An alternative history of popular music that centers the electric bass
The Bastard Instrument chronicles the history of the electric bass and the musicians who played it, from the instrument’s invention through its widespread acceptance at the end of the 1960s. Although their contributions have often gone unsung, electric bassists helped shape the sound of a wide range of genres, including jazz, rhythm & blues, rock, country, soul, funk, and more. Their innovations are preserved in performances from artists as diverse as Lionel Hampton, Liberace, Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, the Supremes, the Beatles, James Brown, Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Jefferson Airplane, and Sly and the Family Stone, all of whom are discussed in this volume. At long last, The Bastard Instrument gives these early electric bassists credit for the significance of their accomplishments and demonstrates how they fundamentally altered the trajectory of popular music.
Brian F. Wright is Assistant Professor of Music History at the University of North Texas as well as a bass player. His work has been featured in Vintage Guitar and Bass Player magazines and at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.
“The Bastard Instrument is a major work that provides a needed corrective to popular music scholarship on this most essential—but too often overlooked—instrument. Wright's work recovers so many stories of electric bassists who have rarely, if ever, been granted recognition in existing histories of popular music. This is not a ‘great man’ version of electric bass history, but one that also utilizes ‘bottom up’ storytelling, enabled by Wright’s tireless research strategies.”- Steve Waksman, author of Instruments of Desire: The Electric Guitar and the Shaping of Musical Experience
“The Bastard Instrument provides an exceptionally well-researched chronicle of the way that the history of rock (and popular music more generally) is inseparable from the history of the practices, techniques, and tools deployed by a particular, understudied group of musicians. Wright moves effortlessly over the manuscript’s span from the worlds of jazz and country music to those of funk and psychedelic rock, presenting the results of his research in clear, accessible prose.”- Travis A. Jackson, author of Blowin' the Blues Away: Performance and Meaning on the New York Jazz Scene
“Solid detective work chronicling the early days of the electric bass, written by someone who knows what he is talking about. A must read for all bass players!”- Stuart Hamm, bassist