James Alexander of the Bar-Kays & Favorite Bass Lines

This week, Jim and Greg are joined by legendary funk and R&B bassist James Alexander of the Bar-Kays. They discuss his early days as a pivotal part of the Stax Records house band in Memphis and the enduring legacy of 1971's Shaft Soundtrack, which featured the Bar-Kays as the backing band. Then, Jim and Greg share some of their favorite bass lines (as well as the songs‘ players). Bass players usually aren’t the flashiest members of a band, but they're a pivotal part of its heartbeat.

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James Alexander

1967's Soul Finger by The Bar-Kays is one of the most instantly recognizable instrumentals of its era, and on the bass is James Alexander. The Bar-Kays played a pivotal part in Stax Records' studio system, eventually replacing Booker T & the MGs as the primary session band behind labelmates like Albert King, The Emotions and Isaac Hayes. They were also consistent hitmakers in their own right that charted throughout the '70s and '80s with jams like "Holy Ghost" and "Son of Shaft." Additionally, the Bar-Kays were the backing band on Isaac Hayes's award-winning Shaft soundtrack. This year, the original soundtrack was re-released in a new box set with almost two dozen previously unreleased tracks that feature The Bar-Kays. Jim and Greg talk with James Alexander about the making of the historic Shaft soundtrack, as well as a turning point in Alexander's career when tragedy struck the Stax Records family.

In early December of 1967, the music world was rocked by news of a plane crash near Madison, Wisconsin. Otis Redding and Bar-Kays members Ronnie Caldwell, Phalon Jones, Jimmy King, and Carl Cunningham were killed in the crash, only trumpeter Ben Cauley survived (miraculously, James didn't take that flight.) In their conversation, James discusses with Jim and Greg what it was like to overcome catastrophe so early in his career.


Best Bass Lines

A great bass line sets the tone for an entire song! This week, Jim and Greg give some love to the bassists out there, selecting some of their favorite bass lines.

Featured Songs

  1. Talking Heads, Psycho Killer, Talking Heads: 77, Sire, 1977
  2. James Jamerson, Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology), n/a, unreleased, 1971
  3. The Bar-Kays, Soul Finger, Soul Finger, Volt, 1967
  4. Isaac Hayes, Walk On By, Hot Buttered Soul, Enterprise, 1969
  5. The Bar-Kays, Son of Shaft, Son of Shaft (single), Volt, 1971
  6. Isaac Hayes, Theme From Shaft, Shaft, Enterprise, 1971
  7. Isaac Hayes, Reel 5 Part 1-13, Shaft (Deluxe Reissue), Craft Recordings/Enterprise, 2019
  8. Isaac Hayes, By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Hot Buttered Soul, Enterprise, 1969
  9. Sir Isaac and the Do-Dads, Blue Groove, The Big Dipper (single), Volt, 1965
  10. Isaac Hayes, Shaft's Cab Ride, Shaft, Enterprise, 1971
  11. Isaac Hayes, Do Your Thing, Shaft, Enterprise, 1971
  12. Isaac Hayes, Bumpy's Lament, Shaft, Enterprise, 1971
  13. Booker T & the MGs, Green Onions, Green Onions, Stax, 1962
  14. The Bar-Kays, You Can't Sit Down, Soul Finger, Volt, 1967
  15. The Bar-Kays, I Want Someone, Soul Finger, Volt, 1967
  16. The Bar-Kays, Yesterday, Gotta Groove, Volt, 1969
  17. The Bar-Kays, You're The Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me, Do You See What I See?, Volt, 1972
  18. Four Tops, Bernadette, Reach Out, Motown, 1967
  19. Yes, Roundabout, Fragile, Atlantic, 1971
  20. Joy Division, Love Will Tear Us Apart, (Single), Factory, 1980
  21. Melle Mel, White Lines (Don‘t Don’t Do It), (Single), Sugar Hill, 1983
  22. Liquid Liquid, Cavern, Optimo, 99, 1983
  23. Nancy Sinatra, These Boots Are Made For Walkin', Boots, Reprise, 1966
  24. Nine Inch Nails, Sanctified (Live in 2013), Pretty Hate Machine, TVT, 1989
  25. Parliament, Give up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker), Mothership Connection, Casablanca, 1975
  26. Cardi B, Thru Your Phone, Invasion of Privacy, Atlantic, 2018
  27. David Bowie, Let's Dance, Let's Dance, EMI America, 1983
  28. Phil Collins, I Don't Care Anymore, Hello, I Must Be Going!, Atlantic, 1982
  29. Carpenters, Yesterday Once More, Now & Then, A&M, 1973
  30. Silver Jews, Random Rules, American Water, Drag City, 1998