Bergantino’s Kenery Kent Smith

Chicago’s Kenery Kent Smith is full of exorbitant passion, not only with playing bass but with his gift of writing. Kenery wears his heart on his sleeve and we are honored to share his story with you.

Growing up in a city that has seemingly produced more successful low-end groove makers per capita than any city in the world, Kenery Kent Smith has worked hard to become one of Chicago’s best. A 25-year music industry veteran, Kenery is part of a rich tradition of world class Chicago bassists. His performance resume showcases the Chi-Town musical trademarks of talent, hustle and a versatility to work in any musical genre.

As a childhood resident of the infamous Robert Taylor Housing Projects, a young and impressionable Kenery was destined to play bass guitar; growing up he would hear nothing but the bass lines to the music coming through the walls of his parent’s apartment, as the neighbors would tend to play their R&B, Gospel, Jazz and Soul loudly (i.e. EVERY WAKING HOUR). Thus, the musical fire was lit. Already possessing an artist’s spirit, Kenery soon began to hang around the local bands rehearsals as well as going to neighborhood talent showcases, learning what he could from watching…and listening. Soon at age 11, Kenery made his public musical debut in his 7th grade talent show and became hooked on the allure of the stage. All this with no true formal training, he began to perform locally with different choirs, bands and theater groups, learning what he needed along the way.

Kenery’s experience includes performances with artists ranging from international Neo Soul recording artist Erykah Badu, to world renowned Jazz vocal siren Dee Alexander, to R&B/Soul diva Terisa Griffin. Kenery has provided low end grooves for Acid Jazz pioneers Liquid Soul, and he has laid down a funky groove or two behind world famous comedian Bernie Mac. He has toured extensively throughout Italy, Germany, Switzerland and Luxembourg with the inspirational voices of Sue Conway and the Victory Singers, and with Pierre Walker & Project: Sanctified. Kenery has also performed with Gospel legend Kim Stratton, Grammy winning recording artist Darius Brooks and has been fortunate to provide the low-end groove with many other prominent Gospel recording artists including Phil Tarver and Bishop Paul S. Morton, Sr. He has also worked in many other diverse musical settings, including performing music with the world-renowned tap dance ensemble MADD Rhythms, touring nationally with Jackie Taylor’s Black Ensemble Theater and with Chicago’s Free Street Theater (most notably at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.). Most recently, Kenery appeared in, wrote and produced original music for the independent film “The Rise and Fall of Miss Thang” (available on Amazon Prime). Additionally, for 15 years Kenery was co-founder and bassist of Chicago’s very own Nu-Jazz legends Detour JazFunk, with whom he shares writing, arranging and co-production credits on their debut CD entitled JazFunk.

Currently, Kenery can be seen and heard each week in the role of first chair bassist on the syndicated weekly Sunday morning broadcast of Victory Apostolic Church in Matteson, Illinois, as part of their extraordinary music ministry.

Q: Please share any accomplishments or achievements you would like to share with everyone.

A: I have been able to live a wonderful and fulfilling life using a God-given gift, sharing music with the masses! In the process I have been blessed to travel the world, meet and perform with many extremely talented people (some of whom were childhood musical inspirations), and most importantly, I have been able to share the healing and inspiring power of music. As musicians, when we take to the stages of the world to play our instruments and sing our songs, what we are doing is having interactive and meaningful conversations with each other; we are sharing our stories, our history, our dreams, our pain…our joy with each other. Then, subsequently invite the audience into those musical conversations so they can feel what we feel…so that they can share in our common human experiences through music and to inspire the audience to therefore reciprocate in the sharing.

Q: What else do you like to do besides playing bass?

A: I LOVE classic movies, comic books (I’m a Marvel Man…sorry DC!), listening to music on high end audio gear on quiet afternoons with my favorite beverage in hand. I enjoy writing both music and prose when I can squeeze it in.  I, also, enjoy a good book or two.

I love house parties with close friends, breaking bread with the same, deep conversations with deep minds, and laughing hard and often. Every now and again, I will attempt to revive my skills as an artist and draw something cool. Also, if God says the same, I love the idea of being in love with a woman who truly knows and loves me for me. Maybe someday…J

  1. Why do you choose Bergantino gear?

A: For as long as I can remember, in my head the ideal sound of my live bass has been the sound of best recorded basses in recorded music history. Whatever the appropriate tone for the tune, that’s what I’ve always wanted to hear in the setting of a live performance and that means that I want to hear ME, my bass, my fingers, my inflections and expressions.

