2010 NAMM Women Guitar Superstars: Boogalooing and Tortillas

While working the floor of the 2010 Winter NAMM, I met up with a couple of superstars of the guitar world. They were both women, and they both treated me like I was a member of their family. As I picked their brains about historical stuff they have done, they responded without a trace of egotism. All the planets were in alignment and I was experiencing nirvana.

Legendary Bassist Carol Kaye and SMG Senior Staff Writer Frank Butler at 2010 NAMM

One was Carol Kaye. As world class and world famous guitarists lined up to shake her hand, she noticed I was off to the side and marveling at her magnetism. She had promised to spend some time with me at 2:30 p.m. and it was about that time. Carol told the line of fans that they had to wait because she had something to do. It was to hang out with me. I felt guilty for denying them seconds with her.

We sat down in a private booth and talked about her amazing career. She played the bass on almost every TV show I ever watched, and countless movies. She also wrote books. Not two books… but lots of books. I know world class bassists that buy her books, study her books and implement their content to attempt to do what she can do… RIP IT UP! She has the hippest lingo of any musician I have ever met.

Carol talked to me about chuggin’ and jivin’ and “boogalooing.” She also described how she “stayed in the pocket” and “held down the groove” worked that vibe.” She oozes “cool.” I asked her about her favorite gig. I know, cheesy journalistic move. But keep in mind that she caught me off guard with her response, which is what I craved. Carol has played with all the biggies. No, I take that back…they played with her. I expected her to drop a name like Ray Charles, Quincy Jones or Miles Davis. But it wasn’t any of the icons I expected. It was the badass legend Joe Cocker. Joe, I bow to you, my friend. Scratch that one off your “bucket List.” Carol Kaye said you were her favorite.

Seymour Duncan and MJ hanging out with SMG at 2010 NAMM

The second woman of the guitar world I met up with that has the world of pro guitarists courting her is MJ. Who is MJ? You don’t know MJ? Eddie Van Halen knows her, so does Slash, Pete Anderson, Mick Thompson and hundreds of other guitarists that make kicking ass on the guitar their living. A very unassuming lady with a heart of gold, MJ works for Seymour Duncan, the man whose name is synonymous with pick-ups.

MJ has worked for Seymour for 27 years, personally winding pick-ups in their custom shop for the biggest names in the business. Think of a factory of “winders,” now narrow it down to the elite custom shop, now who is the best in the room (besides Seymour)? Since Seymour has to tend to his empire, MJ is the end of the line. She is referred to by these world class artists as “The Rockstar to the Rockstars.” Without her, they would not have the signature tone we have all come to know.

MJ also treated me like I was buddy from way back. She held my hand during the interview. She confided in me that she makes killer tortillas too. Now I lost my train of thought. “How good?” I must find out.

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