My real name is David Vasser. I was born in North Georgia in 1954. Neither of my parents were musically inclined. None of my grandparents either. They were probably all too consumed with surviving to worry about music. World wars and the great depression took up a lot of the first half of the 20th century and while I was growing up I think most of the adults were still catching their breath.
Yet my brother Paul, my son Jacob and yours truly all play at least one instrument. My brother is a killer drummer too. My son has already played in three different bands.
In autumn of 2008 my son expressed an interest in a bass for Christmas. My chest was all puffed out. His mother had what any southerner would instantly recognize as a full blown "conniption fit."
Southerners will know that a conniption fit is one step above a "hissy fit." A hissy fit is what she has when I buy another instrument or amp. It usually goes like this, "I only need one piano. Why do you need another...(insert "bass" or "amp" or "pedal") now? You can't play but one at a time!"
So to cut down on the conniption fits, my son is still playing a 6 string guitar. Which, in reality is good because he's already better at that than I ever was.
I was apparently born to play bass. Four strings are enough for me and 5 or 6 are just too many. I have an Ibanez bass I really like. It is the SRX700 and their top of the line at the time...I thought I'd like to try the SRX705 which is the 5 string version since lots of people play 5-strings these days and the guys in the band wanted me to try one. So I bought one and then sold it two weeks later! 5 strings are just too many for me. I only need four. I have never seen a 5-string orchestral bass, have you? Nothing against them, I just started out with four strings and that suits me.
I did buy my son a rare Fender USA limited edition "1 of 150" Special Run Strat in Fiesta Red with matching headstock right after the wife's anti-bass for our son's Christmas conniption fit though. There just are not many around like that one. It is a sweet guitar with the matching fiesta red headstock and gold headstock logo. Heck, I'd like to have a bass like that. He loves that thing now and hasn't touched his other guitars much since. I was blessed that I could find such an instrument for him these days with all the junk that is out there. He truly loves it. And it is a real special "one" with the Custom Shop pickups wound by Abigail Yberra herself.
How I got the "Brother" nickname is coming later. First the boring early details. I grew up in the small northeast Georgia town of Cornelia. To give you an idea of where I grew up, some of the film "Deliverance" was filmed at Tallulah Gorge in my home county of Habersham only a few miles from my house. Remember in "Deliverance" the guy playing banjo? No I didn't know him...but my wife Nancy met Ronny Cox who was playing the guitar in the "Dueling Banjos" scene while she was going to Emory University and Mr. Cox was in town for another project.
I was always industrious. I started working at age 12. Most of the money I earned went toward the hobbies of music and electronics. First I was a curb hop at Burrell’s Restaurant & Drive-In on US Highway 441 which was just two blocks from my parent’s home. After doing that on weekends and in the summer for about a year I went to work as a clerk at the Economy Auto Store. What money I didn't blow on records I spent on musical items or electronics and later on basses, guitars and amps.
My formal music training started about the 5th grade when I began playing woodwinds in the school band. First concert master was Mr. Peter Parks. Later, after I got to high school, I doubled on drums during marching band season and made section leader of the drum section for a while. (Yeah I was amazed too.)
One of my best friends while growing up was David Murray who was a grade behind me and lived only a block away. He had a pool table. Everyone called David Murray by the nickname "MEGGER." Megger Murray and I would eventually start trying to form a band in 1968. Megger was on guitar and was very patient as my early efforts on bass were light years beyond awful. Several other members came and went. It wasn’t until about 1970 that the band, then called "The Revealing Scene," finally jelled enough to start playing youth dances in Habersham and Franklin Counties. At this time there was one other youth band in the county known as "The Lost Generation" and the bands were competitive but friendly. We all went to high school together and once I actually slipped on stage during a Lost Generation gig and sang like a complete idiot doing something like Dr. John meets Leon Redbone. They all thought I was crazy but just let me go on with it like it was supposed to be happening.
Megger Murray & I worked with numerous other players and singers in the area until 1972 when I graduated from Habersham Central High and left for The University of Georgia in Athens.
The Revealing Scene's only drummer to ever play in public was Jack Marchman of Lavonia, Georgia. Jack would be killed in a car accident while attending the University of Georgia. Jack had dropped his date off just before his car ran off the roadway and into a pond and he drowned. This meant that there was no chance of the original group ever getting back together. Jack was irreplaceable. I am serious. This little bald 19 year old drummer was ferocious. We'd tried other drummers before but Jack had perfect tempo control.
Megger and I are still friends today and stay in touch, but we haven’t actually played together since Jack died in 1973. It just won't happen. I understand how and why bands break up and why they can not be put back together again.
These days David "Megger" Murray plays solo guitar gigs in northeast Georgia. I see him from time to time when I visit my mom. He lives in the same house where he used to live when we were growing up.
