Nathan Lamar Watts, born 1954 in Detroit, Michigan is an American session bass guitar player, best known for his work with Stevie Wonder from the 1970s to the present. He has served as Stevie Wonder's musical director for the last twelve years.
Born in the U.S. city of Detroit, 25 March 1954, Nathan Watts started playing the trumpet while he was still in elementary school, inspired by jazz giant Lee Morgan. Watts was part of a trio that featured other future prominent session musicians Ray Parker, Jr. on clarinet and drummer Ollie Brown and frequented Motown's Hitsville Studios to attend rehearsals and recordings of The Funk Brothers, the base-band of the label. When Parker abandoned the clarinet in favor of the guitar, he convinced Watts to switch to bass, which was the first thing that he did after graduating from High School. With his first instrument, a National Bass, Watts learned "Cold Sweat" by James Brown, and soon began to study the lines of other great bassists such as James Jamerson, Tony Newton, and Bob Babbitt. When Ray Parker Jr. joined Marvin Gaye's band, Watts joined a local group called the Final Decision, with the intention of studying accounting, if his career as a musician failed.
In August 1974, Watts received a call to work with Stevie Wonder, in replacement of Reggie McBride, who had joined Rare Earth. After being selected as the official bassist of the band, Watts took part in the Japanese tour of 1975, and then began recording the album Songs in the Key of Life. From that moment on, Nathan Watts's career has continued to develop, both alongside Stevie Wonder and with many other artists.
Style and Valuation:
Nathan Watts grew up listening to the Funk Brothers as well as other musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Rare Earth, Mahogany Rush, and Steppenwolf. In terms of his three main influences as a bassist, Watts lists James Jamerson, Chuck Rainey and Joseph "Lucky" Scott, bassist of Curtis Mayfield.
Technically, his style is characterized by the use of three fingers of the right hand, the strong attack that prints the notes, as well as the frequent use of techniques of palm mute, hammer on, trills and slides. The musician has developed an important career along with Stevie Wonder, with whom he has recorded some songs that would become classics for lovers: "I Wish", "As", "I Ain't Gonna Stand for It" and "Do I Do" are among Watts top favorite bass lines. More than 36 years in the service of Stevie Wonder - along with being the musical director of the band for 12 years - he earned in 2010 the International Bassist Award from the Winter NAMM Show, an award that recognizes the achievements of the musician throughout his career.
Nathan Watts has used his 1974 Fender Precision Bass and his 1979 MusicMan StingRay as main instruments throughout his career. He has also used a Fender Jazz Bass and Yamaha, Aria, and B.C. Rich(four and five string) bass. On the road he currently switches between Bossa basses (a five string custom made cherry sunburst and a black five string) for a modern tone. In the studio he uses Alleva Coppola basses (a LG-5 Classic Crewes of five strings with and without frets). He also uses GHS Boomers strings, Elixir Nanowebs, and Hartke Hydrive amplifiers and LH1000 heads.
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