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Entwistle in 1976
|Birth name||John Alec Entwistle|
|Also known as||The Ox, Thunderfingers, The Quiet One|
|Born||9 October 1944
Chiswick, London, England
|Died||27 June 2002 (aged 57)
Paradise, Nevada, United States
|Genres||Rock, hard rock|
|Occupations||Musician, songwriter, record producer, musical arranger|
|Instruments||Bass guitar, french horn, vocals, keyboards, trumpet, double bass, guitar, harmonica, jaw harp, bugle|
|Associated acts||The Who, The John Entwistle Band, Ringo Starr & His All-Starr Band, Gov't Mule, Led Zeppelin, Tipton, Entwistle & Powell|
Status Graphite Buzzard
Fender "Frankenstein" Precision Bass
John Alec Entwistle (9 October 1944 – 27 June 2002) was an English musician, songwriter, singer, and film and record producer who was best known as the bass player for the rock band The Who. He was the only member of the band with formal musical training. His aggressive lead sound influenced many rock bass players. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Who in 1990.
Entwistle's lead instrument approach used pentatonic lead lines, and a then-unusual trebly sound ("full treble, full volume") created by roundwound RotoSound steel bass strings. He had a collection of over 200 instruments by the time of his death, reflecting the different brands he used over his career: Fender, Danelectro, and Rickenbacker basses in the 1960s, Gibson and Alembic basses in the 1970s, Warwick in the 1980s, and Status all-Carbon fibre basses in the 1990s. In 2011, a Rolling Stone reader poll selected him as the Greatest Bassist of All Time.
Birth and early career 
John Alec Entwistle was born in 1944 into a musical family in Chiswick, a London suburb. His father Herbert played trumpet and his mother, Queenie Maud Johns Entwistle (29 November 1922 – 4 March 2011), played piano. His parents' marriage failed soon after he was born, and Entwistle was mostly raised by his grandparents. He attended Acton County Grammar School and joined the Middlesex Youth Orchestra. His initial music training was on trumpet, french horn and piano, all three of which would feature in his later rock compositions.
In the early 1960s, Entwistle played in several traditional jazz and Dixieland outfits. He formed a duo called The Confederates with schoolmate Pete Townshend, and later joined Roger Daltrey's band The Detours, playing a major role in encouraging Townshend's budding talent on the guitar, and insisting that Townshend be admitted to the Detours as well. After changes in personnel, Daltrey had fired all members of his band with the exception of Entwistle, Townshend, and the drummer, Doug Sandom, although it was only because he had not yet found a drummer with sufficient talent to replace him. Upon the entry of Keith Moon to the band, Daltrey relinquished the role of guitar to Townshend, becoming frontman and lead singer in the band, while the band considered several changes of name, temporarily performing as the High Numbers, and finally settling on the name The Who. When the band decided that the blond Daltrey needed to stand out more from the others, Entwistle dyed his naturally golden hair black, and it remained so until the early 1980s. Around 1963 Entwistle played in a London band called The Initials for a short while; the band split when a planned resident engagement in Spain fell through.
Entwistle picked up two nicknames during his tenure as a musician. He was nicknamed "The Ox" because of his strong constitution and seeming ability to "eat, drink or do more than the rest of them." He was also later nicknamed "Thunderfingers". Bill Wyman, bassist for the Rolling Stones, described him as "the quietest man in private but the loudest man on stage". Entwistle was one of the first to make use of Marshall stacks in an attempt to hear himself over the noise of his bandmates, who famously leapt and moved about on the stage, with Townshend and Moon smashing their instruments on numerous occasions. (Moon even employed explosives in his drum kit during one memorable TV performance). Townshend later remarked that Entwistle started using Marshalls in order to hear himself over drummer Moon's rapid-fire drumming style, and Townshend himself also had to use them just to be heard over Entwistle. They both continued expanding and experimenting with their rigs, until (at a time when most bands used 50–100 watt amplifiers with single cabinets) they were both using twin Stacks with new experimental prototype 200 watt amps. However, no matter what was taking place on stage, Entwistle stood by calmly and quietly, while plucking the strings very fast, in what was later described as his "typewriter" technique of playing, which earned him the name "Thunderfingers" by his bandmates and some fans of the Who. The band had a strong influence on the equipment of their contemporaries at the time, with Cream and the Jimi Hendrix Experience both following suit. Although they pioneered and directly contributed to the development of the "classic" Marshall sound (at this point their equipment was being built/tweaked to their personal specifications), they would only use Marshalls for a couple of years. Entwistle eventually switched to using a Sound City rig in search of his perfect sound, with Townshend following suit later as well. Townshend points out that Jimi Hendrix, their new label mate, was influenced beyond just the band's volume. Both Entwistle and Townshend had begun experimenting with feedback from the amplifiers in the mid-1960s, and Hendrix had not begun destroying his instruments until after he had witnessed The Who's "auto-destructive art".
Entwistle's wry and sometimes dark sense of humour clashed at times with Townshend's more introspective work. Though he continued to contribute material to all of The Who's albums, with the exception of Quadrophenia, his frustration with having his material recorded by the band, only to relinquish the position of vocalist to Daltrey, was a large part of the reason he became the first member of the band to release a solo record, Smash Your Head Against the Wall (1971). The only member of the band to have had formal training, he contributed backing vocals and performed on the French horn (heard in "Pictures of Lily"), trumpet, bugle, and jaw harp, and on some occasions (generally at least once per album and concert), lead vocalist on his compositions, the only exceptions being the first verse of "Happy Jack" and Ivor's part on "A Quick One, While He's Away". Examples are on Tommy, ("Cousin Kevin", "Fiddle About"), on the live favourite "Heaven and Hell", and on Who's Next ("My Wife"). He layered several horns and performed all pieces to create the brass as heard on songs such as "5:15", among others, while recording the Who's studio albums, and for concerts, arranged a horn section to perform with the band. In concert, Entwistle was content to stand quite still beside the uproar onstage, delivering dense and high-energy body to the music, but taking the spotlight only when singing lead. The exception was blinding illumination of his roaring solo notes in opening "Pinball Wizard".
Entwistle also experimented throughout his career with "bi-amping," where the high and low ends of the bass sound are sent through separate signal paths, allowing for more control over the output. At one point his rig became so loaded with speaker cabinets and processing gear that it was dubbed "Little Manhattan," in reference to the towering, skyscraper-like stacks, racks and blinking lights.
His "full treble, full volume" approach to bass sound was originally supposed to be captured in the bass solo to "My Generation". According to Entwistle, his original intention was to feature the distinctive Danelectro Longhorn bass, which had a very twangy sound, in the solo, but the strings kept breaking. Eventually, he recorded a simpler solo using a pick with a Fender Jazz Bass strung with LaBella tapewound strings. This solo bass break is important as it is one of the earliest bass solos (if not the first) captured on a rock record. A live recording of The Who exists from this period (c. 1965), with Entwistle playing a Danelectro on "My Generation", giving an idea of what that solo would have sounded like.
Late career 
In 1990 he toured with The Best, a short-lived supergroup which also included Keith Emerson, Joe Walsh, Jeff "Skunk" Baxter and Simon Phillips. Toward the end of his career, he formed "The John Entwistle "Project"" with longtime friend, drummer Steve Luongo, and guitarist Mark Hitt both formerly of Rat Race Choir. Out of that came "The John Entwistle Band". Godfrey Townsend replaced Mark Hitt on guitar and took over lead vocals. In 1996, the band went on the "Left for Dead" tour with Alan St. Jon on keyboards. After Entwistle toured with the Who for Quadrophenia in 1996–97, the Entwistle band set off on the "Left for Dead – the Sequel" tour in late 1998, now with Gordon Cotten on keyboards. After this second venture, the band released an album of highlights from the tour, called Left for Live. In 1995 Entwistle also toured and recorded with Ringo Starr in one of the incarnations of Ringo's "All-Starr Band". This one also featured Billy Preston, Randy Bachman, and Mark Farner. In this ensemble, he played and sang "Boris the Spider" as his Who showpiece, along with "My Wife". Towards the end of his career he used a Status Graphite Buzzard Bass, which he designed. From 1999 to early 2002, he played as part of the Who. As a side project, he played bass in a country-rock album project of original songs called the Pioneers, with Mickey Wynne on lead guitar, Ron Magness on rhythm guitar and keyboards, Roy Michaels, Andre Beeka on vocals and John Delgado doing drums. The album was released on Voiceprint Records. Shortly before his death, Entwistle had agreed to play some US dates with the band including Nashville's Grand Ole Opry, following his final upcoming Who tour.
In 2001 he played in Alan Parsons' Beatles tribute show "A Walk Down Abbey Road". The show also featured Ann Wilson of Heart, Todd Rundgren, David Pack of Ambrosia, Godfrey Townsend on guitar, Steve Luongo on drums, and John Beck[disambiguation needed] on keyboards. Between that tour and his prior tour with Ringo, Entwistle joked that he had played "Yellow Submarine" more often than Paul McCartney. That year he also played with The Who at The Concert for New York City. He also joined forces again with "The John Entwistle Band" for an 8 gig tour. This time Chris Clark was on Keyboards. In January – February 2002 John played his last concerts with the Who in a handful of dates in England, the last being 8 February in London's Royal Albert Hall. In late 2002, an expanded 2-CD Left for Live Deluxe was released, highlighting the John Entwistle Band performances.
John Entwistle died in hotel room 658 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on 27 June 2002 one day before the scheduled first show of The Who's 2002 US tour. He had gone to bed that night with a stripper/groupie, Alycen Rowse, who woke at 10 am to find Entwistle cold and unresponsive. The Clark County medical examiner determined that death was due to a heart attack induced by cocaine. His funeral was held at St Edward's Church in Stow-on-the-Wold, Gloucestershire, England, on 10 July 2002. He was cremated and his ashes were buried privately. A memorial service was held on 24 October at St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Trafalgar Square, London. Entwistle's enormous collection of guitars and basses was auctioned at Sotheby's in London by his son, Christopher, to meet anticipated duties on his father's estate.
His mansion in Stow-on-the-Wold in the Cotswolds and a number of his personal effects were later sold off to meet the demands of the Inland Revenue; coincidentally, Entwistle worked for the agency in 1962-63, prior to joining the Who. While the band – including Entwistle and Moon – recorded with a multitude of instruments, they always performed as a four-piece band. Following Moon's death, he was replaced not only by Small Faces/Faces drummer Kenney Jones and later Simon Phillips and then Zak Starkey (son of Ringo Starr), but The Who also added keyboardist John "Rabbit" Bundrick to the live band. Similarly, when Entwistle died, his place in the live band was filled by Pino Palladino, with second guitarist Simon Townshend (Pete Townshend's brother) having been added at rehearsals just weeks before Entwistle's death.
One aspect of Entwistle's life emerged after his death that came as a surprise even to those closest to him, and to the members of the Who. "It wasn't until the day of his funeral that I discovered that he'd spent most of his life as a freemason", said Townshend.
Welsh-born bassist Pino Palladino, who played on several of Townshend's solo records, took over for Entwistle on stage when the Who resumed their postponed US tour on 1 July 2002. Townshend and Daltrey spoke at length about their reaction to Entwistle's death. Some of their comments can be found on The Who Live in Boston DVD. Geddy Lee of Rush, dedicated their performance of the song "Between Sun and Moon" to Entwistle on the opening night of their Vapor Trails tour which began the following night on 28 June 2002 in Hartford, Connecticut.
Entwistle's technique ranged from using fingers, plectrum and tapping to using harmonics in his passages. He would change the style of play between songs and even during songs to change the sound he produced. His fingering technique would involve pressing down on the string hard and releasing in an attempt to reproduce a trebly, twangy sound. Note, however, that he would change his thumb position from pick-up to the E string and occasionally even allowing his thumb to float near the pick-up. His plectrum technique would involve holding the plectrum between his thumb and forefinger, with the rest of his fingers outstretched for balance.
Entwistle's playing style was rarely captured well in the studio. He was better heard in concert, where he and Townshend frequently exchanged roles, with Entwistle providing rapid melodic lines and Townshend anchoring the song with rhythmic chord work. Indeed, Townshend noted that Entwistle did the rhythmic timekeeping in the band, fulfilling the role of the drummer. Moon, on the other hand, with all his flourishes around the kit, was like a keyboard player. In 1989, Entwistle pointed out that, according to modern standards, "The Who haven't a proper bass player."
Entwistle also developed what he called a "typewriter" approach to playing the bass. It involved positioning the right hand over the strings so all four fingers could be used to tap percussively on the strings, causing them to strike the fretboard with a distinctive twangy sound. This gives the player the ability to play three or four strings at once, or to use several fingers on a single string. It allowed him to create passages that were very percussive and melodic. He used this approach to mimic the fills used by his drummers in band situations, sometimes sending the fills back at the drummers faster than the drummers themselves could play them.
This method is unique and should not be confused with the hammer-on tapping techniques of Eddie Van Halen and Stu Hamm or the slapping technique of Larry Graham, and in fact pre-dates these other techniques. However, modern players such as Ryan Martinie use similar techniques. A demonstration of this approach to bass playing can be seen on a video called John Entwistle – Master Class, part of Arlen Roth's Hot Licks instructional series, as well as Mike Gordon's film, Rising Low, where Entwistle can be seen frequently using his fore, middle, and ring fingers on his right hand when playing. This allowed him to create "clusters of notes" in his bass lines, as well as play triplets with relative simplicity. Notable in his left-handed technique is his use of slides, positioning the left hand for octaves and his use of the pentatonic scale.
