THE CAROL KAYE JAMES JAMERSON DEBATE’ THE FINAL CHAPTER (Hopefully)

 

There has been a longstanding debate on bass websites, on various Motown discussion groups, and musicians sites in general. The debate is over James Jamerson's Motown bass legacy and the challenge to a significant portion of it by West Coast bass legend Carol Kaye. Her claim is that a significant portion of Motown's biggest hits were cut in LA by herself and a cast of West Coast musicians, as opposed to being recorded in Detroit by the Funk Brothers with James Jamerson on bass. The following info is a bit lengthy but if you care about Jamerson, Carol, or Motown music in general, I think you'll find it to be fairly informative.

Here are the Motown records on which Carol claims she played the bass and on which she claims Jamerson did not: The Supremes: "I Hear a Symphony," "My World Is Empty Without You," "Reflections," "Baby Love," "Come See About Me," "Stop In The Name Of Love," "Love Child," "You Keep Me Hanging On," "Back In My Arms Again," "You Can't Hurry Love," "Someday We'll Be Together," "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (The Supremes & Temptations together) The Four Tops: "Bernadette," "Reach Out," "I Can't Help Myself," "Standing In The Shadows Of Love" The Temptations: "Get Ready" Stevie Wonder: "I Was Made To Love Her" Mary Wells: "My Guy" Martha And The Vandellas: "Dancing In The Street" Smokey Robinson And The Miracles: "I Second That Emotion" Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell: "Ain't Nothing Like The Real Thing," "If I Could Build My Whole World Around You"

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE DISPUTE

Thirteen years ago when I began writing STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN (for those unaware of this book, it's James Jamerson's biography), I contacted Carol Kaye to find out which Motown songs she played on because I had heard she had claims to a few. I expected her to name three or four. Instead she named several dozen’ most of them songs considered to be James Jamerson's signature performances. We had a very nice conversation. It was the only time I've ever talked to her. Carol explained her side of the story and gave me names of people who would back up her story. I called every one of them. Nobody backed up her claims and in fact, most vehemently disputed them. (They'll be named in the following section). The extensive research I undertook could not turn up any facts that supported her claims. I just figured Jamerson's path was now clearly defined and I set out writing his biography. A few weeks later, Carol mailed me a lengthy letter in which she gave me many personal details about her life, repeated her Motown claims, commended me for trying to write a book about an important bassist like Jamerson, and then threatened me with a lawsuit, all in the space of one letter. I ignored it and continued to write the book. Three years later, just as it was about to be released, Carol threatened Hal Leonard (my publisher) with a lawsuit trying to block the book's release. She succeeded temporarily, but after supplying Hal Leonard with proof of Jamerson's position, they shipped the books. Over the next ten years, she came at me half-a-dozen other times with a variety of lawyers, each of whom dissapeared as soon as I showed them the proof we had. That is until recently.

 

Carol officially sued me and Bob Lee (who has a James Jamerson website), asking for $750,000 in damages. The claim against myself was that I defamed her by not mentioning her in my book because everyone knows she played the tunes in question. According to her, this hurt her credibility and caused financial and emotional distress. She also spent a good deal of time in the last few years using the internet to trash me repeatedly calling me such niceties as "an animal," "a lowlife," "a no-talent," "a guy with a messiah complex," "a liar," "a thief," etc. During this same thirteen year period, I ignored her except for two internet posts both on The Bottom Line. They were my only public responses to her. One was a short statement about Hank Cosby, the producer of "I Was Made To Love Her." The other was a lengthy musicological report entitled Who played I Was Made To Love Her? The Carol Kaye James Jamerson Enigma. Neither of these reports featured personal attacks or name calling. Merely Carol's side versus the facts that we have. The only other items was something called the Jamerson Gazette’ a one or two page flyer I typed up and sent to about thirty people who wrote me asking about Carol's claims. I had became weary of writing the same handwritten letters over and over on the same subject so I prepared a photocopied statement to save time-- in other words, it wasn't exactly a mass media release, and there has been no orchestrated drive to defame her on my part. My only purpose (as his biographer) was to defend and establish what James Jamerson played on. But now, she's crossed the line from threats to an actual lawsuit. To protect Jamerson's name and myself, I conducted a new wave of research over a two month period. After learning of the indisputable facts I now possess, Carol’ after having switched law firms four more times in the last year’ dropped the suit because, according to her, it has become too expensive and her health has not been good.

