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Herbie Flowers (born Brian Keith Flowers, 19 May 1938, in Isleworth, Middlesex) is an English musician specialising in bass guitar, double-bass and tuba. He is noted as a member of Blue Mink, T. Rex and Sky and as one of Britain's best-known session bass-players, having contributed to recordings by Elton John (Tumbleweed Connection etc.), David Bowie (Space Oddity/Diamond Dogs), Lou Reed (Transformer (album) including the prominent bass line of "Walk on the Wild Side"), Roy Harper, David Essex, Allan Clarke, Al Kooper, Harry Nilsson (including bass on "Jump into the Fire"), Cat Stevens, Serge Gainsbourg and George Harrison: he also played bass on Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds. By the end of the 1970s Flowers had played bass on an estimated 500 hit recordings.
Herbie Flowers began his musical training in 1956 when conscripted into the Royal Air Force: electing at first to serve for nine years as a bandsman playing tuba. He took up double bass as a second instrument to secure his 'junior technician' stripe, and later moved to electric bass. After completing his military service he passed through the line-ups of several Dixieland jazz bands in the early '60s, then discovered modern jazz. In 1965 he was engaged as a bandsman on the ocean liner Queen Elizabeth. In New York, after hearing a jazz electric bass in a night club, he acquired his own solid-body electric instrument, a Lake Placid Blue 1960 Fender Jazz Bass that he purchased from Manny's in New York City for $79.
Later in the 1960s Flowers began to acquire his reputation as a session player, working for record producers such as Shel Talmy, Mickey Most, Steve Rowland, Richard Perry, Gus Dudgeon, and Tony Visconti.
In 1969 Flowers was a founding member of the group Blue Mink and played on their song "Melting Pot", which reached No. 3 in the UK Singles Chart. He was a member of CCS, and later featured in a mid-1970s line-up of T. Rex. In 1979, shortly after taking part in the annual A Song For Europe contest, performing "Mr. Moonlight" with his group, "The Daisies", he became a co-founder of the band Sky, which had considerable success in the United Kingdom and Australia.
Flowers is also known for having composed the novelty hit "Grandad" for Clive Dunn. According to Flowers, he came up with it after following an easy primer book on composing. All he needed was a hook, and he was struggling to come up with anything. He phoned a friend (Ken Pickett) who came round, ringing the doorbell, and the ding-dong from the doorbell provided the hook he needed.
Perhaps Flowers' most famous bass line is the one he created for Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" from Transformer (1972), the only song by Reed to reach the Top 20 in the U.S.
Since Sky's demise in the early 1990s Flowers has spent most of his time playing jazz. He also worked as a bass guitar teacher at Ardingly College, and leads many 'Rockshops' at schools, helping young people to create and perform their own songs, as well as covering many others. In September 2009 Herbie founded a community choir "Shoreham Singers-by-Sea" which has in excess of 150 members; followed in September 2010 by the Ditchling Singers.
- 1975: Plant Life (Philips)
- 1980: A Little Potty (EMI)
- 1981: Herbie's Stuff (KPM)
- 2012: A Jazz Breakfast (HF15)
- 1970: Lincoln County (Polydor)
- 1973: Tramp / Flanker (Polydor)
- 1975: Mouth / Hi! It's Herbie Flowers (Philips)
- 1975: Dancing at Danny's / Mathematics (Philips)
- 1977: Jubilee / News (EMI)
- 1978: Don't Take My Bass Away / I Want to Be with You (EMI)
- 1979: Mr. Moonlight / I Want to Be with You (EMI)
- 1980: The Whale / Just for You (EMI)
- 1980: Burlington Bertie (Tramp) / Big George (EMI)
- 1981: Tuba Smarties / The Bathroom Song (Ariola)
- 1983: I Love 'er / Meet Me on The Corner (Magic)
- "Herbie Flowers at ARTISTdirect.com – Free Herbie Flowers Music Videos, Downloads, News, Biography, MP3, Lyrics and More". Artistdirect.com. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
- "An interview with Herbie Flowers". Saga. Retrieved 2011-07-08.
- On the BBC Radio 2 show Jammin'