Bergantino Audio Systems is literally the FIRST time I have felt fulfilled in this aspect. Playing through my forté, in combination with either my HD210, HD112 or through my Reference 210…I don’t hear a “company sound”. I don’t hear coloration, unless I choose to color. I don’t hear snippets of my playing while the rest of my bass line is swallowed up in the band mix.

I now hear MY voice.

I now hear articulation of every note I play…warts and all…lol!

I now…finally…hear ME.

And THAT is why I LOVE Bergantino!


You can follow Kenery on the links below here:

Performing on the latest release by Andrea Love, “Twisted”:

Bassist with Simone Green

Coming Soon: K2S



Bergantino’s Van Gordon Martin

We are excited to add Van Gordon Martin, an amazing Boston-based electric guitarist to our roster of Bergantino endorsing players. Van Gordon Martin has been a veteran of the east coast music scene for over a decade. He just finished a run run of shows with Toots and the Maytals.  Also, Van is now heading out with Mighty Mystic’s Summer Tour and he will be using the Bergantino AD212 Guitar speaker.

Van has many hit song releases including his new single “Life Is One” from May 2019 and his 2018 album, “Let it Grow” was inspired by Van’s endless devotion and love for Roots Reggae and Dub Music.

While Van started his music career at age 7 in Chicago, he is now a part of Boston-based Reggae collective, Dub Apocalypse, a Moroccan/Jazz/ Electronic group Club D’elf, Hip Hop Legend Big Daddy Kane’s live band, Paul Wolstencroft of Slightly Stoopid’s Organically Good Trio, The Naya Rockers and many others. Van Gordon Martin is a guitarist, (that’s right, he is not a bass player) songwriter and multi- instrumentalist producer. He always pushes acoustic boundaries…just watch him on stage!

“My goal is to share my story and love for guitar with the world.  It has been always been the thing that makes me feel connected to the spirit realm. Rasta, Reggae, Soul, Jazz, Blues and Roots Music…it speaks the truth. Every artist is part of the building blocks of our social and creative consciousness. I feel honored and blessed to share my ideas with anyone that will hear me.  Every note we play with honest intention, we tear down a part of the injustices in the world. Love and music are indeed one. Music:  It is our highest meditation” – Van Gordon Martin

We’re looking forward to videos and photos of Van’s upcoming tour! Best of luck on the tour, Van!!

Follow Van here:  Summer Tour info


Bergantino’s Bobby Fernandez

High-end carpenter by day and extreme energy, face-melting bassist by night, Bobby Fernandez started his bass journey 41 years ago and has been going strong ever since!  As a 14-year-old kid, like many, Bobby looked no further for inspiration than KISS.  With their larger-than-life persona, Bobby and his friends were emulating KISS and as luck would have it, they were asked to play and party and the rest is history as his bass journey had begun. When he was 14 years old, his parents rented his first bass guitar.  It was a P-bass except the pick-up was not long enough so you couldn’t hear the G string but he managed to fall in love with the instrument regardless of its shortcomings.

Bobby states, “My parents have always been very supportive of my music. When it came time to purchase a bass, we were near a city called OceanSide and they had a store called Ocean Side Music Supply. That is when I got my first professional bass, a Gibson Ripper. I was sixteen years old. I got it because I saw a picture of Gene Simmons playing it.  Also, Louis Johnson had played a Ripper and they didn’t call him the “Human Rhythm Machine” for nothing! I took three years of lessons and learned the basics. In terms of playing, I emulated the people I liked. I was also influenced by Cheap Trick, Paul McCartney, even Neil Sedaka and Elvis!”

During his high school years, Bobby played a lot of shows but gave up bass for a small time period and found himself unhappy or not fulfilled.  He started playing again, and in doing so, found happiness again. From there things started to grow.  His life changed from doing “crazy and stupid things” to getting serious about his music and career.

Bobby now anchors the low end in a San Diego-based band called “Symbolic”.  Best described as a heavy-hitting dynamic force hailing from power/prog metal midst of the San Diego, California metal music scene. Symbolic combines their melodic energy with the excitement of old school metal mixed with the power and skill of modern metal. Since the inception of the band Symbolic has built a strong fan base both locally and Internationally.

Last year they signed with EMP Label Group. Bobby says, “David Ellefson is a smart guy and fun to talk too. Being associated with the name is a very good thing for Symbolic.”

Bobby Fernandez on Bergantino gear:

“I had a chance to play a couple of Bergantino cabinets.  I tried them out at Bass San Diego. My friend, Rob Jones and Rick Gauthier stressed that I should really give them a try. Then, I connected with the Bergantino team at NAMM 2019.  The first time I used the cabinets with my band, they said it was the clearest sounding bass tone they ever heard me play and it sounded amazing!  Being lightweight was also huge bonus! In my band context, I need to find my own frequencies between the two guitar players and the drums. It’s a huge win for me because Bergantino gear makes it so effortless.  They are pure aural perfection that touches ALL your senses!”

