I wrote a blog about the top bass players and Leland Sklar is on that list. He has played with everyone from the 1970s to present. I will list some of his credits but he has to be the top working session and touring bass player of the past 50 years.
Besides his music, Sklar has a YouTube channel where he posts daily videos of him playing along with a song he has played on, and talks about the recording, the other artists and what was happening at the time. Some of the songs are studio recordings, others are live tracks, like many tours with Phil Collins.
His stories are priceless. Along the way, Sklar was the studio and touring bass player of Jackson Browne, Crosby & Nash, James Taylor, Carole King, Reba McIntyre, Clint Black, Linda Ronstadt, Hall & Oates, Lyle Lovette, Warren Zevon, Toto and many others.
It was playing with James Taylor that gave Sklar his start in the recording business.
“James had just come back from England, where he did his first album for Apple. He was being managed and produced by Peter Asher. They were getting ready to do a gig at the Troubadour, and he mentioned to Peter that he’d heard this bass player he really liked. They called me – me and Russ Kunkel, the drummer – and we showed up, and Carole King was the piano player,” he told Musicradar.
He has worked hundreds of sessions, across a variety of musical styles including country and jazz, in addition to the bread and butter world of pop and rock.
“I’ve listened to a lot of different types of music and have crafted a style that allows me to play most everything. For me to go from country to fusion isn’t a leap – I don’t change my tone; I don’t change anything.”
In addition, he has been featured on many television and film soundtracks including the theme of The A Team, The Rockford Files, Magnum, P.I., Hill Street Blues and Alf.
On many sessions, Sklar teamed with drummer Russ Kunkel, guitarist Danny Kortchmar, and keyboardist Craig Doerge. This quartet would come to be known as The Section, and they even released some albums as a group.
Sklar is one of the most recognizable musicians, the long white hair and beard, he could be a member of ZZ Top. At age 73, he still tours and performs sessions, although in recent times, recording sessions and concerts are non-existent.
A lot has changed in 50 years.
“When I broke into the scene, LA was full of major studios, and when we went to work, there were at least four, eight, 12 guys on each session. The juices of creativity that flowed through the room were staggering. Nowadays, when I go to work, half the time it’s me in some guy’s garage where he’s got a Pro Tools rig, and I’m just playing bass on some tracks. Sometimes there’s not even drums yet.”