First of all, there has been no substantial amounts of money spent to date because we never went to court. She wouldn't even let us bring her in for a deposition (which is my right as the accused) probably because she didn't want to be questioned with all the evidence we have behind us. I also don't think her health was too much of an issue because it hasn't kept her out of the NAMM show, out of playing live gigs, teaching, or spending countless hours on line writing things.

THESE ARE THE FACTS CAROL KAYE DOESN'T WANT YOU TO KNOW

1)MOTOWN'S WEST COAST RECORDING ACTIVITIES AND WHAT MOTOWN RECORDINGS CAROL DID PLAY ON’

Motown opened an office in LA in the somewhere in the early to mid-sixties. There was a great deal of Motown recording activity out there and Carol Kaye was right in the middle of it. But the type of recording being done out there and the type of tracks Carol played on needs to be defined. The material is as follows: a)Motown had a lot of artists signed to their label that were exclusively recorded on the West Coast. They included names like Bobby Darren, Tony Martin, Paul Peterson (of the Donna Reed Show), Soupy Sales, the Lewis Sisters, etc. Carol worked on many of these sessions. b)Brenda Holloway hits like "Every Little Bit Hurts" and "You've Made Me So Very Happy," and "When I'm Gone" were exclusively cut by Carol and the West Coast musicians. Brenda never recorded in Detroit. c)A lot of the glitzier more show-biz style albums like The Four Tops On Broadway, The Temptations In A Mellow Mood, The Supremes at Disneyland, and in particular, the Soundtrack from the TV Special TCB (Takin' Care of Business) with the Temptations and the Supremes which were all cut by Carol and the West Coast crew. TCB is of particular importance to the dispute because that may be the root of many of Carol's claims and the resultant confusion over bass credits. TCB featured a lot of medley's of famous Motown hits performed by the Temps and Supremes including "Stop In The Name of Love," "You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Baby Love," "I Hear A Symphony," "Come See About Me," "Get Ready," and others. Maurice King, Motown's music supervisor for live shows, was involved with that soundtrack and told me Carol was definitely on that soundtrack. So Carol did play those tracks’ BUT THEY WERE REMAKES OF THE ORIGINAL HITS FOR A SYNDICATED TV SHOW. THEY WERE NOT THE ORIGINAL SINGLES AND THEY WERE ALL PLAYED DIFFERENTLY AND ARRANGED DIFFERENTLY FROM THE ORIGINAL SINGLES.

d)There was lot's of demo and B-side work was also done in LA often for their frontline stars. Motown was first and foremost a publishing company. Every time they had a hit, they recut it several times with other acts to increase their Jobete royalties. (Jobete was Motown's publishing arm.) This gave rise to tracks like Smokey Robinson cutting "Beauty Is Only Skin Deep" or The Temps and Supremes cutting "I Second That Emotion" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (from the album Diana Ross Join The Temptations & The Supremes). Both of the last two titles were also claimed by Carol, so again, this may explain it. "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" also falls into the same category. It was from the same Temps-Supremes album and was an album filler remake. Carol played on that version but didn't play either of the original Marvin Gaye or Diana Ross hit versions. Most of the titles described in the previous paragraph were produced by West Coast Motown producer Frank Wilson so we know they didn't come from Detroit.

e)Everyone connected with the company has always told me Motown liked to assign specific roles to everyone and all aspects of their operation. They didn't want live musicians doing studio work and vice versa, and with a few exceptions like Smokey, they didn't want artists to be songwriters and producers, etc. Everyone had a role. The Detroit musicians had a specific role. That was to cut the R&B singles. The West Coast musicians had an important role also but it was different. That role was what I explained in t he above four points.