Yes I was terrible as a beginner. Probably worse than most!
I had no lessons nor were there any instructors around in northeast Georgia! I just tried to pick it up as I went along. My bass training came from a couple of Mel Bay books and one "Play Guitar WIth The Ventures" LP which was set up for guitar on one side and bass on the other. There was no internet. No tabs...not much of anything but digging in and learning it. I'm sure people that heard me play in 1970 through '72 will be relieved to know I finally did get fairly decent.
I think most beginning bassists EVERYWHERE were probably just as lost as I was back then. Trust me, I was lost. There were no guitar instructors around my area that I know of back then, much less a bass instructor! Then I found the method that clicked for me in Carol Kaye's book "How To Play the Electric Bass." She released the book that changed my bass playing existence in 1969, but I didn't give it a look until late 1971! Two years WASTED there!
In addition to now looking upon Carol Kaye as my favorite instructor, I count her playing as an early major influence, but moreso was the bass work of James L. Jamerson, Duck Dunn, Jack Bruce and Noel Redding.
In the cases of Jamerson, Dunn and Bruce I knew who they were, but I had no idea that Carol Kaye had recorded so many of the bass tracks I really liked. Probably 30% of the hits of 1965 through 72 had Carol on them. She played bass on, by her own count, about 10,000 recordings. She played bass for The Beach Boys, Ray Charles, The Righteous Bros., Johnny Mathis, Nancy Sinatra, Sam Cooke, Glen Campbell, Lou Rawls, Jan & Dean, Henry Mancini, The Lettermen, Paul Revere & Raiders, Monkees, Buckinghams, April & Nino, Sonny & Cher, Chris Montez, Andy Williams, Quincy Jones, Joe Cocker, Ike &Tina Turner, Mel Torme, Bobby Darin, Frank Zappa, Wayne Newton, Herb Alpert, O.C. Smith, Don Ho, Al Martino, a few L.A. Motown projects and others like Spiral Staircase plus TV soundtracks. Her film soundtracks are infamous including themes to "The Pink Panther" and "Shaft." She co-wrote the "Theme From Shaft."
To be completely honest about it, in a strange twist, Ms. Kaye's bass line on the Grass Roots recording of "Midnight Confessions" was so amazingly slick that I nearly quit playing! I didn't know it was her either. At that time (1969) I didn't know who the heck Carol Kaye was. It was distressing to me that anyone could be THAT good. I didn't even know it was a GIRL playing the bass part on "Midnight Confessions" or I would have had a conniption fit. (See paragraph 2 to brush up on conniption fit.)
It would be impossible to say which bassist was the most influential player to me, but Carol Kaye was, still is, and will always be...the very best instructor I've ever had.
After seven years of formal music training, two college level guitar courses and three other instructors...I've learned far more from Carol Kaye than everyone and everything else combined. I have lots of her materials and without any reservation recommend her materials to anyone serious about learning to play bass, or are open to learning to play better no matter how good you may THINK you are.
In addition to the late 60's early 70's band work, I got my first radio job which actually became a 36 year career, in 1968. I even remember the exact day, it was December 22, 1968. Radio meant I would be working many night and weekend shifts. Radio would totally eclipse any band work by 1974 and I'd abandon any sort of playing out.
While working at WCON from 1968 through my senior year at Habersham Central High in '72, I also worked part time at “Ralph’s Radio Music” located in nearby Demorest which was the only name brand guitar and amp dealer in Habersham County and was owned by Ralph & Bernice Raper. It was right next door to the county hospital. Their son Frank and daughters Frieda and Christy also worked there.
Ralph’s Radio Music was a very colorful outfit compared to most of today’s one-dimensional music mega-stores like a Guitar Center or Sam Ash. For one thing, Ralph’s had a recording studio in a separate building behind the main store building which most customers never even knew existed! For another thing, Ralph’s had their own record label called "Zip Code" records. The Zip Code studio recorded both kinds of music predominant in NE Georgia, County and Bluegrass. One session there with the legendary Bill Monroe was released as an album. (How they got Bill Monroe to come there and actually record I have absolutely no clue.) The Bill Monroe recording got good reviews in Billboard (no kidding) and the album actually charted! (Again, no kidding.) Ralph’s son Frank Raper was usually the recording engineer and producer and had produced the Bill Monroe sessions, so Frank was like a celebrity to me.
Eventually Ralph’s expanded to a second location in downtown Cornelia near the Grand Theater in 1972. This was more convenient for my part time job there. (This second Ralph's location coincidentally was the original Burrell's Restaurant in the 1950's through the mid 60's and where my family went to eat after church on Sunday.) Ralph's daughter Frieda and I worked the Cornelia store. The town's only billiard hall was located precisely downstairs in the basement from Ralph's Cornelia location. My dad warned me about 6 years earlier that if he ever caught me there he would disown me. It was a terrific temptation, however I never went there until I was 18. I became quite the 8-ball fan my senior year of high school.
