Charlie Chadwick on Bass: No one else sounds like him

To me, there is talent, and there is EXTREME talent. When you see a particular stage or screen actor, and their performance is so singular, you can’t imagine anyone else in that role… that’s extreme talent.

When you stroll through a museum, see painting, and recognize an artist, just by the style, that’s extreme talent. Today, when I see a building, designed by architect, Frank Gehry, I know it, immediately.

I didn’t know the name of the artist/sculptor who created the glass-masterpiece for the lobby ceiling in The Bellagio. Now, I recognize Dale Chihuly‘s work, anywhere (and I’ve seen it, in person, from Milwaukee to The Bahamas).

Flashback to 1974, and a band called Poppeye. A 6-piece soul/funk/horn band invaded Tucson, Arizona, and dominated the live nightclub circuit in the Southwest and Southern California, for the next few years.

Playing funk such as Gimme Some More (The JBs) and N.T. (Kool and the Gang). A supremely talented group of musicians; and in particular, their bass player, Charlie Chadwick. He played a 6-string fretless bass guitar. Since Poppeye was not a jazz group, fretless bass was an unusual choice of instrument… until you heard him play.

His precision, soul, thump, and tone were something to behold.

About a year after hearing Charlie for the first time, there were some ‘personnel changes’. He joined a Phoenix-based band called Mr. Clean & The Clean Machine, led by Ollie McClay. Ollie was a heavily muscled singer,sax player, and band leader… with charisma to spare… He still performs today, based in Portland, Oregon, chiseled as ever.

I continued to follow Poppeye and Mr. Clean, in person, until I moved to San Francisco in 1976. Then, seeing their live performances was a rare treat.

Around 1980, I was on a weekend trip to Lake Tahoe, in Caesar’s Tahoe, strolling across the casino floor. With my back to the lounge, quite a distance from it, I heard the music and stopped dead in my tracks.

The voice in my head, said: 

“I only know one person that play’s bass like that; Charlie Chadwick.”

I did a 180, went to the lounge, and there was Charlie on the bandstand. We connected on the break, and then I told him, “I didn’t SEE you, I HEARD you.”

…. after that evening I lost track of Charlie again, this time for close to three decades. I had found some of my other friends from Poppeye and decided to see if I could find Charlie through Google or social media. In minutes, I had found his website and was watching video of him on YouTube.

When I met Charlie, he called San Diego home. Today, he lives in Nashville, Tennessee,  with his wife, singer/songwriter, Laurie McClain.

Charlie plays fretless basselectric bass and upright bass, in addition to being a producer and studio engineer.

His musical horizons have widened considerably… his resume of collaborations, substantial.

Introducing… The Folding Bass

As a traveling upright bass player, it made sense to Charlie to simplify the chore of lugging such a large and awkward instrument.

Why not create a folding upright bass? – Indeed, why not?

In this interview, you’ll hear the soft-spoken and humble Charlie Chadwick describe his musical exploits, define the essence of being a music professional, and demonstrate his portable musical invention, the folding bass (demonstration, including assembly – no-tools-required – and performance).

Andy Ebon
First Generation New Yorker

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