In the new season of the Amazon series “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” the titular comedian befriends Carole Keen, a badass bass player in the band of Shy Baldwin, whom Midge Maisel opens up for on tour. Keen serves as “someone with tits” for Midge to talk to about surviving in a male-led industry.
Viewers pegged the beer-sipping blonde as an homage to legendary bassist Carol Kaye — but the real Carol is not grooving on that vibe.
“A lot of people are saying, ‘That must be you. I love it!’ But I am not a cartoon — and my life is not a joke,” Kaye told The Post from her home in Murrieta, California. “Nobody contacted me . . . I thought that was pretty bad. Kind of like slander.”
Kaye didn’t make history by being easy.
The bassist blazed a trail as the only woman in a group of West Coast studio musicians playing on what would become the most influential records in pop, rock and soul. From the late 1950s through the early ’70s, Kaye riffed iconic bass lines for the likes of Frank Sinatra, Tina Turner, Sonny & Cher, Elvis and The Monkees.
That’s Kaye “punching the hell” out of the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.” That “nah-nah-nah-nah” on the “Batman” theme song? She laid down that legendary lick with her signature pick.
Long retired from session work, the 84-year-old “First Lady of Bass” — who started playing guitar at age 13 and toured in big bands before gigging at bebop jazz clubs in Los Angeles — shuns the spotlight these days.
But she spoke to The Post to “set the record straight” about “Maisel,” which is nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Musical or Comedy TV Series.
“It’s a Hollywood, silly fluff piece [that has] nothing to do with me or my history. They took a few things out of my book and created a character that’s not even me at all,” Kaye explained.
If she sounds defensive about her history, it’s because she has been burned. She’s a critic of “The Wrecking Crew,” the 2008 documentary about LA session musicians she claims she was “duped” into appearing in.
Kaye considers the film one big ego trip with drummer Hal Blaine downplaying the work of his peers.
“We were never known as that pet name of Hal Blaine’s — our name has always been ‘studio musicians,’ ” she said of The Wrecking Crew, her voice rising. “[Viewers] were lied to.”
Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Blaine, who died at age 90 in March 2019, publicly trashed Kaye to veteran DJ Eddie Winters in 2015, claiming the session scene “only helped her out” because “she’s a woman, she’s got kids,” before declaring she was “nuts” and “never should’ve been in the goddamn movie with us.”
Blaine’s petty parting shot: “Bass players laugh at her.” (Note: Brian Wilson, 77, who hired Blaine to drum on his Beach Boys tracks, declared Kaye the “greatest bass player in the world” and “way ahead of her time”).
Kaye rattled off a laundry list of Blaine’s alleged character flaws to The Post — accusing him of “beating his wives” and “using” people — before letting out a sigh and saying, “The man is dead. Let him rest.”
Besides, Kaye’s in another fight to control her legacy: Although some critics dub it a “clever tribute,” the “Carole” played by actress Liza Weil in “Maisel” doesn’t have her seal of approval.
“You have to understand, it’s not easy when you are older, and it has nothing to do with you, but people think it is you,” she said. “Don’t get me wrong, I have a sense of humor — but I am a professional. This is like a putdown to me.”
Reps for Weil and “Maisel” creator Amy Sherman-Palladino didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Perhaps the reason Kaye is so outspoken today is because being a “professional” in the golden age of session music meant checking your opinions at the studio door.
“Studio work was the big money and union, so you couldn’t be late and [you] minded your P’s and Q’s,” she said of the reported 10,000-plus records she played on, starting when producer Bumps Blackwell recruited her out of the clubs for guitar runs on Sam Cooke’s “Summertime” and Ritchie Valens’ “La Bamba” in 1957 and ’58, respectively. Soon, a twice-divorced Kaye was supporting herself, her three kids — and her mom (just like her “Maisel” counterpart).
But it wasn’t until a fateful 1963 Capitol Records session when an electric bass player didn’t show up that Kaye started recording nonstop.
“I saw the future in it and realized, ‘Oh, yeah, the power is here in the bass lines.’ You and the drummer are the foundation of the band,” she said. “We were working day and night.” Her major motivation: “I was born poor, so I didn’t want my kids to feel that way, because it sticks with you.”
This pioneer cops to developing a salty edge to clap back at a few foulmouthed alpha males in the studio, refusing to fulfill their stereotypes about who could pump a juicy bass lick.
“A note doesn’t have sex to it; you either play it good or you don’t. Some people can’t handle that, especially men,” she once said. “They want to think that it was a man who played the bass because of the sexual thing, but when you hear somebody with balls, that’s me.”
Today, Kaye told The Post, session musicians are “about half women — but I’m the first one to do the amount of work I did in the studios because Fender bass lines meant a lot to the music of the ’60s and movies and TV.”
Asked if she has a favorite track in her vast catalog, Kaye said she’s partial to 1969’s “Feelin’ Alright” with Joe Cocker — and anything with Ray Charles. “Oh, my God, he was so great. I loved that man,” Kaye said, her voice swelling with admiration. “And Mel Tormé and Bobby Darin. The Beach Boys stuff was fun, too.”
Bored with backing increasingly “cardboard” rock bands, Kaye left studio work decades ago — but not before rocking out the seminal themes to TV’s “Mission: Impossible,” “The Brady Bunch,” “Hawaii Five-0” and “M*A*S*H,” as well as bass lines on Glen Campbell’s “Wichita Lineman” and Barbra Streisand’s “The Way We Were,” to name just a few.
“To me, once the Charles Manson murders started happening in the Hollywood Hills, and then you had people getting mugged on the way to the studio, all of that changed the scene,” she told Louder Sound in 2008. “Things weren’t fun anymore . . . That was the end of that for me.”
Since 1969, Kaye has shared her expertise via tutoring. “I’m teaching jazz on Skype because people worldwide want to learn real jazz,” she said. “That’s great for me. I’m in it again, giving lessons in guitar and bass.”
One prerequisite for the $65 private sessions: “No beginners, please.”
Take notes, Mrs. Maisel.
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