Sunday, August 8, 2010

Hey, Mr. Bassman! I Want to Be a Bassman Too

Of all the characters on Glee, my favorite is Curt Hummel (Chris Colfer). Even better is the relationship between Colfer’s character and Mike O’Malley who plays his dad. But that’s not my topic today. I also enjoy Curt’s performances the best too—arguably because I like his character rather than Rachel’s character—he’s gutsy and can belt out a tune.


Where are the basses? On “Glee” there are no basses. The lower voiced males barely eek out a baritone sound occasionally. When I was in high school and college, there were always far more baritone voices than tenor voices. It was hard to find guys who could sing 1st tenor. Most guys were baritones or 1st bass. I sang 2nd bass—low bass. We all aspired to be one of those guys who could croak out the low notes—and even better shove out a covered, rumbling string of low bass notes to provide the cellar and foundation to 8 part choir music.

And, there aren’t any on American Idol either. The preference being is high pitched male voices. Chrystal Bowersox could sing lower than the guys on last season’s Idol.

That might be a fun “plot twist” on Glee. Have a bass join Glee and then have “Shoe” find ways for his voice to be a part of the music. And, then razz the guy about his voice being the proverbial “foghorn”. And then they can do this song:

Just think of the career that Bowser’s had. Who’s Bowser, you ask? He’s the bass-man for Sha Na Na. Sha Na Na was at Woodstock for crying out loud. They were a “campy” group that was a throwback to the late 50’s and early 60’s with a terrific following that brought them to the stage right before Jimmy Hendrix at the 1969 festival. Bowser’s made a career out of mugging for the camera and carrying the low-end for this group that’s more “doo-wop” than rock.

Yeah, I thought it was really cool back in 1964 when I started 8th grade and was able to report to the Varsity Chorus at Madison Junior High School in Tampa, Florida as a baritone rather than as the tenor I had been the previous May when I tried out. My voice changed over the summer! I got puberty! And I made it to bass the next year.

My favorite singers have usually had lower vocal ranges. (OK, I’ve always liked guys like Frankie Vallee and Smokie Robinson too). And, I’m not talking about Barry White because he didn’t do much singing. What I’ve always enjoyed is someone who could bring out some low notes and still deliver one hell of a tune—and let’s eliminate Bing Crosby because that’s just too old even for me.

My all time favorite is the late Lou Rawls. I really became a fan of his in the mid-60’s when he came out with “Dead End Street”. But my all time favorite Lou Rawls song is “Lady Love”. He shows a vocal range here that’s really neat and brings a style of R&B to it that been one I’ve enjoyed and envied since it came out in the early to mid-70’s.

Except there are risks to singing bass. My very first solo in church was when I was 14 years old (nearly 15) in 1966. I sang “I Believe”. Afterwards, I was standing with my parents when someone came up to me and said, “I really enjoyed your singing. You sounded just like that Gomer Pyle guy.”

Now, to an almost 15 year old, more inclined to Elvis or Tom Jones as solo acts, to be compared to Jim Nabors/Gomer Pyle was nothing short of mortifying. Chicks don’t dig Gomer Pyle. He probably never got panties thrown at him on stage—a girdle maybe, but definitely not panties.

So, let’s go back to Curt just a bit. I guess when I was a kid and later as an adult, singing in the low ranges was a mark of “testosterone”. Men sing low. And yeah, it takes lots of work to do it reasonably well. Like I said earlier, Curt (Chris Colfer) can really bring it. His character shows more “balls” than any other male character in Glee and the relationship portrayed between him and Mike O’Malley is tremendous. I hope they both win Emmy’s. But damn, I wish the show would get some “real” male voices.

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