In the early 1980's, a 20 year-old bassist named Cliff Burton joined a Bay-area band called Trauma. In August 1982, he was spotted at a gig at LA's Troubadour by two guys called Lars and James, who described him as the most head banging bassist they had ever seen. This meeting went on to be life-changing for them all. Cliff Burton was born in 1962, in San Francisco. His parents were hippies, and from them he got his laid-back attitude and his own unique style. He studied piano from the age of 6, was incredibly bright, and studied music at junior college. At about the age of thirteen, Cliff picked up the bass guitar and fell in love with it, saying - When I started, I decided to devote my life to it and not get sidetracked by all the other bull**** life has to offer. His brother had just died from a brain aneurysm, and Cliff vowed to be the best bassist for my brother." He took lessons for two years, before outgrowing his teachers. His first band was called EZ Street, named after a strip club in San Mateo. The band slowly disintegrated, but his skill and dedication to the bass led to him joining a local band called Trauma. At around 21, Cliff told his parents he was utterly determined to become a professional bassist. His parents agreed to pay for his rent and food for four years - if he hadn't made some kind of progress by then, he would have to get a different job. Cliff's time with Trauma, whose one-song demo, 'Such A Shame' was transferred to vinyl on Metal Massacre II, led to his meeting with Lars and James. James' quote about that evening sums up Cliff's skill and attitude perfectly: "We heard this wild solo going on and thought, 'I don't see any guitar player up there.' It turned out it was the bass player, Cliff, with a wah wah pedal and this mop of hair. He didn't care whether people were there. He was looking down at his bass playing." The band decided he had to be their bassist, and fired Ron Mcgovney, Metallica's original bassist. At first, Cliff declined their offer, but he was becoming increasingly unhappy in Trauma. Cliff's parents recall - Trauma wanted him to go plunk, plunk, plunk, plunk. He wanted to play lead bass and they said, 'No way'. Two years into the deal with his parents, Cliff agreed to join Metallica, but had two requests. One was that the band relocate to the Bay Area, the second that he could play lead bass. When they finally got together he'd say, "I wanna play lead bass. I want some spot in here where I can go off. And they said, "You can play anything you want, just come with us." They gave him a five-minute solo. Jan Burton Fans of Metallica who saw them during Cliff's years with the band will no doubt have been treated to one of these bass solos. Even after joining Metallica, Cliff still practiced between four and six hours a day. He showed great commitment to the band, especially on the first tour back east. At one point, all their equipment was stolen except three guitars. Cliff was completely committed to the band, even teaching James Hetfield music theory. Examples of his unique talent can be found in numerous Metallica songs. Cliff's solo, Anesthesia (Kill 'Em All), is considered by some to be the best bass solo ever, and was apparently improvised. He also played a melodic and haunting part in the Call Of Ktulu (Ride The Lightning), and used effects like wah and distortion in his music. Cliff was largely responsible for the hauntingly beautiful Orion, from the Master Of Puppets album. This song was played at his funeral. Cliff's life was cut drastically short by that now-infamous day in Sweden. That night, Cliff played Star Spangled Banner for his bass solo. That night the band drew cards to decide who would have which bunk on the tour bus. Cliff drew the Ace Of Spades, assigning him to Kirk Hammett's bunk. That night, the driver lost control of the bus and tried to correct the skid. Cliff was thrown from the bus and pinned underneath. A crane was brought to the scene to lift the bus from Cliff, but it slipped back down. It isn't known whether Cliff was still alive at this point. There is still speculation about the accident. The driver claims that he hit a patch of black ice, but James Hetfield has since said that the road searched the road for ice and none found. There were claims that the driver was drunk. To this day, nobody will ever know what caused the bus to skid and end the life of one of the most influential bassists ever. There is no doubt that Cliff's death was a tragedy, and although he died 18 years ago, Cliff is still a huge influence to bassists worldwide. Adverts were taken out by fans in magazines like Kerrang to pay tribute to him and his music. Metallica at first refused to carry on as a band, but later hired Jason Newstead, who unfortunately was regarded for most of his time in the band as 'Cliff's Replacement'. He later quit, and Rob Trujillo now plays bass for Metallica. Though he achieved worldwide fame with Metallica, Cliff always remained grounded, never considering himself a star. His parents said he was "an appreciative and thoughtful son, recalling: Once, a little boy came up to the door, early in the morning and wanted Cliff to sign his shirt. So Cliff staggered to the door - and said 'Sure, of course I'll sign it.' I once called him up and said 'How do you like being a rock star?', and he was furious. He asked me never to refer to him that way again, Sister, Connie Cliff died on the 27th of September, 1986. His funeral was held on the 7th of October that year in his hometown of Castro Valley, California. Orion was played at the funeral. Cliff was cremated, and later his ashes were spread by his friends and family at Maxwell Ranch, a 'place he very much loved'.


Cliff used:

  • Basses: Rickenbacker 4001 Aria Pro II Alembic Spoiler
  • Amps: Mesa Boogie 4"x12" Cabinets & 1"x15" Cabinets Ampeg SVT-1540HE Classis Series Enclosure
  • Effects: Morley Power Wah Boost Electro Harmonix Big Muff

The history of the electric bass part one: the early days

Charting the evolution of the instrument from the 1930s to the 1950s

BASS EXPO 2014: The early days of bass playing must have been a nightmare! Low resonance plus the need for audible volume meant huge instruments like the Mandobass (mandolin style) and the Regal Bassoguitar, which was a monster cross between an acoustic guitar and an upright bass.

The Dobro Resonator Bass was a little smaller in comparison thankfully but still unwieldy so it's no wonder that the upright bass as we know it remained a constant favourite for the first half of the twentieth century.

The bass revolution really started with the introduction of electronics and amplification and for the earliest examples we have to look at the Vega Electric Bass Viol from the 1930s, the Electrified Double Bass from Regal in 1936 and Rickenbacker with their Electro Bass-Viol from around the same time.

These were essentially the centre part of an upright bass from headstock to end pin so no prizes for guessing where the designs for the skeletal electric uprights of the 1990s came from!


Gibson's Mandobass: unwieldy

Each came with an amplifier but the Rickenbacker was curious as along with featuring their classic styled horseshoe magnetic pickup the endpin included a jack plug and the whole thing slotted into the top of the amp so no leads were needed.

Progress and revolution

Gibson took things a step forward with their Electric Bass Guitar in 1938 which was still an upright instrument with a hollow body in spite of the encouraging name.

It stood about five feet tall and was indeed like an archtop bass guitar with a proper looking magnetic pickup and two controls but it still used an endpin. In fact Wally Kamin used one of these during his time as the bass player in the Les Paul Trio, but very few were actually made.

The true birth of the bass guitar and bass playing as we know it today really started in the 1950s with the birth of the Precision Bass in late 1951. Leo Fender always had an affinity towards bass players who were finding it harder to be heard within the band or ensembles of which they were a part.

Hauling a double bass around was a pain to say the least so Leo's Fender Precision Bass was nothing short of manna from heaven for the players of the time. There had been attempts before but Leo's instrument was the one that defined a look, a scale length and a practicality hitherto unknown.


Regal's Electrified Double Bass: still not the answer

Leo was a fan of country music and hoped the bass would be as well received in that genre as the Esquire/Telecaster were proving to be and indeed the first Precision Bass that arrived in Nashville was snapped up by Joel Price who began using it at the Grand Ole Opry in 1952.

But somewhat surprisingly it was the jazz area that really took the instrument under its wing. In order to promote his invention Leo would call in at concerts and nightclubs to show off his instruments and in New York he encountered Lionel Hampton's band.


Not, it's not a vacuum cleaner, it's the Rickenbacker Electro Bass-Viol

Bassist Roy Johnson tried the Precision and Lionel loved the sound. Leo told them to keep it and the Bassman amplifier as it would be good publicity for Fender. When Roy left to be replaced by Monk Montgomery (brother of guitarist Wes), Monk was asked to play the Precision.

As a well respected upright player Monk was horrified but Hampton was insistent as the bigger bass sound had become a trademark of the band.

Conventional bass players recognised it as a threat and it was referred to as 'the bastard instrument' but Monk got to grips with it and was soon making a name for himself.


Gibson's 1938 Electric Bass Guitar was still an upright

The musical wheels were in motion however and the bastard was not about to go away. Another early endorsee was Shifty Henry, a jump jazz player with Louis Jordan & His Tympany Five.

Perhaps his biggest claim to fame is being featured in a line of Elvis Presley's Jailhouse Rock - "Shifty Henry said to Bugs for heaven's sake" - and for this track Presley's bass player Bill Black also took to the Precision and rock 'n' roll had gained a new voice.

But Fender didn't have it all their own way. Ricky Nelson was on his way up and even Elvis saw him as a potential threat. Ricky's bass player used an upright to record with but on the road he used a Rickenbacker, although that's another story...

Miami bass (booty music or booty bass) is a subgenre of hip hop music that became popular in the 1980s and 1990s. Its roots are directly linked to the electro-funk sound of the early 1980s.

The use of the Roland TR-808 sustained kick drum, raised dance tempos, and frequently sexually explicit lyrical content differentiate it from other hip hop subgenres. Music author Richie Unterberger has characterized Miami bass as using rhythms with a "stop start flavor" and "hissy" cymbals with lyrics that "reflected the language of the streets, particularly Miami's black neighborhoods such as Liberty City and Overtown".[1]

Miami bass has never found consistent mainstream acceptance, though it has had a profound impact on the development of Baltimore club, West Coast hip hop, funk carioca, and other genres.



During the 1980s, the focus of Miami bass tended to be on DJs and record producers, rather than individual performers. Record labels such as Pandisc, HOT Records, 4-Sight Records and Skyywalker Records released much material of the genre. Unterberger has referred to James (Maggotron) McCauley (also known as DXJ, Maggozulu 2, Planet Detroit and Bass Master Khan) as the "father of Miami bass", a distinction McCauley himself denies, choosing rather to confer that status on producer Amos Larkins.[2]

"Bass Rock Express" by MC ADE (with music and beats produced by Amos Larkins) is often credited as being the first Miami bass record to gain underground popularity on an international scale. The single "Throw The D" by 2 Live Crew (produced by David "Mr. Mixx" Hobbs) in January 1986 gave a permanent blueprint to how future Miami bass songs were written and produced.

Luther "Luke Skyywalker" Campbell along with David "Mr. Mixx" Hobbs of 2 Live Crew played a key role in popularizing Miami bass in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The group's 1986 release, The 2 Live Crew Is What We Are, became controversial for its sexually explicit lyrics. 1989's As Nasty As They Wanna Be, along with its hit single "Me So Horny", proved more controversial still, leading to legal troubles for both 2 Live Crew and retailers selling the album (all charges were eventually overturned on appeal).


The popularity of Miami bass was in part due to its successful promotion in the South Florida and Orlando areas by local DJs, radio stations and clubs.[citation needed] For the better part of the mid-'80s and early '90s, DJs such as Luke Skyywalker’s Ghetto Style DJs, Norberto Morales’ Triple M DJs, Super JD's MHF Dj's, Space Funk DJs, Mohamed Moretta, DJ Nice & Nasty, Felix Sama, Ramon Hernandez, Bass Master DJs, DJ Laz, Earl "The Pearl" Little, Uncle Al, Raylo & Dem Damn Dogs, DJ Slice, K-Bass, Jam Pony Express and others were heavily involved in playing Miami bass at local outdoor events to large audiences at area beaches, parks, and fairs.

Clubs in South Florida, including Pac-Jam, Superstars Rollertheque, Bass Station, Studio 183, Randolphs, Nepenthe, Video Powerhouse, Skylight Express, Beat Club and Club Boca, were hosting bass nights on a regular basis. Miami radio airplay and programming support was strong in the now defunct Rhythm 98, as well as WEDR and WPOW (Power 96).

Contribution and promotion of Miami bass also came out of Orlando. Orlando radio station 102 Jamz (WJHM) was the prominent station in the late '80s to feature Miami bass and helped its popularity in and around Central Florida. DJs such as DJ Magic Mike contributed to the "Orlando Sound" which emulated Miami bass in addition to house, deep bass, and eventually “Florida breaks”. Thus, Miami bass quickly became a Florida staple.