Also, of note, Bobby is an endorsed Dingwall artist and can be seen at the Dingwall NAMM booth every year.  Thank you, Bobby, for being an ambassador for Bergantino Audio Systems.  We look forward to many more years of your music!

Rick Gauthier Jr.

Bergantino Artist Rick Gauthier Jr.

“Bergantino is one of those names, that within the industry is well known that this brand is one of the highest quality of products. There were not a lot of dealers around where I grew up and it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago at which I spent a lot of time working at Bass Club Chicago and had the opportunity to play every product down the line side by side and choose what was best for my ears. What I found with the side by side comparison is if you were to put a blindfold on and have someone play what you will find is with this product you get unparallel clarity and really true tone. No matter what bass you plug into a Bergantino amplifier you are going to hear that bass in its purest form. What I love about the Bergantino fortè and B|AMP is that what you hear is not colored…. It amplifies the instrument you are using in the clearest way possible. I find the same thing with Bergantino Cabs. Your products are clean, transparent, and beautiful. Some amps sound like the amp no matter what you plug in. That greasy SVT tone for example. That sound is the same playing a P or a Warwick or a Lakland. The Bergantino amplifiers let you sound like your specific instrument. You’ll hear your bass more clearly than you every thought possible. Pure, transparent, and clean.”

Location: Manchester, New Hampshire

Gear: Bergantino forte’, Bergantino HG410, Bergantino HDN112


Nick Drouin a country artist from New Hampshire and we just released our first record and it’s going really well. (

Romeo Dance Cheetah! It falls into the category of comedy rock. It’s a great time for everyone involved and really good music! We get to do very interesting things which makes it fun and it’s a talented group of people. (

Social Links:

Instagram: @rickeatsbacon

Rick Gauthier Jr. the bearded Bergantino Artist with the Super Colossal personality shares his bass story with us!

“Rick Eats Bacon” aka Rick Gauthier Jr. the bearded Bergantino Artist with the Super Colossal personality shares his bass story with us!

How did you get interested in the bass and when did you start playing bass?

Like so many others, I started out not desiring to play the bass. Most people from my generation remember how cool “Slash” looked with his Les Paul slung low, doing his ripping guitar solo standing on top of a piano with the spotlight on and his hair blowing back in the wind. Turns out I don’t have the hair to live that dream. I actually started off playing the drums and I was terrible at that. When I was in middle school I caused some trouble and got grounded….for a long time! My parents took my drums out of my room and the only thing I had left was this old guitar that we had bought for a buck at a yard sale. I taught myself how to play out of shear boredom. To be honest, I was pretty terrible at that too, but I enjoyed it. I played the guitar in different bands in middle school until I had a friend who needed a bass player. I wanted to play with these people and learned how to play the bass out of necessity for the sake of playing with this group. It just worked for me, and it wasn’t before long that I realized playing bass just connected with me. It turned out to be something I could do well. I felt comfortable, I felt like I belonged somewhere.

You have been playing bass for quite some time now almost twenty years- how did you get here?

Growing up, you hear people saying things like “find something you love to do and you will never have to work a day in your life”. I heard the words, but I never took the advice. I spent so many years playing bass as a hobby, and not a career. I was afraid if I relied on this for income, and it was not my choice, I would stop enjoying playing so much.  I thought it would not be fun anymore if it became an obligation and I never wanted that fire to die for me.  I spent many years working at a job that I hated and playing the bass on weekends just to make myself happy.  When I hit my mid 30’s I thought “if I do this right I can make this a career”, and it will be the best time of my life. Ironically, I’ll be the first to tell the young kids that same advice. Do what you love. Make that what matters.

Who were your influencers?

As a musician in general I am probably the biggest Chris Cornell fan on earth. Unfortunately he passed away last year which was very sad. As a bass player, a couple of the top guys I look up to include Tim Commerford with Rage Against the Machine, Chris Wolstenholme from the band Muse, and Pete Connors from The States. I really like a lot of the extremely flashy stuff. A lot of the stuff Victor Wooten lays down completely blows my mind. The more I learn how to do borderline outlandish things the better I can get at everything. There are not going to be a lot of occasions where I could make practical use of those skills with the crazy all over the board slap stuff and the kind of wild stuff that Les Claypool does. Those things are impressive and amazing and learning how to do them will only make me better, but I find that if I work hard on stuff that I am terrible at, focus on what I don’t do well, I can get better at things that I am already good at (the basics, staying in the pocket, giving the song what it needs).  I get a lot of influence from people and musicians who do things that are not particularly applicable to my world but I like going out of my comfort zone a lot, it helps me to figure out where I need to be.

