Most bass players have heard Bernard Odum, they just don’t know his name. If you’ve heard James Brown’s band from the mid 60’s, then you’ve heard Bernard.
Bernard Odum (1932 – August 17, 2004) was an US bass guitar player best known for performing in James Brown’s band in the 1960s.
Odum started playing with Brown in 1956 and became a full-time member of Brown’s band in 1958. He worked in the James Brown band until the end of the 1960s, and played on such hits as “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag” (1965), “I Got You (I Feel Good)” (1965), “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World” (1966), and “Cold Sweat” (1967).
In 1969, Odum and most of the other musicians in Brown’s band walked out on him over a pay dispute and other issues, prompting Brown to create a new backing band, The J.B.’s. In 1970, Odum briefly joined Maceo Parker’s group, Maceo & All the King’s Men, appearing on the album Doin’ Their Own Thing.
Bernard Odum played a 1956 Fender Precision Bass, strung with flatwound strings, throughout most of his career. He also played a Vox “teardrop” bass as well as a 120 watt Westminster 1×18 bass combo amp when Brown and his band gained an endorsement from Vox towards the end of 1965.
Odum died of kidney failure at the age of 72 in his hometown of Mobile, Alabama.
Odum gets his big tone from a 56 P Bass with flatwounds. Standard issue for the funk/soul players of the era. If you want that sound, get a Precision bass and put some heavy flatwounds on it.
Odum was one of Jaco’s favorite bass players. Mark Egan said in an interview that when he took lessons with Jaco at the University of Miami that Jaco would play the Maceo and All the Kings Men record as an example of ‘where it’s at’.
With James Brown:
“I Got You”
“Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”
With Maceo and All the King’s Men (CHECK THIS OUT!!):
“Got to Getcha”
If you like this style, be sure and check out George Porter, Jr and Duck Dunn in future know your player articles.