WITH OVER 100 SATISFIED TRAVELING
bassists now using his revolutionary folding upright,
Nashvillian Charlie Chadwick has secured a place in the
history of the instrument. A few years ago, Nashville
session great Dave Pomeroy broke the news of this
innovation in these very pages. Now it’s time to let
readers know a little more about the man himself.
Charlie is obviously a talented inventor, but those of
us who live here in Music City also know him as an
extraordinary, well-rounded player at home not only in
the jazz idiom, but in roots music in general. Chadwick
also maintains a busy session schedule as an engineer/
producer in his own home studio, with dozens of
records to his credit. I talked with Charlie in his home-
You grew up in San Diego. Did you start out on
No, I started out on electric bass, playing blues and
rock & roll. As I evolved, I found myself listening to more
jazz and progressive music. I landed some gigs with a
bandleader and sax player in San Diego by the name of
Joe Morrello, and I had to learn standards, mostly on fretless. Around that
time, I heard the Bill Evans Trio’s
Village Vanguard records with Scott LaFaro, and the
sound of LaFaro’s upright just blew my mind! That’s
when I knew that if I was going to continue in that
direction, I really needed to start getting into upright. I
bought an 1890s Knilling flatback, and off I went.
What inspired your move to Nashville?
Some of my peers in the San Diego area—Nathan
East and Cliff Almond, to name a couple—had become
successful and gone on to bigger gigs. Their success
made me realize that it was possible to move everything
into the national arena. I just wanted to get out and see
the world and play with bigger acts. I realized that in
order to do that, I had to move to L.A., New York, or
Nashville. I’m not sure why I chose Nashville; it just
felt right. After I got here, I met Dave Pomeroy, and he
steered me into who and what I should be listening to,
and it’s worked out just fine for me.
What were your first few gigs like in town?
Dave let me know right away that in Nashville, the
song and songwriters were king. Before that, I always
looked at lyrics as if they were what took up space
between the playing! I now know otherwise. I learned the other side of bass
playing—support for the tune and the
soloists. I started gigging with local songwriters like Kenny
Walker and Nick Pelligrino. I can’t stress how important this is
and was. It leads to sessions and gigs.
You’ve also had a few big country gigs as well.
I’ve been very lucky to have toured and recorded with some
amazing artists: Pam Tillis, Crystal Gayle, and Shelby Lynn, to
name a few. I’m now working with the great Suzy Bogguss in a
cool little trio.
I personally love your work in the realm of Gypsy jazz,
in particular, with John Jorgensen’s Gypsy jazz band.
How did you end up so adept at that?
I began working with a local Gypsy group, the Gypsy
Hombres, and I just fell in love with that style. It really set me
up for my gig with John Jorgensen. I played in that group for
five years. It was awesome to travel the world with such a great
group of players.
Was this road work what inspired your folding bass?
Absolutely! I was doing an appearance on Jay Leno, and the
rental bass that they brought me was so hideous, that it just pissed me off . I
knew that somehow, some way, I could build
something that would make my life better and more consistent
on the road. I wasn’t a fan of electric uprights. So, I began taking
basses apart, trying to rebuild them into a travel bass that was a
real bass. The turning point was when I came up with the idea of
folding the neck into the body of the bass instead of removing it.
Then I hooked up at a NAMM Show with bass maker Sam Shen,
who was so intrigued that he helped me by providing basses for
me to destroy!
You’ve shown a willingness to incorporate ideas
provided by your customers. How important is that to
Very—a lot of my design improvements have come from stuff
that happens to my customers. With the brutality of air travel,
things break. When they do, I try to find a way to make them
better and more durable. It’s a policy of mine to retrofit all of my
basses with these improvements. I’ve only had two people return
their basses, but only because they were not carved tops—they
just missed that sound. Well, guess what? That’s now my next
project, a carved-top folding bass!
CHADWICK FOLDING BASS
Barry Bales, Charles
Humphrey III, Alan
Duchess, 2011]; Leon
& Love Songs [Leon
Upright basses Various
Bass (on the road),
Unknown carved bass,
1890s Knilling carved
Electric basses Custom
fretless 4-string with
TRB5 with Bartolini
pickups and Aguilar
preamp, Fender 50th
P-Bass, Höfner 500/1
Rig Fishman Full Circle
pickup and Shure
SM98 mic blended
through a Headway
preamp, and on to
an Eden Traveler
(or whatever rig is