How did you learn to play?

I taught myself. I picked up that cheap yard sale guitar that we got. I would hear things on the radio and just spend time figuring out how to match pitches and find the sound I was looking to find. I started with one note at a time. I followed the root of the songs. This was all before YouTube and internet were tools you could use to learn! I had to figure out how to get my fingers to cooperate and figure out the physical skills to get my right hand and left hand to cooperate with each other and to get the sound I wanted to hear. There’s just no substitute for putting the work in, spending the time with your instrument to really understand it inside and out. It’s a relationship. You can’t get more out than you put into it. You have to put those thousands of hours in behind the scenes.

Are there musicians in your family?

My father loves to tell the story of taking me fishing when I was young. I was a kid, I didn’t really get it, the appeal of fishing. I did love spending time with my dad and my brother out by the water. He’d work hard all week and be so happy to get out and relax with a fishing pole on the weekend. I was more interested in wrapping the hook back around the base of the pole and plucking the fishing line while changing the tension on it, trying to play songs on my fishing pole. My heart was in music before I knew what music would mean to me. My grandfather on my mother’s side was a fantastic guitar player as well.

How would you describe your playing style?

I have a very realistic view of what my role is in the world of music. I use my right hand to communicate with the drummer. I will match up and lock in with percussive things the drummer is doing and follow the bass drum as a root guideline. I communicate with the guitar player and singer with my left hand by finding the actual note. My style is whatever the band needs. Sometimes that means I am playing single notes at a time and staying very basic. Sometimes there is just a lot of space left to be filled into full chords and or melodically pull things apart a little bit to fill the space. My style changes depending on who I am playing with. A bass player’s role is to use your fingers to communicate with everyone around you and fill in the holes as needed. You need to listen more than anything else, figure out what the song needs, and adapt to the moment.

What styles of music are your favorite to play?

As I play bass professionally, I find myself spending a significant amount of time listening to music that I would not normally listen to. You have to learn songs for different bands and it’s like any other job in that way, some of the parts of the job you love and some you don’t. Every great job has tasks you won’t love. Sometimes you have to clean the toilet or wash the windows (which is how I view playing “Footloose”). I do like to play anything outside my comfort zone. I find that I am at my best when I am the most uncomfortable and I do my best work when I am the worst musician in a group because I HAVE to work harder.  I am forced to bring my “A” Game and I do!

What was the first bass you have ever owned?

I picked it up in the late 90’s and it was a four string Ibanez ATK. Basically a MusicMan style bass with a single pickup. I own three basses currently-I always have a functional use for more than three but that’s what I currently have in rotation.

My main instrument that I play 90% of the time is my Dingwall NG2.  It’s a five string and by far the most comfortable and most versatile bass I have ever played.  It is physically high quality enough to withstand being played every single day of the week and has every type of sound you could want in it. It has a Darkglass preamp onboard which is very strong, loud, and versatile. It has all of the different tone options for basic jazz, a MusicMan style Humbucker sound, a P neck type sound, and everything you could need in one package which is really cool. Being a multi-scale instrument the clarity you get out of this instrument is just unparallel.  I’m a huge fan of these basses, and Sheldon Dingwall is one of my favorite people on earth.

My second favorite is a semi vintage Fender “P Bass” that all bass players are required to have in your tool box! I run Labella flatwound strings and it has EMG pickups in it and is from the early 80’s. I use it for blues and country stuff. It has this really nice woody thud type of sound to it. If you really bite in hard with your right hand it gives you a very flat, cool, woody warm tone which I like a lot. It’s black with a white pick guard.

The last one is a Warwick Streamer Stage 2 and I considered it my dream bass growing up. When I first started playing bass P nut from the band 311 and Dirk Lance from the band Incubus both used this bass. I always wanted to have that exact sound and I love the look of this bass. I saved up and traded up for this and got the holy grail of basses. I have so many memories with this bass touring the country and it never let me down. I’ve had this for a long time and it’s going nowhere.

I also have a custom fretless being built by Simonetti Custom Basses. I am wildly excited about this one. Ray Simonetti makes some of the highest quality basses I have ever played and I’m really beyond happy about this bass!

How did you find out about Bergantino?

