So Nobody Loves the Bassist, eh? Think again. That dude in the spotlight, the one everyone’s cheering for, the famous face everybody remembers ... is it me, or is that axe he/she’s wielding suspiciously oversized? VINDICATION! The Lead Bassist takes up an instrument that screams "anonymous role-player," and somehow rides it to fame. For one reason or another, he’s better-known than the band’s lead guitarist, or even the lead singer.
But what could cause such a perversion of the natural order? There are four fundamental factors that can give birth to a Lead Bassist:
Type A: The Virtuoso. This bassist is so famously skilled and so near the top of the field as to overshadow the band’s other musicians—who may be excellent in their own right, but not necessarily at the pinnacle.
Type B: The Singer. This musician is mainly famous for being a lead vocalist, or part of a Vocal Tag Team. The fact that he plays a bass is secondary, and may even go unnoticed by casual fans.
Type C: The Face of the Band. This bass player is well known for non-musical reasons, such as:
Being a founder or guiding creative spirit of the band.
Engaging in notorious behavior, such as drunken misadventures or a newsworthy love life.
Type D: The Genre Lead. Rather than rock or popular music, this bassist plays jazz, funk, African folk music, etc., genres in which the bass cuts a larger figure—sometimes even a central one.
Bassists may qualify under more than one of these tropes: Paul McCartney, for example, manages to flawlessly embody Types A, B, and C.
This is not a list of "Good Bassists" or "Bassists I Like." This page is for bass players who, for one reason or another, garner a distinctly larger share of public notice than more traditional band "frontmen" such as the singer or lead guitarist. If the bassist is the least-known member of the band, he doesn't belong here, however well-regarded he is (future musicologists will dub this the "Entwistle-J.P. Jones barrier").
See Nobody Loves the Bassist. Sister Trope of Lead Drummer.
Before switching primarily to the guitar, Abbath Doom Occulta was the bassist/singer/frontman for Immortal.
Juan Alderete de la Peńa of Vato Negro is the lead instrumentalist for hid band's unique style of bass-driven noise rock, and has a sizable internet following because of his online effects-pedal reviews.
Emma Anzai of Sick Puppies is just as well known as lead singer/guitarist Shim Moore. Due to their nature as a 3 piece band, Anzai's bass has a lot of room to shine,and each album sees her stepping up to the mic more and more often from simple backing vocals, to vocal tag team and outright taking the lead here and there. She's also considered very attractive.
Tom Araya is lead vocalist and frontman of Slayer.
During her stint with Kittie, Talena Atfield was the band's undisputed Ms. Fanservice.
Not only is Walter Becker a famously virtuosic bass player, but after the first few albums, he and Donald Fagen pretty much wereSteely Dan. Co-face and co-songwriter of the band with Fagen.
Jean Baudin of Nuclear Rabbit: Types A (rocks an ELEVEN-string bass!), C (he's the founder/leader), and D (the music's built around his eccentric technique).
Andreas Blomqvist of Seventh Wonder is his band's big name, famous both as a founder and for his fret-tapping speed runs.
Derek Boyer of Suffocation is notorious for his bizarro antics, both onstage and off, while his enormous bass sound, distinctive tone, and considerable technical prowess factor heavily into Suffocation's current sound and live reputation.
Ron Broder is the bassist and lead singer of Coroner.
Justin Chancellor of Tool is a Type A. Although everyone in the group is enormously talented, Chancellor has a distinctive sound and plays many of the more recognizable Epic Riffs. (Though some of the epicest, like "Sober", were actually performed by his predecessor Paul D'Amour.)
Al Cisneros (Sleep, Shrinebuilder): Type B, C and D. With Sleep, Cisneros was such a key figures in the evolution of Doom Metal that he can be partly credited with the importance of the bass in the genre.
Stanley Clarke (Return to Forever, The Seatbelts) is a genuine jazz celebrity, as well as a bandleader in his own right.
Les Claypool: Les is the epitome of Lead Bassist, being types A, B, C, and D
Peter Cetera was the long-time co-singer and most recognizable face of Chicago.
Bootsy Collins (George Clinton) is one of funk's most recognizable faces and sounds, and even sang occasionally (with Bootsy's Rubber Band).
James Dewar sang for both the Robin Trower Band and Stone the Crows.
John Doe of the punk band X is the band's founder, bassist, co-songwriter, and the male half of its Vocal Tag Team. He's also had notable TV and movie roles, including a recurring stint on Roswell.
Leif Edling of Candlemass is celebrated as the band's main songwriter.
Bernard Edwards was a central identifying face of Chic, a defining contributor to the band's signature funk sound, and a well-known songwriter/producer. He was also co-lead vocalist, though this was less well-known to the general public as his lead vocals tended to remain as album tracks.
Mike Flores of (Origin) usually steals the spotlight because of his fast and highly technical playing—not to mention that he's one of the band's main songwriters, an occasional stand-in vocalist, and has the second-longest uninterrupted tenure after PaulRyan.
Dave Fridmann of Mercury Rev is a household name in the industry—not only for his band, but as a producer both for them and the Flaming Lips.
Teddy Gentry of Alabama. Although the band has only ever released singles with Randy Owen on lead vocals (except "Mountain Music", where Gentry and guitarist Jeff Cook each sing one linenote drummer Mark Herndon never sang, and left the group in the 2000s), both Gentry and Cook have sung lead on several album cuts. In addition, Gentry wrote hit singles for Shenandoah and George Strait, and has produced for Emerson Drive.
Mike Herrera was known as the singer for Mx Px, and later as the frontman of his own band Tumbledown.
Marco Hietala was the singer of Nightwish, the singer and bandleader of his old band Tarot, and an extremely influential instrumental stylist for Finnish metal.
Peter Hook was the co-founder of Joy Division and New Order, and famous for his distinctively high-pitched, melodic playing.
Mark Hoppus of Blink182 shares frontman and singing duties with guitarist Tom Delonge, and is also lead singer of the band +44.
Ricardo Iorio, bassist and singer of the Argentinian bands V8, Hermética, and Almafuerte, is considered a seminal figure in his country's metal and popular-music scenes ... bordering on national-hero status.
James Jamerson (Funk Brothers/Motown Records session musician) is both a famous virtuoso and a purveyor of essentially bass-driven funk genres.
Gary Jarman of the Cribs is half of a Vocal Tag Team type with his twin Brother, Ryan.
Janice Marie Johnson was both the lead vocalist and lead bassist of A Taste of Honey.
Percy Jones (Brand X, Tunnels, various Brian Eno albums): Type A, without a doubt, and on fretless electric bass, to boot.
Jesse F. Keeler of dance-punk duo Death from Above 1979 is both type C and D, due to appearing on every release with the sole other member of the band, drummer/singer Sebastien Grainger. The lack of any other members means that Keeler's heavily distorted, grinding bass takes the forefront of the band's sound.
John Lodge of The Moody Blues is a Type B, and the second main lead singer and songwriter behind Justin Hayward.
Garry Lowe of Big Sugar is a definite D, occasionally migrating to B and C. Despite being a hard rock blues band with country influences, Garry counterpoints all of this with serious funk jams and R&B riffs, and is very easy to spot: four well-dressed white boys and a shirtless, wild-haired Jamaican.
Nick Lowe can play several instruments, but has often functioned as the bassist in bands which he has played in or lead — and has sometimes been the face or joint face of those bands. That puts him in type B, but his skills as a songwriter and producer probably move him more into type C.
Aimee Mann, singer-songwriter, guitarist and bassist. Type B
Michael Manring: Very much Type A. Much of his latter-day output consists of solo fretless-bass performances, leading one admirer to quip "he's not so much a bass player as he is a one-man band who just happens to play bass."
Ryan Martinie of Mudvayne is the band's musical focus of attention, renowned for his unique, percussive style that owes not a little to flamenco.
Terry McBride was the bassist/singer of the country band McBride and the Ride, and later became noted for his songwriting (including for Brooks & Dunn, whose road band he joined).
PaulMcCartney: A, B, and C. Probably the best known bassist of all, helped by turning the violin-looking Hofner bass into an Iconic Item.
Mike Mills sang several REM songs, and in public often served as co-Face of the Band (in tandem with Michael Stipe).
Charles Mingus, Jazz double bassist, composer and bandleader. Types C and D
Danny Myrick: Type B and C. Myrick fronted the 1990s band Western Flyer. Several years after they broke up, he became a successful songwriter (including "She's Country" by Jason Aldean) and producer.
Johnette Napolitano (of Concrete Blonde): Type B and C - Concrete Blonde is basically Napolitano and whoever she decides to play/record with.
Tomomi Ogawa: Primarily a Type B with some elements of Type C. Co-vocalist & main lyricist. And according to the other bandmembers, band mascot...
Richard Page (Mr. Mister): Type B
Nick Oliveri: (Also of Kyuss and Mondo Generator): Type A and D for his signature playing style and being an important part of the creation of stoner metal in Kyuss, a type C in QOTSA for playing naked on stage, doing drugs, and beating his wife, and all those types plus type B in Mondo Generator for being the band founder and singer.
Doug Phelps of The Kentucky Headhunters became a Type B the hard way. He originally sang backing vocals and played bass, while his brother Ricky Lee Phelps sang lead. Both of them quit after the second album, with a new lead singer and bassist (Mark S. Orr and Anthony Kenney, respectively) on their third album. On the fourth, Doug returned as only lead vocalist, with Kenney continuing to play bass until the late 2000s, at which point Kenney quit and Doug once again beame bassist.
Suzi Quatro, singer-songwriter, bass guitar player, and actor. Type B
Jeordie White aka Twiggy Ramirez of Marilyn Manson is a Type C, being the second most recognized member of the band behind the eponymous singer (he's even on the band's page image) and being responsible for most of the music (though not the lyrics).
