In today’s bass lesson I’m going to show you how to play 5 Legendary Blues Brothers Bass Riffs which were originally played by bassist Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn.
Duck Dunn was the house or session bass player for Stax Records in the 1960 and played on hundreds of hits… from Sam & Dave to Eddie Floyd, Aretha Franklin to Booker T & The MGs.
Without question he’s one of the session bass legends, just like James Jamerson was for Motown Records.
He was also featured in the backing band for the Blues Brothers movie in 1980.
Today, I’m going to take you through 5 bass riffs that Duck Dunn recorded or played as part of the Blues Brothers band.
Riff 1 - I Can’t Turn You Loose
This song was originally by Otis Reading 1965 but the Blues Brothers can be found playing a fantastic version of this on the hit American TV show Saturday Night Live… at quite a furious tempo!
Riff 2 - Soul Man
The next riff was originally by Sam & Dave in 1967. In the Blues Brothers version key has been moved down from G to E which falls better on the bass guitar if you’re new to this riff.
Riff 3 - Gimme Some Lovin’
Gimme Some Lovin’ was originally by the Spencer Davis Group in 1967 but the Blues Brothers turbo charged their version by adding a secondary riff in verse two which is covered in riff 3B.
Riff 3 B
Notice how this becomes a 2 bar riff with a chromatic run in the last 3 notes.
Riff 4 - Shake A Tail Feather
This track was originally by the Five Duo Tones in 1963 and the Blues Brothers reinvented this song by collaborating with Ray Charles for the film.
This riff is fast so I recommend slowing it down to begin with.
Riff 5 - She Caught The Katy
This is my personal all time favourite Duck Dunn bass line… originally this was Taj Mahal blued tune from 1968.
You could look at this as one bar bass riff but it’s much more fun if it’s built out into a 4 bar bass line. Make sure you get the slide in because that’s an essential part of this riff.
Lesson Wrap Up
Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn is one of the true legends of soul music and wider bass playing.
The great thing about his style is he creates very a lot of set bass riffs and bass lines which make learning his bass parts straightforward for beginner to intermediate bassist.
I class learning bass lines from players such as Duck Dunn as core pieces of ‘language’ all bassists should discover.
You can learn the core fundamental skills bass players need inside my program The Bass Lab PLUS.
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Good luck and get stuck in!