Every generation has its living superheroes, certain humans that prove that all men are not created with equal abilities. When I was coming up, it was Jaco Pastorius who went completely beyond my previously conceived sense of the boundaries of the bass guitar. He inspired me and many other bassists to aim higher and farther. Well, I have been privileged to know personally a human of my generation such as this. I call him The Great Bruce Lee of the Bass. His name, as you probably already know, is Victor Wooten. There's nothing that I can say that hasn't been already said before so all I can do is tell you about my personal experience with Vic.
I was 19 years old when I was turned on to Victor and his brothers by a great New York jazz drummer named Billy Drummond. I had moved to Virginia Beach and Billy and the Wootens lived in neighboring cities and were already friends. He said, "I think its time for the Burbridge brothers to meet the Wooten brothers". He told us that there were five of them and that they all played. He also told us how much our minds were gonna be blown when we saw how far out they were. If you've seen Future Man with Bela Fleck and the Flecktones then you know what I mean. Needless to say I was speechless. It was like a magic trick was being played on me. Vic had already mastered things that had never even been conceived of at that time. I was already committed to going in a different direction than fretless bass because of Jaco and then here comes Vic out of the blue totally revolutionizing the instrument again. At nineteen years old no less. I realized that if there were guys like this walking around then I'd really need to come up with something new. I have to give him the credit for really spurring me out of my comfort zone at that period in my life.
Vic is also one of the nicest people you'll ever meet. I guess "gracious and humble" is the recurring theme of these music blogs, and that's exactly what Vic is. Even though he would have solid grounds to be on a huge ego trip if he liked, lots of musicians and quite a few fans know him as the exact opposite. He gives back much more than we give for the ticket price. His outreach and education with his Bass/Nature Camp at Wooten Woods Retreat is an invaluable resource for many things that exist alongside music including spiritual renewal. An experience at the Retreat is one of the best battery recharges I've ever personally had. I really wish that my schedule allowed me to do more teaching there.
Vic has helped me out a lot in my career too. He helped me to get my first string endorsement, he spread my name around at his solo gigs, in the bass community and in the music industry in general. He invited me to play on his records, sit in on live shows and invited me to tour with him for a multi-city run in Japan with just me, him and a drummer! I learned a crucial lesson playing with Vic over the years but especially in Japan. It can be pretty rough on the ego to watch Victor do a bass solo and literally peel the paint off the walls, and then its your turn, you know? No pressure or anything. I was like, "Hey, can I go first???" If you try to compete with Vic, you're gonna lose. All I could do, all I had to do, all he wanted me to do in the first place, was to be myself. He brought me to Japan to make music, to play those chords I had been working on for so many years. It was some of the most fun I ever had, I'll never forget it.
Thank you Vic for being so committed to the bass guitar, to music, to your humanity and for being so gracious, Thanks for all you've done for me personally, for lighting a fire under my ass, for the joy and hope you inspire when people see the amazing things you do. Thanks for being The Great Bruce Lee of the Bass Guitar.
Footnote: At this writing Vic has faced some recent challenges including the damage of his Wooten Woods Retreat by the Nashville floods and the death of his brother Rudy, the sax player of the Wooten clan. Much love to you Vic, Regi, Roy, Joe and family during this time and always.