Top Ten Bassists Who Were Originally Guitarists

A lot of times, when a band is starting out, one of the trickiest musicians to find is a bass player. Oftentimes, a guitarist for a band will have to learn bass guitar, or a guitarist seeking work will take up the bass to get in a band. This usually has an effect on the playing style; guitarists who convert to bass have a tendency to use a pick more often and play more complex bass lines. Feel free to add to this list.
The Top Ten
1 Paul McCartney Sir James Paul McCartney (born 18 June 1942) is an English singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. With John Lennon, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr, he gained worldwide fame with the rock band the Beatles, one of the most popular and influential groups in the history of pop and rock... read more

The Beatles originally had three guitarists, with Stuart Sutcliffe playing bass. After Stuart left the band, they decided that one of them would have to play bass. Reluctantly, Paul did it.

2 Lemmy Ian Fraser Kilmister, known as Lemmy, was an English musician, singer and songwriter who founded and fronted the rock band Motörhead. He was a bassist and a singer known for his raspy voice. He died in 2015 from cancer and other health problems.

Lemmy had never played bass until the members of Hawkwind cajoled him into doing a benefit gig with them, which led to him becoming a full-time member. This explains why his style is so unusual: he treated the bass like a rhythm guitar.

He played bass in a unique way. That's what made him so good.

3 Noel Redding Noel David Redding was an English rock bassist and guitarist best known for his work as bassist with the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Noel had always been a guitarist in his earlier bands. He never played bass until he started working with Jimi Hendrix.

4 Geezer Butler Terence Michael Joseph "Geezer" Butler is an English musician and songwriter. Butler is best known as the bassist and primary lyricist of heavy metal band Black Sabbath.

Originally, Geezer was a rhythm guitarist. But when he and Tony Iommi founded Black Sabbath, Tony did not want another guitarist in the band, so Geezer moved to bass.

5 Carol Kaye

Originally a jazz guitarist, she began playing rhythm guitar at rock and roll recording sessions because she needed the money. Then one day, the session bassist failed to show up, and the other musicians drafted her into playing bass. She ended up becoming one of the most prolific session bassists of all time.

6 Greg Lake Gregory Stuart Lake was an English bassist, guitarist, singer, songwriter, and producer who gained prominence as a founding member of the progressive rock bands King Crimson and Emerson, Lake & Palmer.

Originally a guitarist and singer, he was taught to play bass while in King Crimson because Robert Fripp didn't want to have to look for a bass player.

7 Rick Danko Richard Clare "Rick" Danko was a Canadian musician, bassist, songwriter and singer, best known as a member of The Band.

Some time after he joined Ronnie Hawkins' backing band, Ronnie fired his original bassist, Rebel Paine, so he told Rick to learn the bass. He did, and he and the rest of the Hawks eventually became The Band.

8 Walter Becker

From Steely Dan, Donald Fagen started to work with Walter after hearing him practice his guitar playing. When they formed Steely Dan, Walter played bass on their first few albums and live shows. He eventually began playing guitar again after meeting session bassist Chuck Rainey, who played on the rest of their work.

9 Boz Burrell

Best known for being the bassist for Bad Company (and to a lesser extent, King Crimson). His story is similar to Greg Lake's. He was originally supposed to be the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for King Crimson, but their bassist, Rick Kemp, left the band after only two weeks. The other members taught him how to play bass.

10 Mike Dirnt Michael Ryan Pritchard, known professionally as Mike Dirnt, is an American musician best known for being the co-founder, bassist, backing and occasional lead vocalist of the American punk rock band Green Day.
The Contenders
11 Andy Bell

From Oasis. Originally the guitarist for the bands Ride and Hurricane #1, he became the replacement for Oasis bassist Paul McGuigan despite never playing bass before. He went back to playing guitar after Oasis disbanded and the remaining members formed the band Beady Eye.

12 Davide Biale
13 Shavo Odajian Shavo Odajian is an Armenian-American bassist, musician, and composer for the Armenian-American band System of a Down. During System's hiatus, Shavo Odajian would go on to form a rap-rock group called North Kingsley, featuring Ray Hawthorne as the feature vocalist/rapper of the group who also writes... read more
14 Dave Farrell
15 Chris Hillman

He has said in numerous interviews that his first instrument was acoustic guitar, and he took up mandolin later as his interest in country music was sparked. His third instrument was bass guitar, but he was not a bassist until the inception of The Byrds.

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