mine even before I started working with an ETA.
The version of Never Been to Spain LMK wanted the band to copy was from the box set Elvis : Live in Las Vegas. Most people would probably be more familiar with the Madison Sq Garden Version. It has a few different bass patterns Jerry uses for each verse and solo. The whole song builds to a huge climax at the end and Jerry’s bass part does a similar thing. I kept getting some of the patterns mixed up, was it pattern A for this verse or the next verse. So I decided I would write it out. It always seems simple when you start, then the bass disappears in the mix, there is interesting timing to work out and so forth. For me a great excise to help with reading music as well. A skill I don’t need to do that much, yet one I still try to keep going by transcribing and reading music.
I’ve not included all the slide Jerry does in the music, the notes are there. If you listen to the recording, you can hear the slides. I may go back and add them at a later date. The main thing for me was getting those different patterns down. While transcribing this I was also more aware of some of the rhythmic lines Jerry does, in this example going from E to A. He follows the drums quite closely, my backing track I think is based from the Madison Sq Garden recording, so the drum fills are different and don’t quite match up.
I hope you may get some benefit from this as I did writing it out.
I’ve been told to progress in Jazz we need to listen and copy other players. Exactly as we learn to speak, we then use all this information to create our own sentences or bass lines. Ray Brown in one of the great upright Jazz bass players. I found his version of All The Things You Are, which had a few ( well a lot actually) nice lines in it, so I decided to transcribe those parts, or verses containing the lines I like the sound of.
The song is played at quite a fast tempo for this song.
In the first verse the section over the ii-v-i (bars 17-20) are particularly interesting. I also liked the sequence he used in bars (61-63). There’s a lot more to it, but I think analysing it yourself is much more useful than someone doing it for you. I certainly has given me many more ideas when playing walking bass lines. Anything part you like in this.
I’ve only written the chords over the first verse. Also note, I used iRealPro for the backing, which meant I couldn’t replicate the same turnaround in the first verse, but it’s written in the music.
My Walking bass lines particularly over the jazz blues progression all seemed the same, so I decided I needed to do something about it. I’ve studied some Charlie Parker sax lines which mostly full over jazz blues, at least the lines I’ve currently looked at have. The next thing would be to listen to the bass line on these recordings and listen to lines I could use in my own playing. I find it easier to write them out, that way I will always have a record of them to look at. Of course, these old recordings don’t have the best sound sound separation as more modern recordings. Picking out the bass was really hard in places. For this reason, I only transcribed the first 4 progressions (48 bars). Curley Russell is the bass player.
One thing to note in the transcriptions is that I have written the standard Jazz Blues chords over the top, the Charlie Parker Omnibook, doesn’t have this track as a standard jazz blues, iRealPro, which I used in the YouTube clip, uses the standard Jazz blues progression. You can hear a few clashes. Particularly bar 26, where Curley Russell plays A, the usual sequence would be Bb. Also we don’t hear the diminished chord in the sixth bar as usual.
Every now and then I decide to write out an interesting bass line I hear or even play. In this instance I play this track with an Elvis Tribute show. The song is called Runway, which was originally recorded by Del Shannon. Elvis performed this when he returned to live performing in 1969. It’s from the Album ‘Elvis Presley : In Person’. (See note at bottom).
Elvis and the band take this track and transform it into their own track. Jerry Scheff’s bass line on a standard song always amazes me. Jools Holland’s bassist, Dave Swift said he liked how Jerry Scheff takes a standard pop tune and transforms it with his playing. He certainly does that with this track. When I transcribe to notate it, I go in depth a lot more than usual. I’m shocked at how much I missed when I originally learnt the bass to this version. Unlike myself, Jerry plays with just one finger, a little like Jameson.
Below is a link to the transcription. I have also added a clip of myself playing along to a bass-less backing track, which doesn’t have the same oomph as the Elvis version, even though it’s based on that. The intro is also slightly shorter. The bass guitar is recorded direct to film, no mixing, just into a mixer and then to camera.
Note: I thought I’d transcribed the version from the Elvis in Person Album. Although this track was recorded during the August 69 engagement, it was released on the February, 1970 On Stage release. However, on listening to the album recently, I realised I’d transcribed from the box release Elvis Presley – Live in Las Vegas. Apologies for my error.
Jet Harris was the original bass player with The Shadows (formerly The Drifters) who left due to a drink problem. He sadly past away 18 March 2011. He did leave some bass gems behind. Many are well documented already. However I initially decided to transcribe this particular track recorded at a live concert with Cliff Richard in 1962, because the bass during the solo was interesting to me. However, as I started and continued past the solo I realised there were many interesting things going on that can be used over many standard Rock n Rock tracks to make the bass more interesting. I thought I’d share it here. Jet has a driving bass sound in this recording, quite staggering when you consider he was using a Vox AC30 amp. Probably it was a slightly oversize version with a 15″ speaker, very rare. Most certainly this would have been played on a fiesta red Fender Precision bass guitar with flatwound strings and a plectrum. It’s also worth mentioning that Jet was probably drunk when he played this!
transcribed by Nathan J Hulse
Main highlights / analysis
When the song starts Jet plays a standard Rock n Roll line over the F. On the C he adds a 4th with the follow bar starting on a D (9th). This gives an interesting feel and movement. Moving forward to bar 26 Jet again adds a 4th over the C with a run back down to the C later a similar pattern over the F chord.
For the solo, you can hear the descending run with the C pedal note throughout each bar. Towards the end he plays a II – V – I pattern over a V – IV – I sequence. Jet was a Jazz player originally and perhaps this was intentional or a happy mistake.
Moving on to bar 74 is a lovely descending pattern over a static C chord. This I personally use quite a lot over a guitar solo. There are quite a few jumps which suggests Jet would be using open strings quite a lot to move position.
Notice how Jet is also just as happy to play driving quarter notes over the root.
There’s a lot of useful info in this track to add to your rock n roll bass line creation and vocabulary with this. I hope you find helpful.