South Carolina film company is on a mission to find out
Story by Jon Liebman | July 3, 2014
If you’re a legendary, history-making bass hero, you’d better hold on to your bass or it just might get swiped!
A lot of attention has been given of late to Metallica’s Robert Trujillo for the leadership role he took in acquiring the famous “Bass of Doom,” once belonging to bass innovator Jaco Pastorius, after the whereabouts of the instrument had remained unknown for some twenty-plus years. Jaco’s story, including the tale of the legendary “Bass of Doom,” is being chronicled in a new documentary entitled Jaco, produced by Trujillo and scheduled for release in the fall of 2014.
Now a South Carolina film company is on a quest to recover the bass of another music icon, Motown’s James Jamerson, according to the Charleston City Paper. The famed bass, a 1962 Fender Precision dubbed the “Funk Machine,” was stolen during a break-in to Jamerson’s California home shortly before he died in 1983. The instrument hasn’t been seen since.
In a project spearheaded by Wild Mercury Productions, a group of filmmakers from Greenwood, South Carolina, producers Tom Neal and Paul Crutcher are on a mission to recover the famed “Funk Machine” and tell the story of James Jamerson in their own forthcoming documentary, which will feature some of the world’s most prominent musicians.
“It’s almost like a treasure hunt,” explains Crutcher. “We’re trying to find the facts, who has seen it, when they’ve seen it. So we’ve compiled a list of twenty-five of the greatest musicians in the world who are going to help us tell the story. And as we started the process, it just snowballed into this huge thing. It was going to be a smaller project, but now we’re going all over the world and have talked to everyone from Paul McCartney’s folks and his handlers to a lot of the greatest bass players. So that’s kind of how we’ve gotten here.”
And Wild Mercury will stop at nothing in their search for the bass. They’ve pored over old police records and scoured Internet chat rooms. They’ve even gotten the California Pawn Brokers Association involved, as well as the Fender company itself. “The more people you talk to, the more interesting tidbits come out,” Crutcher continued. “So for us and our team, it’s just putting together facts. It’s an investigation. I mean, we don’t know if we will ever find it, but we might. It could be anywhere. It could be in a pawn shop; it could be in an attic; it could be repainted with stickers all over it.”
Despite the relentless search for the bass, Crutcher says the focus is actually on Jamerson himself. “He was such a gifted player,” says Crutcher. “The instrument itself didn’t matter that much. It was the guy who was playing it. The guy who was playing it was fantastic.”
According to the filmmakers, the list of artists interested and willing to be a part of the production include everyone from KISS bassist Gene Simmons, the Staple Singers’ David Hood and Stax session guitarist Steve Cropper. Footage for the film, titled James Jamerson and the Legend of the FUNK Machine, will also be shot at Hitsville USA, Motown’s iconic headquarters in Detroit. Crutcher says he’s excited to meet Jamerson’s widow as well as James, Jr., also a bassist.
The group has launched a Kickstarter campaign to secure the funding needed for travel and production. “We’ll keep talking to as many people as possible and keep getting more and more of the story, assuming we get the funding we need,” says Crutcher. “We’re going to do this just as thoroughly as possible, taking our time to get it right. We’ve got magnificent storytellers, and I think it’s a really nice story to tell.”
Exclusive FBPO interview with Robert Trujillo