Reita of The Gazette is notorious not only for his virtuosic musicianship, but for his look—in the Visual Kei world, apparently, the iconic nose band makes the man.
John Rich was originally a Type B in Lonestar, where he traded lead vocals with Richie McDonald. Lonestar has not had an official bassist since Rich was fired in 1998; several different bassists have backed them on the road without being counted as official members, and they usually use a session musician in the studio. Although Rich no longer plays bass, he has become a Type C for his work as one-half of Big & Rich, as well as several songwriting and production credits.
Taiji Sawada was famously virtuosic during his stints with X Japan, Loudness, The Killing Red Addiction, and other projects, as well as being one of four faces of the band for X Japan, pioneering Loudness's first foray into Thrash Metal, and for some surprising lyrical depth in solo work. He was equally, and sadly, famous for his substance abuse, recurring mental problems, and suspicious death.
Troy Sanders is a little bit of Type B, a little bit of Type C.
Marcel "Schmier" Schirmer is the vocalist for Destruction.
Jacob Schmidt of Defeated Sanity is a firm Type A and Type C, as he shares songwriting duties with Lille Gruber and is renowned for both his astounding technical ability and deep knowledge of theory.
Singer Tommy Scott of Space was the group's bassist in its early years, and on its first album.
Jason Sellers: Type B and C. Originally a bassist in Ricky Skaggs' road band, he recorded two solo albums in the late 1990s and played bass on both. He is now a prominent backing vocalist and songwriter (most notably, he co-wrote Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson's "Don't You Wanna Stay").
Billy Sheehan: Type A (when you can keep up with Steve Vai it's a given!) , and the Face of the Band for Mr. Big. With jazz group Niacin, he's arguably a type D as well.
Burke Shelly of Budgie, under Type B (the singer), and Type C (he co-wrote the band's songs and has been the only consistent member of the group).
Gene Simmons is a huge combination of Types B and C, writing most Kiss songs with the other Face of the Band, singing at least half the tracks, and being the most recognizable of the band-members (he loves to give interviews and has among other things a reality show).
Actor Gary Sinise is also a bassist, and founder of the Lt. Dan Band. Once, he got to pluck his bass on CSI NY, and four-stringers everywhere rejoiced.
Nikki Sixx wrote most Mötley Crüe songs with the other guy that's usually given the shaft, the drummer. His wild life (including being dead for a few minutes!) also gave some recognition.
Squarepusher: Types A and C—his bass playing is as well-known as his electronic work.
Yes's bassist Chris Squire is the prototypical Type A. He's also sung on a couple of solo albums, some of which repeat his famous stunt of using only multitracked bass guitars. As far as being a Type C, he's the only member of the band to have appeared on all of their albums.
Jeffrey Steele: He was the lead singer/bassist in the 1990s country band Boy Howdy. He remains notable as a solo artist, songwriter, and producer.
John Taylor: Type C, especially as he's Heterosexual Life-Partners with the only consistent member of the band, Nick Rhodes. Also a mild case of A, since John's unorthodox and genre-defying basslines were uncommon at the time, but widely emulated since then.
Jeroen Paul Thesseling: Type A. Playing with two acclaimed Technical Death Metal (Pestilence and Obscura) bands is bound to get you some respect. Also a Type D of sorts, and he has done flamenco and jazz work. Most people know him for his monster 7-string fretless bass.
D.D. Verni is a Type A and Type C, as he's the only founding member remaining other than Bobby, in addition to his basslines playing a very prominent role in the band's sound.
Roger Waters: The lead creative force and co-lead singer of Pink Floyd between Syd Barrett's departure and the band's 1980s resurrection. Even now he has successful solo tours.
Mike Watt was The Minutemen's main songwriter, played a central musical role in the group's funk/jazz-influenced punk sound, and has enjoyed a Breakup Breakout as replacement bassist for a number of well-known bands, including the reunited Stooges.
Norman Watt-Roy from The Blockheads: Type A. Has become Type C since Dury's death with fans chanting "Norman, Norman, Norman..." during solos. He is also unquestionably the fan-favorite Blockheads member.
Lyn-Z Way: Type C. Her marriage to Gerard Way has overshadowed her abilities as a bassist to the point that "fans" often show up to her band's shows only to see if her husband is there.
Alex Webster: Types A and C, as Cannibal Corpse is essentially his band and always has been. If you count his previous band, Beyond Death, he qualifies for Type B as well.
Pete Wentz: When your marriage, indiscreet photos, and Estrogen Brigade are more common knowledge than what you do for a living ... you’re a Type C, full stop. (He's also known for being the band's main lyricist.)
The Beach Boys' Brian Wilson is the band's best-known member, renowned for his singing voice, as the genius behind the group's most seminal albums (even though he played less and less bass by that time), and for his later struggles with substance abuse and mental issues.
Nicky Wire has been the most well known member of the band since Edwards disappeared.
Kip Winger (Winger, natch) was his band's lead singer and lancer (The Hero, of course, was Winger's hair).