Talking Guitar ★ Jas Obrecht's Music Magazine
Talking Guitar ★ Jas Obrecht's Music Magazine
Carol Kaye: Interview With a Session Legend (Audio)

Carol Kaye: Interview With a Session Legend (Audio)

In 1983, the Wrecking Crew Bassist Spoke of Her Life in the LA Studios
Carol Kaye in 1982; photo by Jon Sievert.

If there were a bible of women in rock and roll, chapter one, verse one would read: “In the beginning, there was Carol Kaye.” Originally a bebop guitarist, Carol crossed over into rock and roll in 1958, when Elvis Presley, Chuck Berry, Ricky Nelson, and the Everly Brothers topped the charts. But unlike those who found fame and fortune as headliners, Carol chose to work her magic behind the scenes as a studio musician.

During the 1960s, Carol was a charter member of the small, intensely productive group of Los Angeles-based studio musicians nicknamed the “Wrecking Crew.” At various times, their members included first-call guitarists Tommy Tedesco, Barney Kessel, Glen Campbell, and Al Casey; drummers Hal Blaine and Earl Palmer; saxophonist Steve Douglas; and electric bassists Joe Osborn and Max Bennett. Working alongside these session legends, Carol played guitar and/or bass on Top-10 hits by the Beach Boys, Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, Sam Cooke, the Four Tops, Ike & Tina Turner, Jan & Dean, the Monkees, Paul Revere & the Raiders, the Righteous Brothers, Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny & Cher, Barbra Streisand, the Supremes, the Temptations, Stevie Wonder, Frank Zappa, and many others. As the Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson said: “Carol played on ‘Good Vibrations’ and ‘California Girls,’ and she was, like, the star of the show. I mean, she was the greatest bass player in the world, and she was way ahead of her time”  

During the 1970s Carol began emphasizing movie and TV dates. Her film credits include Airport, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, In the Heat of the Night, The Pawnbroker, and Walk Don’t Run, to name a few. You can also hear her on reruns of The Addams Family, The Brady Bunch, Hawaii Five-O, Hogan’s Heroes, M.A.S.H., Mission Impossible, and other popular TV series. In 2000, Berklee College of Music named her “the most recorded bassist of all time, with 10,000 sessions spanning four decades.”  

Our interview took place in January 1983. At the time, I was writing Guitar Player’s “Women in Rock” cover story. Carol, naturally, was the first person I contacted. During our interview, she recounted her first professional musical experiences and how she broke into studio work. She described her extensive session work with Phil Spector and what it was like being the only first-call female studio guitarist and bassist during the 1960s. In other highlights, she discussed her work with the Beach Boys and other chart-topping artists, her sessions for film and TV scores, and her support for 1980s women rockers who “are taking care of business without saying, ‘Hey, look at me! I’ve got the curves too.’”

In addition to her extensive studio work, Carol has written and produced some of the best-received instructional books and videos for electric bass. In 2008 she co-starred in the acclaimed film documentary The Wrecking Crew. In 2016 Carol published her autobiography, Carol Kaye: Studio Musician. To order this book, arrange a private Skype lesson, or learn more about this legendary musician, visit The Official Carol Kaye Website.

Talking Guitar is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, please consider becoming a paid subscriber. Your $5 will help cover our production costs.


Thanks to Carol Kaye; Nik Hunt, who produces the Talking Guitar podcasts and YouTube trailers; the staff of UNC’s Southern Folklife Collection; and each and every one of my paid subscribers. Nik and I couldn’t do these podcasts without you!


Leave a comment

Talking Guitar ★ Jas Obrecht's Music Magazine
Talking Guitar ★ Jas Obrecht's Music Magazine
Uncut interviews with legendary blues, rock, and pop musicians.