Tom “T-Bone” Wolk

For today’s Know Your Player let’s look at the storied career of Tom “T-Bone” Wolk.  T-Bone was a fantastic session bassist as well as a sideman for many of the biggest acts of the last 25 years.  He worked with Hall and Oates, Elvis Costello, Carly Simon, Shawn Colvin, Cyndi Lauper, as well as many others.  A thorough discography of Wolk is here.  He was known as a hard grooving, versatile, and dynamic bass player.  Equally at ease with fingerstyle or using a pick, he had a signature tone, a great groove, and a playful way of winding lines through chord changes.

Wolk was also a fixture with G.E. Smith and the Saturday Night Live Band from 1985 – 1992.  That was an amazing house band and I’ve included some clips below.

T-Bone is known for his highly modified 1964 Fender Precision Bass and his 1981 Gibson Ripper Bass.

From Fender’s website:

Don't call me 'Coco'.

Don’t call me ‘Coco’.

T-Bone played a variety of basses depending on what was required but he is mainly remembered with his sunburst ’64 P-bass.  This was the bass he played most of the time on Saturday Night Live from the mid 80’s through early 90’s.  The most obvious mod to it was an added a DiMarzio white covered Jazz Bass pickup at the bridge, the jack was relocated to the lower bout in the same spot as 51 P-Bass/Telecaster guitar and of course the electronics had to be modified to make it all work.  As I recall he went with a stacked pot setup similar to the ’61 Jazz on it for volume.  There were two tone controls. 

Fender began making a Precision Bass with a jazz pickup at the bridge called the Precision Bass Special.  The bridge pickup gives the P Bass a punchier midrange, similar to a Jazz Bass.  Tom often uses that setting for both his P Bass and his 1981 Gibson Ripper Bass.

Sadly, Tom Wolk passed away on February 27, 2010, from a heart attack.  He will be missed.  Take some time and check out his bio here and a tribute website here.

Below are some of my favorite songs with Tom “T-Bone” Wolk on the bass guitar. (Pay special attention to “Private Eyes” – a classic 80’s video.  Tom is hilarious.)

With Hall and Oates:

“Sara Smile”

“Private Eyes”

“You Make My Dreams Come True”


With Elvis Costello:

“So Like Candy”


With Carly Simon:

“You’re So Vain”


With the Saturday Night Live Band:

One thought on “Tom “T-Bone” Wolk

  1. Henry Turner says:

    I definitely remember this guy from SNL and the Hall and Oates hits in the 80’s. Thanks for bringing his name to light. Even before I began playing bass, I dug his playing and style. I never really liked H & O, for obvious reasons, but thought he was hip.

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