 

2)MUSICIANS

Hitsville's studio band the Funk Brothers (including keyboardists Earl Van Dyke, Johnny Griffith, and Joe Hunter; guitarists Joe Messina, Robert White, and Eddie Willis; percussionist Jack Ashford, and bassist Bob Babbit) vehemently denied her story since they were on the same sessions as Jamerson. I interviewed numerous West Coast musicians that Carol claimed played on her alleged West Coast Motown dates, including drummers Earl Palmer and Hal Blaine, percussionist Jerry Steinholtz and others. They all recalled playing numerous Motown sessions with Carol but none of them backed up her claims to the songs in question. Earl Palmer for instance recalled working with her behind a Motown act called The Lewis Sisters (not exactly the Four Tops or the Temptations) but that's all he could substantiate. His recent biography (which is wonderful) did not back up any of Carol's claims as she had predicted. Others LA musicians cited acts like Brenda Holloway, Bobby Darren, and lots of tracks on which they had no idea who they were for, or where they wound up. They didn't know if they were working demo sessions, B-side filler songs, or, actual hit singles. It was just a date and a paycheck. None of them remembered specific titles. On the other hand, the Detroit musicians remembered everything’Äîtitles, time frames, anecdotes, producers, and arrangers, etc. This is stated with no disrespect to the LA musicians: besides, other than Carol, they're not the ones alleging they played the disputed material.

3)PRODUCERS

Numerous Motown producers including Johnny Bristol, Smokey Robinson, Brian Holland, Hank Cosby, Freddie Perren, and Frank Wilson all vehemently denied her claims. Brian who produced and wrote the majority of the songs in question never even heard of her. Hank Cosby who co-wrote "I Was Made To Love Her" (along with songwriter Sylvia Moy who I also interviewed) also said the same thing and supplied us with signed, notarized affidavits attesting to these facts (as did Brian Holland). The West Coast producers, Frank Wilson and Freddie Perren readily admitted Carol did numerous recording dates for Motown. (Hal Davis is dead and I've yet to reach Mark Gordon, the other important LA Motown producer). But again, those performances fall into the categories explained above. Frank Wilson said specifically that Motown didn't like the clicky sound of her pick for the straight R&B stuff (I'll discuss this later on) but she did a great job for them on the other material.

4)ARRANGERS’

Carol told me to check with Gene Page who arranged many of her West Coast Motown dates. He fell over laughing when I told him of Carol's claims and said "No way. All of that stuff was Jamerson and the Detroit guys." Paul Riser was the arranger on most of the disputed dates in question’ all cut at Hitsville, and he was always there when one of his charts was being cut. He has no idea who Carol Kaye was, and his eyes light up every time he recounts Jamerson's studio exploits on songs like "Bernadette," "Reach Out," etc. He remembered specific details of the sessions.

5)ENGINEERS’

Bob Ohlssohn, Mike McClain, James Green, Laurence Horn and other engineers who worked on many of the song dates in question said they were cut in Detroit with Jamerson. Ohlssohn also restated the West Coast "demo sessions" idea. The closest I could get to Carol's side was Armin Steiner. Armin ran the LA studio in which Carol claims she cut "I Was Made To Love Her." But he could not remember cutting "I Was Made To Love Her" one way or another. However, he was completely certain "Bernadette" was cut in Detroit because he worked on that date with Detroit engineer Mike McClain. He also denied constantly flying back and forth with tapes from LA to Detroit as has been suggested by some of Carol's supporters. He said he never did that because Motown producers were so protective about the tapes, they never left them with him. Hal Blaine also told me Hal Davis was the one flying tapes back to Detroit’Äînot Armin Steiner. Any time Armin flew to Detroit, it was to conduct business or to meet with Berry Gordy’Äînot to transport tapes. Flying tapes back to Detroit means nothing anyway. That was Motown's center of operations and was also the site of their weekly quality control meetings where they selected material for release.

