Few, if any musicians have played over 10,000 sessions while remaining virtually anonymous. But such was the case with Carol Kaye, born to professional musicians Clyde and Dot Smith, March 24, 1935 in Everett, Washington.
Her journey into music started when her mother bought her a steel string guitar from a traveling salesman at the age of 13. A year later Kaye was teaching music.
In 1957, Carol drew the attention of Robert “Bumps” Blackwell who invited her to join a recording session for Sam Cooke’s arrangement of “Summertime.” Realizing that she could make more money as a studio musician than as a jazz guitarist, she made the move to a full-time studio musician in 1958 with her acoustic rhythm guitar on Ritchie Valen’s “La Bamba”, The Crystals’ “Then He Kissed Me” and The Righteous Brothers’ “You’ve Lost that Lovin; Feelin’.”
In 1963, Carol was called to fill in for a bass player at a Capitol Records session and discovered that she preferred playing bass and pioneered some of the most important guitar breakthroughs of all time by making the bass lines more inventive than anyone could imagine and turning them into key components of music tracks. (She also liked the idea of carrying a single bass guitar instead of lugging 3 or 4 regular guitars to a session.) On occasion, as in numerous Sonny and Cher songs, Kaye was still showing her mastery with 12-string guitars as well.
Carol Kaye was the only female member of elite studio musicians with the likes of guitarist Glen Campbell and notorious drummer Hal Blaine who gave the infamous studio musicians the legendary name “The Wrecking Crew.”
Her track list exceeds 10,000 recordings with Frank Sinatra, Simon & Garfunkle, Frank Zappa, Joe Cocker, The Beach Boys, Sonny & Cher, The Supremes, The Temptations, Nancy Sinatra, The Four Tops, and the Monkees just to name a few.
As with so many other great pieces of music we remember, it was Carol Kaye who came up with the amazingly familiar introduction to Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman.”
Carol Kaye’s work with Phil Spector on so many Motown songs caught the attention of The Beach Boys’ Bryan Wilson. She is heard on many of their albums like “Beach Boys Today”, “Summer Days and Summer Nights”, “Pet Sounds”, and “Smile.”
Daily Rock Box has a great article titled “8 Songs Carol Kaye Turned Into MASTERPIECES.” Read interesting comments about the songs and some of Carol’s stories here:
The songs and albums listed are
8. Nancy Sinatra- These Boots Are Made For Walkin’
7. Buffalo Springfield- Expecting To Fly
6. Ike & Tina Turner- River Deep- Mountain High
5. Joe Cocker- Feelin’ Alright
4. Sonny and Cher- The Beat Goes On
3. Simon and Garfunkel- Homeward Bound
2. The Doors- Light My Fire
1. The Beach Boys- Pet Sounds Album
Carol Kaye – In her own words.