Richard Turner of Blackberry Smoke checks in

Credit: Nikki Graham

Credit: Nikki Graham

In my head, my tiny brain only really wants two strings: the E for bass lines and the A for soloing – that’s really all that’s required. Diversity makes the world a neat place – go for what makes you happy. Five-strings are great, good for you… oh, you like six? Cool. You will not, however, be getting Easter baskets from me. I do not slap because slapping is for sissies. Seriously, I don’t slap so much as pull or pinch or thumb here and there. Even that sounds silly!

Flip through your device and cue up the wizardry performed by Chuck Rainey on Steely Dan’s ‘Peg’, from the Aja record. He just plays what he feels is appropriate and has the chops to rewrite the piece if he wants… bollocks if you don’t like it! The secret of playing bass well is that there is no secret. Come to the gig sober and you’re ahead of the pack. After that, listen to and play whatever makes sense to you.

Learn other instruments, like the clarinet or chromonica or bongos. It helps round out your sense of timing and a host of other ‘secrets’ get revealed! Yay! A luthier by the name of Joe Hamilton, who lives in the tiny hamlet-shire of LaGrange, Georgia, makes my basses. They are very well suited for my playing, without being identical. Find him at I’ve had affairs with numerous other basses… romantic, long-running, hot and torrid affairs. A 1971 Gibson Les Paul Signature gold-top bass… oh, man. There was also a 1971 or 72 Gibson Liberty/Recorder bass… sweet mother of Venus! An Ampeg Baby Bass from waaaaayyyyyy back… a brand new Engelhardt. A 2001 reissue of the 1951 Fender, a 1986 Fender Jazz. Oh, the memories. I don’t take the vintage gear on the road, it hides away in a secret vault inside the local library. No one even remembers where that is.

Right now Blackberry Smoke is very busy playing shows and trying to arrange new songs. I am looking forward to playing in the UK after all these years. I’m also looking forward to making the next Blackberry Smoke record. Look out for The Whippoorwill in ‘shoppes’ in your kingdom.

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