You may never have heard guitarist and bassist Carol Kaye’s name, but once you read this you’ll have her riffs stuck in your head for days.
My friend Sean, a ridiculously talented professional musician in his own right, tipped me off to Kaye recently on Facebook:
Yep, looked like a Gutsy Broad to me. I had to investigate.
Kaye has been playing professionally since the 1950s, recording studio hits with such names as the Beach Boys, Ritchie Valens, Simon & Garfunkel, Sam Cooke and Sonny & Cher.
Born in 1935 in Washington State to musician parents and growing up in poverty, Kaye started playing guitar for money at just 14 years old.
“All I had to do was to play music, and they threw money at me so I could afford to take care of my mother and myself,” she said in a trailer for a proposed documentary by filmmaker Nelson Torres.
One gig led to another, and eventually she was playing with some of the hottest bands of the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. You can also hear her on some of the era’s most iconic television theme songs, including those for “Mission Impossible,” “The Addams Family,” “M.A.S.H.” and “The Love Boat.”
So what was it like being a female performer in the ‘50s and ‘60s? “There was a little bit of prejudice against women — there were no women in the rhythm section back then,” she said in a documentary for Snapshots Music & Arts Foundation that’s well worth your time to watch. But she says she and her few female compatriots didn’t dwell on it. “I said, ‘I’m the guitar player. I’m going to go make the money — one dollar, two dollar, three dollar. Whatever they want, I’ll do it.’ That’s the spirit that we all had.”
Damn straight. That’s the spirit we have at Gutsy Broads, too.
“I never thought of myself as a woman,” she told Torres. “A note doesn’t have sex to it. You either you play it good, or you don’t play it good. Some people can’t handle that — especially some men.”