With Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers currently in the midst of a massive North American tour, we've been lucky enough to get not one, but three Heartbreakers in the Reverb studio to talk about their playing styles.
Last week, we shared a video of lead guitarist Mike Campbell waxing poetic on his approach to vibrato and talking about some of his favorite vintage guitars. This week, original and current bassist Ron Blair talks us through how his musical background informed his up–on–the–neck playing style.
Blair's melodic bass style helped define Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers’ sound with the band’s first four albums from 1976 until his departure in 1982. As a foundational member of the band, he was always considered part of the Heartbreakers family, and resumed bass duties with the passing of Howie Epstein in 2002, shortly following a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony where Blair and Epstein switched off on stage.
Blair’s sense of rhythm, as he mentions in the video, is all about his interaction with the drums, and he cites old Stax recordings as inspiration for the slightly out–of–sync coordination that gives a rhythm section some life.
Blair plays a Hofner Violin Bass in the video, but is best known for playing a black Fender Jazz Bass.