Bergantino is one of those names, that within the industry it’s well known that this is one of the highest quality of products. There were not a lot of dealers around where I grew up and it wasn’t until I moved to Chicago at which I spent a lot of time working at Bass Club Chicago and had the opportunity to play every product down the line side by side and choose what was best for my ears. What I found with the side by side comparison is if you were to put a blindfold on and have someone play what you will find is with this product you get unparallel clarity and really true tone. No matter what bass you plug into a Bergantino amplifier you are going to hear that bass in its purest form. What I love about the Bergantino fortè and B|AMP is that what you hear is not colored…. It amplifies the instrument you are using in the clearest way possible.  I find the same thing with Bergantino Cabs.  Your products are clean, transparent, and beautiful. Some amps sound like the amp no matter what you plug in. That greasy SVT tone for example. That sound is the same playing a P or a Warwick or a Lakland. The Bergantino amplifiers let you sound like your specific instrument. You’ll hear your bass more clearly than you every thought possible. Pure, transparent, and clean.

Tell me about the bands you have been with and who you are playing with now.

My current projects are as follows:

I play with Nick Drouin who is a country artist from New Hampshire and we just released our first record and it’s going really well. (

Romeo Dance Cheetah! It falls into the category of comedy rock. It’s a great time for everyone involved and really good music! We get to do very interesting things which makes it fun and it’s a talented group of people. (

I played with a band called the Vital Might and we toured throughout the NE through Maine to PA and upstate NY, SXSW from Texas where we got a record deal. This band was a huge part of my life those guys will always be family to me! (

I grew up in NH and recently moved back to NH to be closer to my family.

What’s the one song you love to play the most?

On the most recent Vital Might record there is a song called “I Found You”. During the chorus the band is unified and there is a part in the middle of the song where I play some higher register melodic things that really tie the song together in different ways. I get to showcase my skills with a variety of styles I play. I love the chords and love playing this song. (

Social media seems to be a very large passion of yours?

Social media has become an important part of the world and I enjoy the creativity of making something special out of it. I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about other people’s comments. I’ve realized that I have the ability to share my thoughts and network with other bass players and musicians that have many of the same passions that I do globally and have met some great people in doing so.  I do not take for granted my position within the bass community.  It’s more of an honor than I can explain to know that there people out there who want to advice from me. You can get great advice through the internet from others on product reviews, playing styles, etc.  Some good examples are my friends Andy Irvine and Patrick Hunter. These guys in very different ways use the internet to help other musicians learn about new gear, and show pros and cons of each piece of equipment.

What other passions do you have?

I am a Baseball fanatic and a complete statistics nerd! I love numbers! I like to cook and cook all kinds of stuff. I love to make pies….. a cinnamon apple pie with a bacon weaved top is one of my faves to make. It’s a crowd pleaser 🙂

“Rick Eats Bacon”- how did you get that nick name?

For some reason in the US bacon has become a thing….. One of my best friends and I would have an annual bacon party starting about 10 years ago. Everything we had was bacon related. Between us we probably had 10 pounds of bacon at an event for 5 people. Some things worked and some did not.  One of my friends froze bacon in ice cubes and we used in in our scotch. This was a really bad idea. We were bold! I am not unhealthy Harry here! I eat good food and just have fun with bacon! Nothing like the smell of bacon cooking!

What advice do you have for fellow bass players out there?

Say YES to everything. Go as far outside of your comfort zone as you can. Play with as many people as you can. Accept the challenges you don’t think you’re ready for. Do things that you don’t think you can do. If you’re a rock guy and someone wants you to go play country, go figure it out! Reggae? Rap? Bluegrass? If it’s not your thing, MAKE IT your thing. How do you get in to a groove sandwiched between a trombone and a banjo? You won’t know until you GO FOR IT. The more time you spend with your instrument, the better you will be at everything you do. Just keep playing, stay eager and stay positive. You’ll be amazed by what you didn’t know you were capable of 🙂



















Bergantino artist Fred Koogler shares his bass journey on how he got started and where he is today.

Bergantino artist Fred Koogler shares his bass journey on how he got started and where he is today.

At one point Fred thought he would never be able to play the bass again after suffering a heart attack. Fred shares his experiences from the past and present: “It’s a mentoring thing for me. We can all become a resource and channel to keep live music going in a really tough music environment. Live performance opportunities are tough everywhere these days. I’m at the legacy stage in life and I want to be remembered as that good guy who helped provide opportunities for people—especially in music.”

How did you get started playing the bass, and how old were you? 

I started playing guitar in 1963. I was 14 years old at the time and for me, it was the thing I had wanted to do since about age 12, but my family was of very ordinary means. There wasn’t money for instruments and lessons. But that was common to what was happening in a lot of families in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

I got a job washing dishes for 50 cents an hour and saved up enough money to buy a guitar by the end of the summer. My dad was a career military man. We were in Germany at the time and I was hearing a lot of music coming out of Britain and that’s what really did it for me. What was happening with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones motivated me to learn how to play guitar, and I got really interested in bass very shortly after listening to them.

