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BILL MAJKUT - 5 & 6 String Electric Basses

 

From the "Southbound Beat" interview with Michael B. Smith (Editor of Gritz Magazine)

SB : Imagine you have the opportunity of starting the band of your dreams. Who would be part of that super band ?

Michael B Smith : Living souls, I imagine you are speaking of... Well. Guitars: Dickey Betts, Tommy Crain, Chris Hicks and, Me!....Bass: Bill Majkut of Smokin' Gun...Drums: Jakson Spires and Paul Riddle..Sax: Edgar Winter...Hammond Organ/Vocal: Gregg Allman...Piano/Keys: Johnny Neel...Fiddle: Charlie Daniels...Flute: Jerry Eubanks...That's my Southern rock band. Now ask me about my "classic rock" lineup!

Washinton Blues Society Interview
Grtiz Magazine Interview

 

Bill Majkut (My'kut) was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico and raised in the blue-collar neighborhoods of North Seattle, Washington. Procuring his first bass (an Aria violin bass) in 1969 from a friend, he immediately formed a power trio when his friend had decided to switch to "lead" guitar. Majkut adds, "another buddy played drums and the guitar player would teach me two chord bass lines to vamp on so he could take indefinite solos. We jammed on Quicksilver Messenger Service, Cream, Hendix, Grand Funk, and all that '60s acid rock stuff for hours and hours.'

 

Bill credits his first musical influences from growing up listening to Elvis Presley's rock-a-billy recordings and the Motown hits on the radio. The bass styles on those early Motown and Stax recordings are clearly audible in his playing today. By 1971, with the British Blues invasion in full swing, Johnny Winter's "Scorched Earth Policy" of Texas Blues and the southern-rock of The Allman Brothers Band tearing up his neighborhood, bassists: Berry Oakley, Randy Joe Hobbs, Jack Bruce and Tim Bogart inspired him to become a more aggressive player.

 

In 1975, he was introduced to the acoustic jazz bass world of: Neils Pederson, Gary Peacock, Ray Brown, and David Holland by a guitarist/band member friend. With a few years left on his veteran's benefits he entered the jazz department at The Cornish Institute as a full time student. For the next two years, he studied with Gary Peacock, and the elite Cornish teaching staff with occasional workshops from David Holland and other jazz masters. Bill concurrently enrolled at North Seattle Community College during this period where he held both first chair bass positions in their two Big Bands. Switching exclusively to acoustic upright bass, he haunted every backwater bar and jam session in the greater Seattle area that would let him in. He also worked every weekend at the Issaquah Holiday Inn with the '30s swing band "Tuxedo Junction".

 

After his last year at Cornish, he took a job touring the U.S. and Canada playing upright bass in the "New Deal Rhythm Band", doing more 30s and 40s swing music. The N.D.R.B. played the hot swing of Cab Calloway, Louie Prima, Artie Shaw, Count Basie and Duke Ellington. Over the next few years, he clocked thousands of hours "walking the bass" while experiencing North America as a road musician playing the Nevada/Casino and Hotel show room circuit. Bill contributes, "The music required playing simple walking bass lines, so I would use my free time transcribing, writing and playing bass lines from more progressive players like: Ron Carter and Neils Pederson."

 

After leaving the road he worked with numerous jazz piano & guitar duos and trios in the style of Bill Evans and Joe Pass. He also worked extensively with the group "Grand Ma's Cookies" a three-part female harmony group in the vein of Manhattan Transfer. 1983 found Bill in the Seattle Blues scene backing up local blues artists like David Brewer, Brian Butler, Tom McFarland and many others. Majkut states: "I could walk a bass line, the bands played great grooves with only three chords, I knew my chord substitutions, the pay was decent, and I love the music." This eventually lead to a gig backing up Chicago great, Charlie Musslewhite.

 

In the late 1980s, he retired to the couch at home to spend time with his wife and their three daughters, commenting that he, "was and is now very happy there." While at home during the early '90s, with nothing to do between diaper changes and bottle warming, Majkut began the process of seriously trying to learn some of the harder material that he had never mastered. Electric bassists Mars Cowling of the Pat Travers Band and Francis Rocco Prestia of Tower of Power, along with fusion bassists Roscoe Beck, Jaco Pastorius, Randy Coven, John Patitucci, and slap bassists like Victor Wooten and Stu Hamm were playing material that challenged his abilities. With the availability of instructional audio and videotapes, and the Ibanez Rock and Play (which slows the music down to half speed), he descended on mastering these styles with whole-hearted commitment.

 

Learning Rocco Prestia's bass parts note-for-note in over thirty Tower of Power songs inspired Bill to dig deeper into Rocco's roots. As of this writing, that pursuit of "Learning From the Masters" has fully engaged him in the process of analyzing and memorizing the tomb of bass works recorded by James Jamerson and Donald "Duck" Dunn during their time with Motown and Stax Records. Working on the "Hard Stuff" is where Bill credits finding his true musical happiness Bill started Smokin' Gun in June of 1992 . "It was a vehicle to make some extra money and play the music of my roots, Bill says. I'll probably never grow tired of seeing people jump up with beer bottles held high in the air, sweat dripping from their faces and screaming WHIPPING POST!" Their award winning compact discs: "Bad Luck Blues", "Live Rounds From Seattle" and "Runnin for Cover" have done extremely well and the herds of loyal "Gunheads" keep growing.

 

Bill contributes,"With Smokin' Gun, I am able to incorporate my jazz, blues and rock roots into a band with its own distinct original sound and style. I can walk a bass line with one hand while tapping out chords with the other. We play tunes with slap-style funk bass lines and we incorporate numerous diverse grooves. At times we even solo forever on Allman Brothers type extended jams. I can play just about every style I practice at home. That's enough for me. Anything else is a bonus!"

 

Being a life long bluesrock/southern-rocker and a fan of Lynyrd Skynyrd, his acceptance when asked to join Whiskey Creek in April of 2002 was as Bill calls it: "A No-Brainer!" With this line-up, it was an offer none of us could refuse. Who doesn't love Lynyrd Skynyrd, and what musician/fan would turn down an opportunity to play in a band when it's membership is composed of the caliber of musicians that are currently in Whiskey Creek?" Skynyrd when it's done well? It was an Equipment : Fender "Roscoe Beck" 5-string Electric Bass Fender "Heartfield" 6 string Electric Bass (2) Eden 410 XLT Speaker cabinets Ashdown ABM 500 Bass Amplifier Korg DTR 1 Rackmount Digital Tuner Furman PL Plus Power Conditioner SKB 4 Space Rack.