Another unique thing about Ralph’s was that the Raper family lived at the main store in Demorest! The family residence was actually built onto the back-right corner of the store, or maybe it was the store that was built onto the front-left of the house!
So far as I know Ralph's was the only Fender dealer in northeast Georgia at that time. Other instrument and amp lines carried at Ralph’s Radio Music in the late 60's and early 70's were Gretsch, Gibson, Supro, Ovation, Sunn, Ampeg, Baldwin, Fender-Rhodes, Kalamazoo, Hagstrom and National. People forget how good Supro and National guitars and amps really were! Most kids coming along now never even heard of Supro or National. Supro made some really great guitars. I mean they were really nice guitars that were way different from all the rest and the Supro basses were like something out of an art deco cartoon. National made a few great tube amps too. I later wound up with a Kalamazoo amp that was a good recording amp. It really surprised me.
Besides guitars and amps, Ralph's also had almost every record ever recorded in both 33 and 45 RPM flavors or on 4-track and later on 8-track tapes and after that the cassettes that were just starting to catch on in 1972. Over it's history, Ralph’s moved tons (and I do mean literally tons) of records and tapes through the external racking operation in retail outlets in three states. Ralph's blue step-side van serviced truck stops, convenience stores, general stores, department stores, dime stores and other record shops. So Ralph's kept a huge inventory of records most of the time.
After I had left Cornelia for college, the neighboring hospital made an offer the Raper family couldn't refuse and bought the original Ralph's location and all the buildings were demolished for a hospital expansion. Ralph & Bernice retired and Ralph's Radio Music ceased to be.
In that hospital expansion I think a part of my youth died.
Before Ralph's closed I was leaving WCON, the band and Ralph’s Radio Music behind in June of 1972 and moving about 40 miles to Athens for college just one week after high school graduation. Almost immediately I started work part time at WRFC. I was following on the coattails of another ex-WCON announcer, Randy Reeves.
WRFC at 960 AM was the number 1 station in Athens then and the offices and studios were in an antebellum mansion on "Frat Row" at 209 South Milledge Avenue. It was a snazzy location and a classy outfit. Other notables working at WRFC at this time were Ron Parker (now nights on WCBS-FM in New York & nationally syndicated on a 70's satellite radio channel in the afternoons) and Scott Slade (long time WSB morning anchor in Atlanta.)
While in Athens for about 18 months, I played bass with two different groups, but it was time to move on due to the advancing radio career. I left the Athens music scene, such as it was then, without a second thought. Now I can tell you of the connections from members in those two projects I worked with to many Athens and Atlanta based groups to come, including some national successes like the B-52's.
Here is how I got out of Athens, Ga. UGA Student and part time newsman Benjamin Hill from Cocoa Beach, FLA and DJ Merv Pilgrim of Cleveland, GA were also working part time with me at WRFC. Merv had earlier taken my vacated slot at WCON and shortly thereafter followed my coattails to WRFC. In February of 1974 Benjamin took both Merv and I with him to Florida for another full time radio job at WRKT AM-FM. I was hired as Production Director and also did the night show but moved to afternoon drive in a couple of months. Upon my arrival in Florida it was Merv that immediately suggested dropping the "Vasser" part of my name and going by Brother Dave. It made sense to me.
"Brother Dave" seemed to be a good ring to it for radio work. I was 19 years old and had never heard, seen or ever known anything about a 1950's comedian named Brother Dave Gardner. As it turned out some 35 years later, I not only unknowingly stole Dave Garner's nickname but now I have his website too! This very website, BrotherDave.Com, was originally a Brother Dave Gardner tribute site. I acquired the rights to this website in the late fall of 2008 after years of trying.
So I used "Brother Dave" as a radio air name on and off for the rest of the radio career at various radio jobs to come in South and North Carolina. The longest running "Brother Dave" radio job was nearly 14 years at WWMG FM known as Magic 96.1 in Charlotte, NC doing mostly weekend air shifts. I used other names at some stations where the BROTHER part just didn't fit the format.
I gave up on radio when Charlotte's Magic 96.1 changed formats literally overnight and with no warning from oldies to rap in 2004 and I quit radio for good. They fired the entire airstaff except for me and one other guy. Apparently we two weren't important enough to fire. I worked one last shift mainly to collect my personal items, spent about an hour writing a flowery resignation explaining that I had quit and why.
I'm glad I got to resign instead of being fired from my last radio job. I'd already decided to get out of radio after I was done at Magic and had been contemplating quitting for about 3 years anyway. The format change merely precipitated my exit from radio. At this huge radio station where many great talents had worked...for a few days I was not only the senior announcer but the senior employee. That is pretty scary.