Entwistle identified his influences as a combination of his school training on French horn, trumpet, and piano (giving his fingers strength and dexterity). Musicians who influenced him included rock & roll guitarists Duane Eddy and Gene Vincent, and American soul and R&B bassists such as James Jamerson. In turn, Entwistle has been a massive influence on the playing styles and sounds used by generations of bass players that have followed him, including Geezer Butler, Steve Harris, Matt Freeman, Krist Novoselic, Ian Hill, Geddy Lee, Billy Sheehan, Victor Wooten, Tom Petersson, Sam Rivers, and Chris Squire. Entwistle continues to top 'best ever bass player' polls in musicians magazines. In 2000, Guitar magazine named him "Bassist of the Millennium" in a readers' poll. J. D. Considine ranked Entwistle #9 on his list of "Top 50 Bass Players". He was named the second best bassist on Creem Magazine's 1974 Reader Poll Results. In 2011, a Rolling Stone reader poll selected him as the #1 bassist of all time.
This is a list of Entwistle's amps and guitars in chronological order of which he used them:
- Fender Precision Bass (sunburst, refinished to white in 1965)
- Gibson EB-2 semi-acoustic bass (natural)
- Mosrite Ventures bass
- Danelectro long-horn bass
- Fender Jazz Bass (sunburst)
- Rickenbacker 4001S bass
- Gretsch 6070 hollow body bass
- Gibson EB-3 bass
- Fender Bass VI
- Vox Cougar Sidewinder IV V272 bass in a burgundy-grain finish
- Custom "Axe" Jazz bass – seen using one with a thunderbird neck in Tommy
- Custom-made "Spider" bass
- Fender Precision Bass (slab body) in Olympic White, with maple neck
- Sunburst Fender Precision Bass with rosewood fretboard and tortise shell pickguard
- "Frankenstein" Fender Precision Bass with maple neck (made from several different Fender basses, and Entwistle's main stage and studio bass from 1967–71)
- Vox Violin bass
- Fender Precision Bass with rosewood fingerboard (black)
- Rickenbacker 4005 hollow body bass
- Gibson Thunderbird IV bass (both "Reverse" and "Non-Reverse"-styles)
- "Fenderbird" basses (consisted of Gibson Thunderbird bodies (mostly "non-reverse" styles) and maple Fender Precision bass necks)
- Rickenbacker 4005LS "Lightshow" hollow body bass
- Alembic Series I basses
- Fender "Explorer-Bird" (studio only)
- Rickenbacker 4001 prototype 8-string bass (white)
- Alembic Series I Exploiter basses, 4 and 8-string
- Custom Peter Cook "Lightning Bolt" bass
- Modulus Buzzard graphite bass (with Warwick body, green)
- Warwick custom Buzzard JE
- Alembic Spyder bass
- Status Graphite JE Buzzard bass
- Smash Your Head Against the Wall (1971)
- Whistle Rymes (1972)
- Rigor Mortis Sets In (1973)
- Mad Dog (1975)
- Too Late the Hero (1981)
- The Rock (1996)
- Music from Van Pires (2000)
See also 
- johnentwistle.com Bassist of the Millennium
- Rolling Stone
- Martin Hickman, Stripper found Entwistle dead after heart attack triggered by cocaine, The Independent, 12 December 2002, Accessed 6 February 2009.
- Caesar Caruana (10 November 2011). "Quadrophenia was nearly "the end", says Pete Townshend". MusicRadar.com. Retrieved 2 January 2012.
- Official Band Gigography webpage
- Guitar Player's Chris Jisi in 1989
- Standing in the Shadows of Motown: The James Jamerson Story
- http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p61332 Geezer Butler: AllMusic Biography
- http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p97364 Geddy Lee: AllMusic Biography
- http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p26954 Billy Sheehan: AllMusic Biography
- http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p139737 Victon Wooten: AllMusic Biography
- http://www.allmusic.com/artist/p220712 Tom Petersson: AllMusic Biography
- Soocher, Stan: "Squire's bass fire", Circus Weekly, 13 March 1979, 33.
- Guitar – Bassist of the Millennium
- J.D. Considine Picks the Top 50 Bass Players
- 1974 Reader poll results. Creem.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: John Entwistle|
- John Entwistle Photo Galleries
- The John Entwistle Foundation
- The Who's Marshall history
- John's gear reference