The Musician You've Heard But May Not Know

Carol Kaye is one of the most recorded bass players of all time, with 10,000 sessions and 40,000 songs under her belt, including a staggering list of hits for Ray Charles, The Righteous Brothers, Johnny Mathis, and Sonny & Cher. Kaye is what’s called a “session musician” — an artist who backs up the main recording artist. When she took her first gig as a session musician in 1957 for a Sam Cooke recording, Kaye simply saw herself as a working mother who needed to provide for her children. Born to working-class, professional musician parents and growing up in a housing project during World War II, she paid for her own guitar lessons. By the time she was 14, she was already a professional — assisting her guitar teacher with lessons and playing jazz gigs in the Long Beach area. From the Sam Cooke session came sessions on both rhythm guitar and bass for The Beach Boys. As one of the few women to find consistent work in the session world, Carol Kaye is viewed today as a trailblazer who broke the glass ceiling for other female musicians. Songs you’ve heard Kaye’s guitar on include “Wichita Lineman” by Glen Campbell, “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” by The Righteous Brothers, “River Deep, Mountain High” by Tina Turner, and even the theme for The New Adventures of Wonder Woman, starring Lynda Carter, which aired on CBS from 1976 to 1979.