I had almost quit Magic 96.1 FM a few years before, but the very day I went in with the intention to turn in my notice they offered me a chance to syndicate my show so that it would run on an Oldies station in Montgomery, Alabama owned by the same company. (Clear Channel Communications.) I had relatives in central Alabama, so I figured I'd embarrass the heck out of them by doing this crazy 60's radio jock act and dedicating songs to each and everyone of them. This is exactly what I did. That lasted a couple of years. By now I'm turning 50 and there aren't many 50 year old DJ's around in case you haven't noticed. Radio wasn't as much fun as it had been. It had become work. Quitting radio after 36 years was overdue. The well was dry. Even if the format had not changed I was ready to get out and do something else. I was spent.
Today I still do limited voice work, but only infrequent voiceover recordings which do not require a long term commitment or a whole lot of preparation.
Once quitting radio for good in 2004 I realized I’d have lots of spare time to do the band thing again. My second childhood apparently begins at this exact point. But it took until late 2005 to actually find people to play with on a regular basis. Turns out they were right under my nose all along. This project went by the name "Kollection" and first played out in August 2006. Kollection was based in Albemarle, NC working the central Carolinas region. This project ran successfully for over 8 years. I'm currently looking for the next project!
In addition to a commercial radio career, some TV stuff and playing music I do have a straight job working for the county in the communications center. I also operate multiple websites for myself and for local businesses in Albemarle, NC. I presently operate BrotherDave.Net which addresses my personal radio history in far too much detail and Tragic96.Com which is a tribute to Charlotte's Magic 96.1 FM, which really was a truly great radio station that is still talked about some 8 years after it vaporized. Plus I operate two marketing websites. I do a little volunteer work also for the Red Cross.
The music I like to play the most is the early Stax/Volt/Atlantic, classic rock and pre L.A. move Motown music, It makes people feel good and it still packs the dance floor around here! The bass parts are interesting and fun to play. Fortunately we've got the right people together that can pull some of this music off.
So, I am no big successful bassist. I've never gone on a world tour and I'm not going to go on one either. I've never played regularly with anyone super famous, but I've been with some famous players and with some tremendous players who never were famous. I've never played on a successful album project nor am I likely to do so but not opposed to it either. I've always played in local bands with other guys who also had straight jobs and wives or girlfriends and mortgages and stock brokers and IRA's and car payments.
But that doesn't mean someone who sees this site and uses the tools and information I've posted here can't become a full-time professional bassist or maybe the next Carol Kaye or James L. Jamerson.
The truth is that for better or for worse, I chose to follow a completely different path in the music business by going down the radio road. (Radio Road is actually a real street in Charlotte, NC where the Big Ways radio studios used to be...where I worked for a little while. Radio Road's radio studios are now a wasteland by the way.)
The most challenging thing I've done musically besides the Kollection Band project was playing electric bass in the Broadway musical "Footloose: The Musical" for a two week run in 2010. From this I took a new respect for orchestra players in Broadway shows. While the film had maybe 18 pieces, there were about 33 pieces in the show and about 80 pages. This was some of the most complex music I ever played.
Now I'm just a geezer who loves to play bass and talk about music. I've never given up on electric bass since that first blonde Fender Telecaster bass I bought at Ralph's in 1968, and probably never will. I've kept at least one bass around constantly since I was 13 years old. That is 42 years. I usually have a bass project either in the planning stage or on the bench too. At this very moment I just got in some vintage 1960's capacitors and plan to put one into a bass really soon. I recently advised a young up and coming player on a very unique project. He had just bought a new 1000 watt Hartke head but wanted to use it with a 68 Fender Bassman 2x15 cab intended for only about 130 watts at the most. We figured out how to overhaul the vintage cab to work with the Hartke head at full capacity. That cabinet overhaul project is the reason I started this site, for exactly that sort of thing.
I still look up to the real pros who continue to inspire me. I'm grateful for everyone I've gotten to play with and for all the people who helped me along the way and who show up when the band I'm in plays out. Trust me I got a lot of help.
To the people who really helped me I am saying thanks by putting this site online. For you kids coming along now, nothing would make me happier than to think that maybe I helped one of you, just a little...maybe like Ralph Raper and Carol Kaye helped me when nobody else would or could.
Always know that no matter how good you think you are...there is always someone better. It is always like the old western films...there is always a faster gun.
My latest musical interest is delving into the swinging swirling world of ukulele playing. You can expect some ukulele links to pop up here eventually as I'm really on fire with the uke thing right now. I have acquired both an electric Concert and electric Tenor uke already. However I'm trying not to neglect my basses. They get real jealous fast.
This page is merely a way for you know who I am and why this site is here. Please visit the RESOURCES page. It is the heart and soul of this website project and where I put the stuff that most bassists can benefit from and it is all free. Keep the faith!
Thanks again for visiting. Thump on!
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