Tuesday, May 09, 2017

He's Got The Bass - A Daughter Remembers Willie Kent

He's Got The Bass : My Life With Daddy
Valerie Fringero
2016: 92 pp. and 18 pp illustrations

It would be easy to dismiss this self-published short memoir for typos and occasionally clumsy grammar, but this memoir of blues bassist and band leader Willie Kent by his daughter Valerie is full of love for her father that brings his personality and character to life. One cannot think of any typo or spelling error that would totally confuse the reader as to what was meant. The value of this book is Valerie telling her story in her voice. She does refer to some of the musicians her father played with by first names and initially it may not be clear who she is referring to.

The first few pages of "He's Got The Bass" must be a dream (nightmare) that Willie Kent had as a youth growing up in Mississippi, and told his daughter. In the dream, he is fleeing for his life before being woken up. After presenting this dream, we are taken to his daughter's recollections of his father as a dad. How he provided for his family particularly before he became the band leader we most know him for, how he would discipline them, watching television together as well as moving to different homes as circumstances changed.

It is in the latter section of the text she addresses the father the musician and eventually band leader. One learns that coming back from Europe on an early tour there, Kent discovered that a guitarist on the trip had cheated him and this ended up breaking the relationship with this guitarist. I wonder if this individual might have been Willie James Lyons but Valerie often only provides first names for many of musicians. For example, she refers to Guy as a member of her father's band. After a few mentions, I realized she meant Guy King.

In recounting her memories of her father's musical activities, she also may present events out of actual order. The value of her memories though is the sense of the person Willie Kent was and how he was as a musician and band leader. He comes off as not only a solid bass player, but a very fair band leader, who when faced with discipline and similar matters acted in a restrained fashion as opposed to impulsively acting physically. There is also an appreciation of the recognitions he achieved during his life. Finally she deals with the sadness of her father's final days, but also reveals the love many had for him (and still do).

She was very proud of her father and after the conclusion of the text, there are a number of photos, clippings and proclamations included, although reproduction of some items is fuzzy.  I enjoyed so many of the recordings Willie Kent made and was fortunate enough to have seen him perform several times. If not essentail, I certainly enjoyed reading this. It is not often when we get to know a musician like Valerie helps us get to know her father. I purchased a printed copy of this and the paperback is listed at approximately $20.00 at some internet stores. The e-book version (for kindle or nook) is approximately $4.00.

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