6)THE MOTOWN VAULTS

îI recently spent an entire day in the Universal Records tape vault in Edison, New Jersey. All the Motown master and multi-track tapes are stored there. These are the authentic, original tapes from the original recording sessions during the period 1958-1972. A friend of mine is the archivist there and had me there doing some research for liner notes for an upcoming Motown box-set. I also had the chance to check out a lot of info pertaining to Carol's claims. Here's what we found: a)"Dancing In The Streets" is a three-track tape. That means Detroit. The archivist told me that all 60s LA Motown tapes were either four or eight track. That means Carol can't be on it as she claimed. b)At the beginning just before the countoff on "I Was Made To Love Her" you can hear Stevie calling out, "Hey Papa Zita." Papa Zita was Funk Brothers' drummer Benny Benjamin. What was he doing in LA? Watching Carol cut? Additionally Carol spoke in an old GUITAR PLAYER issue of something she did on this track "just before the horns come in." There are no horns on this record to hear and the tracking sheet backs that up. All eight tracks were rhythm instruments only. c)Mary Wells' "My Guy" is on upright bass’ not electric. Carol claims this as one of her performances. I may be wrong but I've never heard of her playing upright on a session. Additionally, that session was one of the most storied of all of Hitsville U.S.A.'s studio dates. There are dozens of stories in Detroit surrounding the making of that particular record. I've never heard anyone in LA discuss working on that song except Carol. d)The biggest learning experience for me was when we isolated the bass tracks. We took a song that was definitely The Wrecking Crew with Carol on bass’ a Martha and the Vandellas B-side called "Looking In The Mirror" (the track sheet said it was cut in LA). In the full mix, the bass sounds funky, precise, and perfectly balanced’ beautiful, elegant lines with great feel. But isolated by itself, in spite of her protests about "rolling off the high end," her pick is clicking all over the place. It was unmistakeable’ it was Carol. In contrast, the isolated bass track on "I Was Made To Love Her" had a completely different fatter, heavier, and more rubbery touch. It was one of the most aggressive performances I've ever heard. To be graphic, the bass sound coming out of the studio monitors on this track was dripping with cheap whiskey, hairballs, body odor, bad breath, and tostesterone’ a perfect musical match to the tormented soul and genius of Motown's most explosive personality and musician, James Jamerson. An imbecile could tell it was a totally different bassist. However, it was consistent with the sound on other Motown hits that Carol doesn't lay claim to, that we know James was on. People analyze these tracks back and forth on Carol's website (and other websites) with all kinds of wild theories. But I really can't fault them. Unless you can get in the vault as I did, you're only hearing a quarter of the aural information. The isolated bass tracks tell all. e)There is no chance that Carol overdubbed these disputed bass parts. The archivist said tapes always came from LA to Detroit’ not vice versa. If it did occur on occasion, it was extremely rare. Additionally, there is instrume nt bleed all over the bass tracks in question (coming through the bass pickups). Overdubs would not have that. f)The tracking sheets also give a great deal of irrefutable proof. The way the archiving system works is a combination of numbers and typed indications of origins. The catalog numbers tell where things were recorded. Additionally, anything cut in LA always had the indication "From LA" at the top of the sheet. None of this information supports Carol's West Coast claims. The Jamerson performances she claims all had Detroit listed as the recording location. g)Most damning of all was the Motown studio log. Carol sent me hers thirteen years ago. The dates don't line up anywhere. When we checked the recording dates of the specific disputed Motown hits she claims to have played on, Carol's log always was at odds. Instead of playing a Motown date on that specific day, she was with Sonny and Cher, or the Beach Boys, or Nancy Sinatra, or a TV or movie session, etc.

7)THE CONTRACTS

We subpoenaed the official union contracts on over thirty of the disputed sessions. Jamerson's name is on 100% of them accompanied by an exclusive cast of Detroit musicians. Carol's name is not anywhere to be found. So once again, I repeat: CAROL KAYE'S NAME DOES NOT APPEAR ON A SINGLE OFFICIAL AMERICAN FEDERATION of MUSICIANS CONTRACT FROM THE SONGS IN QUESTION!!! EVERY ONE SAYS JAMES JAMERSON. James Jamerson's widow has been receiving re-use payments (royalties paid when a Motown song is re-used in a movie, TV show, commercial, etc.) on these tunes for years. Carol has not. Additionally, the union told me that Carol often calls to check on any possible re-use situations on anything remotely connected to her recorded output. Nothing wrong with that’ÄîIt's just good bookeeping and good business. Remarkably though, the union rep said she has never called on any of the Motown songs in question. Carol and her lawyer said the contracts, like the notarized affidavits we obtained from various Motown producers, are also forgeries and the contracts are innacurate. The forgery comment is riduculous. She does have a point about the innacuracy situation though. Motown contractors usually just wrote down some names from their stable of musicians. But that innacuracy is in the specificity of the names, not the cities. A Detroit contractor out of habit might put Jamerson's name over, let's say . . . Bob Babbitt's, but he wouldn't write in LA musicians' names. Hank Cosby who contracted in Detroit didn't even know the names of the West Coast musicians.

