I’m still effected by last week’s passing of Donald “Duck” Dunn. He was an archetypal bass player and one of my faves – Dunn, Jamerson, McCartney, George Porter Jr . Seems like an even deeper loss than with regular heroes. I first saw him at the age of six.
It was a warm starry night in a campground beside a drive-in theatre in Parksville, B.C. and I was running wild with strange new kids – this is during the summer after the summer of love. We crowded to the top of the playground slide to see over the fence at the big screen. All the little metal speaker boxes in the car windows were cranked. The boxes from the far side of the drive-in created a weird delay in relation to those up close to the campground. Trippy. I didn’t now it at the time but we were watching D.A. Pennebaker’s “Monterey Pop” concert film. I would jostle for position at the top of the ladder only to be tossed down the slide by the bigger kids. On my few triumphant times at the top I saw Booker T and the MGs with Otis doing “Shake”, I saw the Who smash their gear and I saw Hendrix burn his guitar. My life’s path was set out before me. I can’t remember seeing anything that exciting for another decade.
In all those situations there was the stalwart bass player. I didn’t even know what a bass player was but I remember the three guys holding it down with the big guitars –John Entwistle, Noel Redding and Duck Dunn. They kept it together and held tight when the focus shifted to mayhem and flash. They calmly surveyed the landscape and held tight. You’d need these guys on your side if you ever got a wheel off the road. Bass players are best friend material. They consistently have your back and do so with a wry smile and slow shake of the head. After a life in music I can tell you this to be mainly true. A lot of people lose a best friend when a bass player dies. I guess that’s what is haunting me.