I had been working on music with some guys who were older than me. They were young American enlisted airmen on an Air Force base. I would sneak out in the evening with that guitar, go down and sit in the barracks and watch these guys play … and they had a really good band. I got to be friends with them and interestingly enough they were playing R&B and soul music.

A couple of the guys were African-American and had a real feel for this type of music. They took an interest in me. When they played shows, they would let me bring my guitar up on stage and play along with them, but not plug in. Pretty soon I got good enough that they were calling me occasionally to sub for the guitar player when he was on duty. And that led to me subbing for them on bass as well. That is how it kind of all started for me.

I played with them in festivals and clubs around the country side and after about six months, I helped start a band with people my own age. This was in 1964. The band was called The Sadder Four and then later was re-named The Shadracks. During that time—it was the end of my junior year in high school—I ended up playing in two bands simultaneously over the summer and into 1965 and 1966. We traveled all over Germany, Luxembourg, and parts of France playing music on American and German military installations, summer and fall festivals and clubs, and in regular bars where German nationals and military people hung out.

Then it came time to graduate from high school. I returned to the United States in the summer of 1966 to go to college at age 17 and I had a band waiting for me. The second day I was back in the USA, I auditioned with that band and had a job before the end of the night. This is the first band that I played with that was later inducted into the Iowa Rock ’n’ Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame. The band was called the Yetti, later called the Yetti Blues Band. We had a lot of blues influence in the band, which was uncommon at that time. There used to be a ballroom circuit in the state of Iowa. We played in all of the ballrooms, as well as many other locations, and were usually on stage two to three times a week for full shows.

The second semester of my freshman year in college, I showed up to enroll for classes and then went on the road with the band until final exams. I did very poorly, but managed not to flunk out of school. I was on the road for about 16 weeks. It was a very busy, good, and popular group. I played both guitar and bass in that band.

Who were your influencers? 

“I didn’t really know a lot of the particulars about R&B, blues, and soul music, or noted players at that time. I just knew that I wanted to play those styles of music. I was also very tuned in to what was going on in Britain.

  • Paul McCartney early on was my first influence on bass.
  • Over the years
    • McCartney
    • Bill Wyman
    • Johnny B. Gayden is a name a lot of people are not familiar with for blues. He was the bass player for Albert Collins. Just a tremendous bass player!
    • James Jamerson and Bob Babbitt. They were the guys playing bass in the Funk Brothers back in Detroit and later in Los Angeles. Of course, when Jamerson died, Babbitt took his spot.Donald Duck Dunn

Why the blues? 

For me it’s where everything comes from and I remember being very moved by blues music or soul music when I was really quite young.

The first time I became aware of being tied very closely to music, I was probably 5 or 6 years old. I remember being in a church and hearing the organ and choir sing and I was crying. I have felt that way many times with music as I have heard things that have been particularly touching or moving to me.

With my dad being in the military, we were in the South quite a bit in the late 1950s and early 1960s. We were transferred back to Europe in 1963. I remember listening to radio stations during the time in the South. Blues, R&B, and soul music was called race music during those days. I was very moved by that style and feel, but couldn’t imagine that I would ever have a musical instrument at that time, so had no way to express myself through music.

“Much of Rock ‘n’ Roll is blues-based; country is also blues-based.  A lot of the music coming out of Europe in the 1960s was blues-based, particularly what the Rolling Stones were doing … early on, the Stones were thought they were a blues band [because they were so influenced by Muddy Waters and other first-generation blues artists in America]. A lot of the African-American blues players were flocking to Europe in the early 1960s to live and play because they were so subjected to the horrible Jim Crow laws in this country. They were not getting the respect they deserved and needed. Much of the time, they were playing to audiences that were segregated, sometimes by even physical barriers, and the players, themselves, were not treated well.

When these artists began to relocate to Europe, they became a big influence on British music, and other music that was coming out of Europe in the 1960s and 1970s.

What is your playing style?

“Nothing fancy. I’m a pretty steady groove player. I sometimes characterize my style, particularly in blues, R&B, and soul as “greasy.” I think the blues, R&B, and soul influences make me this way. I play slides, slips, and bends. I play with my fingers and I don’t use a pick. In fact, I seem to get confused on bass with a pick and I think I can be a lot more expressive with my fingers to get the sound and feel I want.

I prefer the “playing less is more” theory with bass. I try to key on specific phrases and find ways to be as expressive as I can within those phrases without being busy. I want people in the audience who are tuned in to me to not be overwhelmed by the number of notes I play, but to be sitting on the edge of their chair waiting for what is next in the piece we are playing. I like to keep them anticipating.

