What Would You Ask John Entwistle?

How to prepare for unexpected bass-learning opportunities

By Jon Liebman
Week of March 2, 2020

Imagine going to John Entwistle’s house, having him open up a closet full of basses, and telling you to “help yourself.” That’s exactly what happened to this week’s interviewee, Eva Gardner, when she was a young bass enthusiast, all of 14 years old.

It’s often said that you shouldn’t meet your heroes, lest you be disappointed. But if ever have the opportunity to meet your favorite bass player, and you’re willing to take that chance (by the way, I say, “Go for it!”), do you know what you would ask that person? Would you gush over them, tripping over yourself, or would you see it as a possibility to learn something new about playing bass? 

The list of questions is practically limitless. 

You might ask about bass technique. Maybe you’re curious about that person’s gear and equipment. If you’re bold enough, you could even inquire about how they’re getting along with that former band mate, and whether all that “bad blood” still exists between them. 

Or you could approach the encounter as a teachable moment.

As an exercise, take a deep dive into all facets of your bass playing and see how many areas you can identify in which you are deficient. You might think about ways to become a better groover. Maybe an education on tone would open up a whole new world of possibilities. Or you can try to pinpoint the reason you’re still struggling with a particular bass-related issue.

Once you’ve identified the detractors, come up with a list of actionable items and start implementing them right away.

Learning bass is great fun, but it’s important to have goals, and to work toward achieving them. Try this exercise and see what you can do to start improving your bass playing today. If you do end up meeting any of your bass heroes, you’ll be able to speak intelligently about bass-related issues and ask how they would approach a particular situation. Who knows, maybe you’ll even end up being the next John Entwistle!

How about you? Do you have a thought on this subject? Leave a comment below. I’d love to know what you think. In the meantime, check out my interview with Eva here.

Comments on What Would You Ask John Entwistle?

  1. Doug Purvis says:

    I would ask John, in looking thru your book on your bass collection, can I have a couple of those “P” basses.
    You have a lot of red ones.

  2. A.J. Hager says:

    Firstly, I have to mention that I was an enormous John Entwistle fan while I was “cutting my teeth” on bass! There are so many questions I would have loved to have asked him. Such as, what was his big “light bulb” moment in coming up with his “typewriter” technique? And, how & when did he discover his amazing tone? Or, why did he switch from using those awesome Rotosound strings to those gold strings for a while? (Well…I’m endorsed with Rotosound, so…lol!) It was a combination of John’s and Stanley Clarke’s techniques combined that gave me my big “light bulb moment” over 30 years ago. I would have loved to have sat down with him and picked his brain for a while.

  3. Tom Winstead says:

    I started listening to Entwistle almost as early as I started playing bass–on the order of 52 years ago. I’ve learned tons of “Who” songs, and borrowed a little of John’s technique here and there as appropriate. My question for him, though, would be around the musical partnership he had with Keith Moon. Keith was so chaotic, it almost forced John to be a pillar. I’d like to know what that was like–what were the challenges–the good and the bad of it. I’m not sure there’s been a bassist or a drummer like either of them, and it had to be a lot of things: wonderful, challenging, maddening, and more. I’d love to sit and have a cup of coffee with John and have him describe that alchemy.

  4. Bob Burnham says:

    I’ve seen most of my favorite bass players several times. Of the famous ones, Marcus Miller and Nathan East are at the top. Tal Wilkenfeld is also a favorite and I’ve been paying attention to Hagar Ben Ari of James Corden’s show, but I haven’t really seen her show some chops.
    As far as “chops,” lately William Pope II a local guy has caught my eye. He’s completely awesome and really “feels” it. To me, that’s a major part of what makes good bass players great, and those who listen to the other musicians rather than just going thru the motions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *