On loan to The Met The Met accepts temporary loans of art both for short-term exhibitions and for long-term display in its galleries.

Upright bass

James Jamerson American

Not on view

James Jamerson was the most prolific session bass player in the Motown Records studio. Though he was uncredited on most recordings, his buoyant and melodic lines were a fundamental part of the “Motown Sound.” This was his main instrument in sessions from 1957 to about 1961, when he switched to the electric Fender Precision bass (and on occasional songs thereafter). Jamerson’s background on this bass led to his unusual technique of playing all his lines with his index finger, nicknamed “the claw.” He may have played this instrument on the Marvelettes’ “Please Mr. Postman” (1961), Mary Wells’s “My Guy” (1964), and Martha and the Vandellas’ “Heat Wave” (1963).

Technical Description:
Laminated plywood body, maple neck, ebonized wood fingerboard and tailpiece; ¾ size

Upright bass, James Jamerson (American, Edisto, South Carolina 1936–1983 Los Angeles, California), Laminated spruce and maple plywood, ebonized wood fingerboard, metal

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Courtesy of Rock & Roll Hall of Fame