I am also foundational. My purpose is to click with the drummer, and together we create the groove for the singer and other players to dance on. I absolutely have no need to be a soloist.

How did you learn to play bass?

I am primarily self-taught. I have a good friend who is a great bass player and a retired music educator who helps me with “lessons” when I get stumped, hit a plateau, need someone to bounce things off of, or want to know more about theory. I always improve exponentially when I spend time with him. Lately we have been showing each other new things, but I am always better for having spent time with him.

Do you play any other instruments?

  • Guitar
  • Have dabbled in electric autoharp, bouzouki, and mandola, but play none of them well.

What styles of music are your favorite to play? 

  • Blues and old style R&B
  • British Invasion music
  • Early 1970s super group rock.

What was the first bass you owned?

“The first bass I played was an early 1960s Fender Jazz bass.

“The first bass I owned was a 1964 Hofner 500/1. It was a light sunburst. I actually bought two on the same day. I had a buddy who wanted to learn how to play bass. He didn’t have a job and I did, so I bought one for him and I bought one for myself, and then I taught him how to play it. He gradually paid me back from money we made playing shows in Germany. We are still friends and he still has that bass!

The first bass I used to record was a 1962 Fender Jazz bass in candy apple red. 

How many basses do you own?  

I currently own 13 basses, and I like them all. A couple of them are collectors, and I’m holding on to them as investments.

I had a heart attack in August of 2010. I actually died twice that evening and had to be resuscitated. In my recovery, I discovered that the basses I was playing were too heavy for me. I thought my bass playing career was going to be over as I lost 60% of my heart muscle in the attack. I did not get to the urgent care facility as quickly as I needed to, as I was on stage when it happened. There was a lot of confusion.

As I was rehabilitating, I was really concerned that my music life was going to be over. A friend knew a young luthier named Andrew Drake. My friend told me that Andrew was new at building basses but, that he builds basses that are really light. So, I called him.

We got together and he said he could help me. I bought a couple of basses from him that day and we became friends. He’s a supremely talented woodworker and master luthier. Everything he builds is just beautiful. I own seven custom basses by Andrew Drake and I love them all. Of the seven, Andrew and I designed four of them together. The necks on all four are hand-carved to my specifications, and are my favorites.

The rehabilitation from my heart attack went really well. I worked very hard. I still work out regularly and am really careful about diet and bad habits. I go to my cardiologist and electrophysiologist each once a year to have checkups and they now cannot detect that I had any heart damage at all. That is something that is not supposed to be medically possible, so I guess it is a miracle, and I’m alive for some purpose. Andrew saved my musical life. Literally!

How many bass amps and cabs do you own?  

I own four amps right now and I own a bunch of cabs. When I decided to go away from Ampeg to lighter weight rigs, the only thing that was on the market in my area was Mark Bass. It’s a great rig. I have a Mark rig for shows and a smaller one for my practice room at home.

About two years ago I decided to explore the possibility of using other light weight rigs and became very interested in Aguilar. I like their Tone Hammer 500 and SL 410x. It is quite lightweight and together this amp and cab have a great sound. The TH 500 can also be very vintage sounding. I then tried Aguilar’s AG 700, but didn’t like it as well as the TH 500, so I sold it. I also tried the Quilter Bass Block 800. I liked it, but not as much as the Tone Hammer.

I had heard quite a bit about Bergantino, so I got on the web site, saw the HG 310 cabinet, and really became interested in it, particularly with one of the speakers facing backward … which Jim developed to create a three-dimensional sound field. This thought about design made a lot of sense to me. I talked to Rick at Bass Club Chicago (both Rick and Mark are great guys) and asked if they had the cab and could ship me one. Rick told me that he did and could, but then told me he had played the HG 410 at NAMM and it was awesome. He said if I could wait a couple of weeks, he could get one for me. Being a 410 guy, I waited.

When the HG 410 arrived I played the Quilter BB 800 through it. I played the Aguilar TH 500 through it. I really liked the TH 500 better. But then I thought, man if you really like this so much, you need to buy the amp that is voiced for this cabinet. So, I went back to Bass Club, bought the Forté, and sold the Quilter. My preference is The Bergantino HG 410 with the Forté. I just love that combination. I’ve played it out several times now. There are always bass players in the audience, and they all compliment me on that amp. The guys in the band just love the Berg rig. They don’t want me to play anything else, so the Aggie has become my backup rig and the Mark is retired after about 700 shows.

Our band hosts a jam session every Sunday night. We provide all of the backline. We play a set, and then as musicians of various levels of skill start to filter in, we give them the stage. Des Moines has a very active music scene. People come in and support what we are doing. Invariably there are three to seven bass players there. They all play my rig and they just can’t get over how good they sound. Many of these players are sounding like they never sounded before with both the Bergantino and the Aguilar.