By the mid-1990s, the influence of Miami bass had spread outside South and Central Florida to all areas of Florida and the Southern United States. In the mid-1990s, it saw a commercial and mainstream resurgence, with Miami bass influenced artists such as 95 South, Little Ko-Chees, Tag Team, 69 Boyz, Quad City DJ's and Freak Nasty all scoring big Miami bass hits. Examples of these songs are "Whoomp! (There It Is)" by Tag Team in 1993,[3] "Tootsee Roll" by 69 Boyz in 1994,[4] "C'mon N' Ride It (The Train)" by the Quad City DJ's in 1996[5] and "Whoot, There It Is" by 95 South in 1993.[3]

These songs all reached the top 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and exposed Miami bass nationally. These artists generally used a Miami bass sound and production but did it in a far less explicit and far more accessible way than had been previously done by Campbell and the 2 Live Crew.[6]

Miami bass is closely related to the electronic dance music genres of ghettotech and booty house, genres which combine Detroit techno and Chicago house with the Miami bass sound. Ghettotech follows the same sexually oriented lyrics, hip-hop bass lines and streetwise attitude, but with harder, uptempo Roland TR-909 techno-style kick beats. In 2007, contemporary hip-hop and R&B songs became more dance oriented, showing influences of Miami bass and techno, and are typically sped up to a "chipmunk" sound for faster tempos for dances such as juking, wu-tanging and bopping (usually only done in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties in south Florida).[citation needed]

Car audio bass

Another subgenre of Miami bass is "car audio bass", which features an even more stripped down bass-heavy sound, tending to focus on either extremely hard 909 kicks combined with sine waves or the classic 808 kick, or sometimes simply the sine wave by itself.[citation needed] Some artist examples would be Afro-Rican (as Power Supply), Techmaster P.E.B., DJ Billy E, Bass 305 and Bass Patrol.

Ask most people who created the modern electric bass guitar and they will tell you it was Leo Fender. However, there were at least five other prototypes resembling the now well-known design of the modern bass, each created well before Fender introduced the world to the Precision bass in 1951. The modern bass is a direct descendant of the double bass, which dates back to the 17th century. However, it was not until the early twentieth century that the design of the bass was changed to be more practical. In the 1920's, Lloyd Loar, working for Gibson, designed the first 'electric double bass'. The bass used an electro-static pickup, but amplification of bass frequencies was as yet undeveloped, so there was no practical way of hearing the instrument. In the early 1930's, Paul Tutmarc became the first known individual to refine the double bass to a more practical size. The first prototype was about the size of a cello, and featured a rudimentary pickup, but this was found to be too heavy, and the design was refined to be more like a guitar. This new bass was 42 inches long, solid body, made of black walnut and piano strings and, like the previous, featuring a pickup. In the mid '30s, several established musical instrument firms - Lyon & Healy, Gibson and Rickenbacker to name a few - began marketing experimental electric basses that were, like Tutmarc's prototype bass, much less bulky than a standard double bass. However, these were all still tall, unfretted, upright instruments held in the standard vertical position. Around 1940, Paul Tutmarc Jr began manufacturing guitars and basses, including the Serenader bass. This was distributed by L.D. Heater Music Co., in Portland, Oregon, and was the first time a large distributor handled the electric bass. The genius was that this new instrument was a bass Guitar - a compact, fretted instrument that could be held and played horizontally. The main features of the design were:

