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Way Down: Playing Bass With Elvis, Dylan, The Doors & More
Author: Jerry Scheff
Publisher: Backbeat Books
Release Date: March 27, 2012
Review Date: April 1, 2012

Some of the most unsung heroes in the music business are the hired gun musicians who have played on a bazillion songs.  Unless you’re a back-story geek like me or a musician who loves recording details, these guys and girls go largely unnoticed.

If there are any exceptions, they would largely involve Elvis’s TCB Band.  As a kid (and adult), I listened to Presley’s Aloha From Hawaii and Live From Madison Square Garden countless (and I do mean countless) times.  I always loved the blues riff that the band was playing as they were being introduced by the King.  I was always intrigued that he always said, “On the Fender bass, Jerry Scheff”.  He didn’t say, “On the Fender guitar, James Burton” or “On the Gibson guitar, John Wilkinson”.  But, with Mr. Scheff, it was always, “On the Fender bass . . ..”

Enough of my childhood observations of musical minutiae.

Jerry Scheff recently laid down his bass for a keyboard (sorry, I don’t know what brand but I’m sure it was a good one) to write his autobiography, Way Down: Playing Bass With Elvis, Dylan, The Doors & More. Mr. Scheff says of the book, “This is not written as a reference book, a history book, or a work of fiction. It is my life as a musician in the culture and counterculture of the music business.”

However Scheff intends us to receive his story, one does gain insight into the musical (and sometimes personal) world of Elvis, John Denver, Neil Diamond, another Elvis (lf the Costello kind), Roy Orbison, Bob Dylan, The Doors and many, many others.

What is most impressive about Scheff’s story is that he doesn’t come across as trying to take credit for key events in music history.  He doesn’t even try to claim status as a close friend of this celebrity or that.  While confident of his abilities and proud of his work, he’s a warts-and-all writer, calling out his own shortcomings and pretty much calling things as he saw (and sees) them.

Readers and fans of all things Elvis will obviously want this book.  However, musicologists and just plain music history buffs will want the book in their own library for the great stories and insights offered up by Jerry Scheff.