“Games People Play”: Bassist Wakes Drummer Using Musical Chops

Session bassist extraordinaire, Carol Kaye, is certainly no stranger to the philosophical notion of “bass as bottom end.”  And yet, it was an uncharacteristically flamboyant performance that led (ironically, perhaps) to unexpected commercial success.  Songfacts has a great interview that reveals the comical back story behind Carol’s unusually baroque bass lines for Mel Torme’s 1969 version of “Games People Play”:

Songfacts:  Did you ever come out of a session and you didn’t think much of it, and then one of the songs from that session became a big hit?

Carol: Oh yeah.  A few times.  Most of the time I could predict which take was going to be the hit. You just felt it. It just kind of came together.  But there was one time when I overplayed on bass to try to wake up a drummer.  The drummer was in on tour and he was sleeping.  You could tell that.  And it was a big band.  He was slowing down in the parts and the part that I was playing was slow according to the tune.  The tune required just a few notes on my part.  So somebody in the band said, “Do something, Carol.”  And so I played a lot of notes and it woke up the drummer.  And I walked in the booth after the take, and I said, “Now we can do a take.”  And they looked at me and laughed and said, “That was the take.”  I said, “Oh, no, that’s a bass solo.  All the way through that’ll never be a hit.”  But it was the biggest hit that Mel Tormé ever had.  It was a #1 hit.  The bass part that I invented is a test now at schools around the world.  It’s funny, the name of the record was “Games People Play.”  And he’s just going, “La di da” and here’s all this bass and stuff coming in.  I thought, That’ll never be a hit.  And it was a big smash hit for him.  So yeah, a lot of times you’re wrong:

“Games People Play” by Mel Torme featuring Carol Kaye on lead bass

Carol Kaye touched on the hilarious Mel Torme episode in her interview with Horizon VU Music Blog:  “I went home thinking I failed the fine Mel Torme, musical genius and wonderful Jazz musician/composer/singer. Well, that turned out to be his biggest money-making record.”

Carol Kaye’s Lone 45?

A search of the 45Cat database with the keywords “Carol Kaye” only turned up 2 false hits. But wait – a comment by 45Cat contributor, Davie Gordon, tips us to a fascinating piece of trivia:  1976 UK single by Spiders Webb includes a B-side called “Reggae Bump” that I can only presume – based on the title and date of release – is an instrumental disco reggae take on the popular 70s dance step.  According to Davie Gordon:  “[Carol] ‘Kaye,’ the co-writer of “Reggae Bump,” is session bassist, Carol Kaye, who was married to drummer, Spider Webb.”

For discos only

Spiders Webb 45A previous blog piece featured Carol Kaye & the Hitmen’s Latin-flavored instrumental – “Baia” – that could easily have been a Top 40 hit if released at the time of its recording.

“Baia”: Carol Kaye as Bandleader

One weekend in late March 2009 I was listening to Bob Edwards‘ radio show while on my way to an event and had to pull over to finish listening to the rest of his interview with legendary session bassist, Carol Kaye – who is estimated to have played on more than 10,000 [!] recording dates.  Bob was a total fanboy as he interviewed this pivotal musician who, quite literally, played on all the hits, and his enthusiasm was infectious.

I have since come across a great instrumental – “Baia” – by Carol Kaye (& the Hitmen) in a rather rare turn as bandleader, and I’m stunned to discover that this 1965 recording seems not to have been released on vinyl back in the day:

“Baia”     Carol Kaye & the Hitmen     1965

This 1996 German release appears to be the only commercial access to Carol Kaye in her one-time role as Recording Artist – who, by the way, wrote 4 of the 16 songs assembled here.  Check out the lineup of musicians:

Bass Guitar – Carol Kaye & Rene Hall
Double Bass – Al McKibbon
Drums – Earl Palmer
Flute – Bill Green
French Horn – Dwight Carver
Keyboards – Ray Johnson
Lead & Rhythm Guitar – Carol Kaye
Percussion – Gary Coleman
Saxophone – Jim Horn & Bill Green
Trombone – Lew McCreary & Dick Leith
Vibraphone – Gary Coleman

Producer – Carol Kaye
Arranger – Carol Kaye & H.B. Barnum
Engineer – Bob Ross
Reissue Producer – Bert Gerecht


Recorded in Hollywood Circa 1965

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Carol Kaye on bass

                                 “The Clique” vs. “The Wrecking Crew”

Carol was part of a group of in-demand musicians, who are most commonly known as “The Wrecking Crew,” although Carol strictly insists she and her colleagues referred to each other as “The Clique: