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I Never Got To Be A Bass Man

March 19, 2023

So what’s a bass man anyway? A bass man was a byproduct of the 1950’s and 1960’s; a singer who sang the bass doo wop lines and deep bass lines in those classic songs. We have all heard these gems (well, some of us older ones anyway). When I was in junior high school in Sylmar, California, I became intrigued with the whole bass man notion. At the time I had a girlfriend whose father owned a jukebox supply business and I had free reign to his inventory of oldies. Actually, they were newies at the time. In 1963, I decided I was going to be a bass man; seriously, I thought this would be my life’s work. The songs of the late 1950s and early 1960s had convinced me that I would find success with my newly discovered deep voice.

I spent the years from 1962 to 1965 perfecting the art of the bass man. I sang all the bass parts to all of the records of the day despite the fact that at the time I naturally sang alto in the church choir. The final clincher was the release of Mr. Bass Man by Johnny Cymbal in 1963 (Kapp Records). I was totally convinced this was my ticket to the future. I did the Blue Moon parts perfectly and learned all the classic bass man scats. I felt the longing rhythms calling to me at night as I lay awake late in the night in San Fernando, California during the long march of the early 1960s. It was a divine voice that called: boppa, bop bop; ramalama ding dong. I was confident as I combed my butch-waxed hair back each morning to explore a new day and learn new bass man parts to sing. I was on my way to the top.

In 1964, I showed-up at my brand new high school in Sylmar, California full of anticipation to be the next teenage sensation bound for Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. In 1964, I regularly performed acapella to the amusement of my little band of surfer friends. and even did the street corner scene similar to Dion and the Belmonts sans New York, thank God. The year 1964 was a good one but something changed abruptly. So what happened? Did I grow up overnight, get wise in my new found old age? No, American popular music simply changed dramatically. Before I could get a toehold in the bass man business, there were no more bass men. The prospect of becoming a bass man was overrun by change. The phenomena is called timing. I’ve never been particularly good at timing; it is an illusive skill.

So what does a man do with the talent of singing bass scats for the rest of his life? That’s a very good question indeed. Not being one to give up on an idea, I pursued the bass man notion, not as a money making vocation, but as a hobby of sorts. Actually, it was more like a spiritual hobby. For the last 50 years I have been, you guessed it, a bass man. When I performed publicly in the 1970s, I would always throw an old piece into my act to see if I still had the right stuff; I did. Later, I even incorporated some of the old  bass man formulas into my own music writing. I still do the familiar bass scats for my wife, much to her chagrin. (I’m sorry honey, it’s in the blood.) I amuse myself by keeping perfect time with the old recordings and doing for pure joy what I once was sure was to be my thing. And if I ever find myself at the button in Double Jeopardy, I will surely not miss any answer regarding 1950s and 1960s music, specifically regarding bass men and their contribution to American popular music.

However, I never actually got to be a bass man. A big deal? Yeah, kind of a big deal with me, but one of the many little disappointments in life that I have grown to live with. A big deal with my friends and acquaintances? Absolutely not. But if you are reading this and have any sense of rhythm, you must know where I’m coming from.

For those of you with a good memory and a heart of gold, here’s a link to Johnny Cymbal’s Mr. Bass Man. I would love to hear from anyone who actually remembers this song. Did you want to be a bass man too?

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

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From → America, Family, Humor, Music

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