Although the chances are you have never heard of her, the chances also are that you own at least a few records featuring Carol Kaye
and you have definitely
heard her playing.
Carol Kaye was the great session bass player of the 60s, part of the legendary Wrecking Crew (though she dislikes the term) - a loose conglomeration of studio musicians that also included Hal Blaine, Tommy Tedesco, Larry Knechtel, Glen Campbell and Dr. John.
Starting out as (in her own words) 'fourth call' as a studio guitarist working for producers like Bumps Blackwell, in 1963 she switched to bass and became the most sought after player in LA.
Carol Kaye worked with most of the great record producers (including Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and Tom Wilson) of the 60s as a guitarist and bassist. She played guitar on Freak Out! and Absolutely Free by Frank Zappa, played bass on the vast majority of the Beach Boys' hits (from Help Me Rhonda through Heroes & Villains, although she played guitar on earlier tracks), played bass on The Doors' records, and was on records by Simon and Garfunkel, Sonny and Cher, Nancy Sinatra and too many more to name. She also played on almost every record Phil Spector ever made.
In 1969 she more or less gave up playing on rock/pop material (although she has guested on records by people like the Wondermints since) in order to concentrate on her first love, jazz, and to play on film and TV soundtracks (she played on Bonanza, Shaft, M*A*S*H and Batman among others). She also teaches bass and writes tutorial books, as well as making her own albums.
Recently she has caused some controversy by claiming that many records (eg I Was Made To Love Her by Stevie Wonder) on Motown that were thought to be played by the Funk Brothers (Motown's house rhythm section) were actually played by the Wrecking Crew. Although many have disputed this, I tend to believe her - she has enough great records to her credit without adding more to the list.
Some classic albums featuring Carol Kaye's playing:
Pet Sounds - The Beach Boys
Forever Changes - Love
Freak Out! - Frank Zappa
Sounds Of Silence - Simon and Garfunkel
A Christmas Gift For You - Phil Spector
Some info sourced from David Leaf's liners for the Pet Sounds box set. Other info from www.carolkaye.com or from message board/mailing list posts by Ms Kaye herself