8)STEVIE WONDER

Carol has stated in the past that "Stevie Wonder tells everyone that she played "I Was Made To Love Her.'" Annie Jamerson (Jame's widow) brought Stevie Wonder into the fray recently. They talked on the phone for an hour. He vaguely remembered Carol as having played on "some beach thing" he did ("Castles In The Sand") but that was it. He told Annie "I Was Made To Love Her" was defintely James, she never played on "Uptight" (guitar or bass), and he was none too amused that Jamerson's legacy is being challenged by Carol. Stevie told us if Carol continues down her current path, she'll have him and his lawyers to deal with.

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As for the allegations Carol has leveled at me as to my motives and other personal attributes, they're all so ridiculous I'll ignore all of them except one. The one about how I ripped off James Jamerson and his widow Annie after saying the Jamerson Project was a charity for his family. She said she checked with Hal Leonard (my distributor) and they told her all the money goes to me’ none goes to Annie Jamerson. Of course I immediately called Hal Leonard and they conducted an internal investigation. Their response to me was no one in the accounting, business, affairs, or royalty departments has ever been called by Carol, and they would never give out confidential accounting info to a stranger in the first place. However, they admitted that Carol may have a friend who works for the company who got the information on the sly and they have no way of finding that out. But the truth is, all STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN royalty checks from Hal Leonard do go to me. I'm the publisher’ Hal Leonard is only the distributor. It's my job to pay royalties to Annie Jamerson’ not Hal Leonard's. For those of you who wish to believe Carol's allegations, email me and I'd be more than happy to mail you photocopies of dozens of royalty checks paid to Annie Jamerson over the last eleven years since the books 1989 release. Unless you've got Bill Gates types of pockets, I think most of you would like very much to have the amount of money she's earned from the book so far. It's all very petty and I wouldn't even mention it except for this: A few months ago, James Jamerson was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in front of the entire world. It should have been one of the greatest nights of Annie Jamerson's life. It was ruined because several of the people Carol emailed with this allegation happened to be in attendance and came up to Annie asking her if she had been ripped off on her royalties by me. It upset me obviously, and it upset Annie a great deal. Nice going Carol. A real classy move.

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History is a funny thing. Once something is published, whether in magazines, books, or on the internet, it becomes a part of history. As the witnesses to the original events die out, false, revisionist versions of history tend to confuse and even, in some instances, destroy the real facts for future generations. Every time someone argues Carol Kaye's side of the Motown bass legacy, they do everyone a huge disservice as they join these historical revisionists. People, please wake up!!! Debates are over opinions’ not facts. It is not an opinion that James Jamerson played "Bernadette," "Reach Out," "I Was Made To Love Her," and the dozens of other Motown songs listed above that are claimed by Carol. It is an uncontestested fact!!! Get over it. She did not play on the original recordings of any of these tunes. She has had thirteen years since my first and only conversation with her to produce some hardcore facts or credible witnesses who back up her claims. If you still are pushing and defending her agenda, you either have no facts (other than your admiration of her) or you are choosing to ignore the facts. If Carol Kaye is your teacher, your idol, your musical hero, I suggest that she remains all of these things to you. Whether she played the Motown bass parts she claims or not, she nevertheless remains a very important figure in the history of the electric bass. But this isn't about Carol, or Bob Lee, or me. It's about James Jamerson. A BASS PLAYER magazine article recently referred to Jamerson's body of work with Motown as "the most important single body of bass work in the history of popular music." With the exception of the family he left behind, that legacy is one of the few things he had that was good and untarnished in a very tortured and unhappy life. He paid the price to be deemed the author of those bass lines. To those of you who keep pushing Carol's Motown agenda, I say this: You are taking that legacy away from James, you are taking it away from history, and you are taking it away from the bass lore that should be handed down to generations of future bassists. Carol has enough credits. Let James keep his. Allan (Dr. Licks) Slutsky (email address: doctor licks@aol.com) March 29, 2000