  • The pickup - designed because the double bass was often drowned out by the brass sections of jazz bands.
  • The size - the double bass player had to travel alone because of the instrument's size, and often got lost on road trips to shows, due to being separated from the rest of the band. The new compact design meant that the bass player could travel with the rest of the group. There was very little progression until Leo Fender famously created the Precision bass in 1951. This was named the Precision bass as the frets on the instrument allowed the notes to be played with precision. This was, to many people, the first real electric bass, as it was the most mass-produced and recognisable bass guitar at that time, and still is. Its design is the most copied in bass guitar history. In 1957, the pickup was changed to be a split pickup, and the pickguard and headstock were redesigned. In 1960, Fender designed and created the Jazz bass, with two separate pickups rather than a split pickup like that of the Precision. The popularity of the Fender basses meant that later followed bass guitars from Gibson, Rickenbacker, and Hofner. This led to a surge of popularity in the modern bass guitar, and led to it being known as it is today - an important part of rock, blues, jazz, funk, reggae and countless other genres of popular music. In 1959 Danelectro created the first 6 string bass, tunes E A D G B E, and Gibson and Fender used this idea to make the Gibson EB-6 in 1960, and the Fender VI in 1962. Fender created the first 5 string in 1964, with the Fender V. In 1965 came the first fretless Bass Aubi from Ampeg and in 1968, there appeared an 8 string bass from Hagstroem. The first fretless 6 string, (later owned by Les Claypool) was built by Carl Thompson in 1978. Because of playing styles like Slap and Pop, the variable number of strings and the different combinations of woods, necks, etc. pickups had to become much more varied. EMG pickups became widely used on bass guitars. Bass guitar was popularised early on by players like John Entwistle and James Jamerson in the 60's, Jaco Pastorious and Stanley Clarke in the 70's, and Marcus Miller and Cliff Burton in the 80's. The late 80's saw a decline in the popularity of the bass, as the fashion was for electronic synthesised dance music. However, the bass had now diversified further away from the double bass guitar. Nowadays, bass has further increased in popularity due to bassists like Les Claypool (Primus) and Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers), who have shown the importance of bass in modern music. Unfortunately, the double bass declined in popularity, as it is unable to compete with the compact size and versatility of the electric bass guitar. Now, when somebody talks about a bass, the mind instantly jumps to an image of an electric bass guitar, rather than it's predecessor, the acoustic upright.

The history of the double-bass has its origins in a far away period when music was linked to the ordinary and extraordinary events of everyday life in the noble houses as well as in the wonderful chapels. Players and composers arrived in Italy looking for fame and glory, and easy earnings.

The word "double-bass" at the beginning had several different meanings: it indicated a "register of the voice" or "part of a composition of different voices". But the meaning which refers to the instrument as we know it today came about when it was mentioned by the German musical theorist Michael Praetorius in his Sintagma Musicum (1616-1620); this text describes musical life in the fifteenth century and includes detailed drawings in a scaled down version of the instruments of that period. Praetorius wrote that every stringed instrument had a corresponding instrument in the "low register". The instrument which was most similar to the double-bass as we currently know it is the Gross-Contra-Bass-Geige (tav. V Theatrum Instrumentorum), a sort of alto-double-bass that subsequently evolved into the double-bass.
Unlike the violin and the cello which are currently constructed based on standard measurements, the dimensions of the double-bass, like the viola, are variable.
These early basses were supposed to produce a large sound, but large instruments made the instrument not only difficult to play, but also difficult to handle and transport. In fact, makers have always tried to construct big double-basses with a powerful sound.
The two models used for the double bass - the Italian and the German - were based on the viola da gamba and the cello, and had from three to six strings.

Contrabbasso  AnticoThe first Italian workshops to make these instruments were in Brescia and Cremona. It is interesting to note that the basses of the Brescian maker, Gasparo Da Salò (1540-1609), were found without the scroll and the neck attached. It is probable that the instruments were in the midst of being modified to adapt them to the specifications of the eighteenth century.
In Cremona the origins of the double-bass may be found in the workshop of Andrea Amati (1505 ca.-1577) and his sons Antonio and Gerolamo. (The most famous Amati, Nicolò, is the nephew of Andrea). The makers of this new period decided to make instruments with three big strings, so that the instrument increased in power, volume and sound. During 1700's, the golden period of Cremonese violin-making, there was a lack of interest in the double-bass because the materials (wood and varnish) and the labour costs required to realise the instrument were too expensive.
In the first half of the eighteenth century, makers from Milan succeeded in making double-basses which were more economical, though they did not match the fine quality of their Cremonese counterparts. Then in the following century, the making of double-basses was taken up by the Ceruit family who made them in the classical Cremonese tradition. Enrico Ceruti left drawings, shapes and details of how to build a double-bass, even though instruments with his original label have not been found. We do not know if he had students, though it is accepted that he was the last representative of the Cremonese school.
Today a new generation of makers have begun making double-basses following the Cremonese classical tradition.

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