But in the past several weeks, I have gotten more compliments on the Berg and how it sounds from people who really know music. I am talking about bass players who have 35 years of experience and just love it. The Berg has become my go to rig.

The first few notes I played through the HG 410, I was just like wow … I’ve never heard anything like this and I was sold. I’m a tone nut. I’ve always chased tone and I have never had anything that is as clear, as articulate, and that hits as hard as the Berg does. Both the Forté and the HG410 are focused and big. They fill a room and, when properly set up, sit in the mix in just the right place. I know that’s what Jim intended when he engineered this equipment.

  • Mark Bass CMD 102 P with 102 HF extension cab….over 600 shows
  • Mark Bass CMD 121 P with New York 112 extension cab….studio and recording
  • Aguilar TH 500
  • Aguilar SL 410x
  • Pair of Aguilar SL 112s….for sale
  • Bergantino Forté
  • Bergantino HG 410

Right now I prefer the Bergantino.

The one song you love to play the most?

No particular one … anything with a strong groove, where the band says, “Turn that bass up!”

I do like to play Moon Dance as it’s got such a great walking bass line that you can mess around with and change up. The bass is absolutely the foundation of that song. There is also an old Rolling Stones song called Miss You that has this huge bass line that drives the song. Those lines, even though they’re relatively simple walking lines, if you play them with the right amount of air, they just groove so hard that you can’t beat it.

So, anything that grooves hard, that moves along, and the bass just keeps the song going and is absolutely essential.

The one you hate the most? 

I do not enjoy country music. I’ve had several offers to play in country bands, a couple just recently. I say no every time, because that style of music is just not fun for me.

Favorite Food?

Why is this question here? I like to eat badly but I can’t anymore. I am a chocoholic! But, I eat salads, fruit, vegetables, and white meat when I can. See Food- Eat Food, that’s me, I like everything, but to keep my health good, I have to be careful.

Favorite quote? 

“Be careful what you wish for.”

This has been a mantra of mine over the years. I try to be humble and this is a reminder for me about where I came from. I had a very successful business career for 47 years. It was good to me, because that career (I’m retired now, but my profession is musician) is what allows me the freedom to buy quality instruments and play music today. I understand what it’s like to not have much of anything, and to do without, and then work hard to move to the success I had in business. I think it’s good to have reminders about where you came from and this, “Be careful what you wish for” quote is an important reminder for me.


  • Two-time inductee to the Iowa Rock ‘n’ Roll Music Association’s Hall of Fame:
    • 2007 with the Yetti Blues Band for work on guitar and bass in 1966 and 1967
    • 2015 with The Inner Lite for work on bass in reforming the band for performance 2014 – 2017
  • Recognized as an Iowa Master Musician.

Live Music Band: Fred plays with “The Bluesdawgs” on Sundays  

This is an informal band, just three of us, a power trio and other people sit in with us as they are available. We really don’t play many shows anymore. We host a jam session in a small club (actually one of the Top 10 dive bars in the Universe) every Sunday night. Occasionally, we get requests to play at a beer joint or festival somewhere, but we are selective.

The biggest reason I continue to do this is that it helps keep the local live music scene alive, and gives musicians an opportunity to get on stage, play, and interact with other players. We have players come who have played with each other before, but much of the time players have to really be on their toes. You just never know who will show up and what they might want to play.

In the state of Iowa under age people can be in a drinking establishment until 9 p.m. We have a couple of 17-year-old kids showing up and jamming with us on Sunday nights. We get them to the stage at the end of our set to play two or three songs each time they show up. They feel great about it and get to go back to their high school buddies and share … probably gives them an edge with girls too.

Getting to play live music is tough everywhere right now. We get to mentor younger players….how cool is that? We manage our jam session an organized way and give all players, young, old, or in between exposure. I am more committed to this than being out in a band playing 100 plus gigs a year. I’ve done that scene, and, for me, providing the opportunity for other players now has priority. It’s part of that give back that I feel we all need to do.

I was a banker early in my business career. I started a financial planning and investment business, ran it for 20 years, and made positive differences in the lives of many people. My company got big enough that I lost the personal touch with clients because of the necessity to work with management and administrative things, which took all of the fun out of it for me, so I got out of it.

Now, I am retired and this gives me so much more time with music and helping others find themselves in music. There is also much more time with my wife and my dogs, which actually come before the music! 

Can you share the links your social links with us for this post?

Jam Band, The Bluesdawgs

Never know who will show up to play:

Andrew Drake is a wonderful luthier and human being.

Basses I designed / helped design: