Happy Birthday to Stuart Hamm – born February 8, 1960!
Stuart Hamm is an American bass guitar player, known for his session and live work with numerous artists as well for his unconventional playing style and solo recordings.
Born in New Orleans, Hamm spent his childhood and youth in Champaign, Illinois, where he studied bass and piano, played in the stage band at Champaign Central High School, and was selected to the Illinois All-State Band. Hamm graduated from Hanover High in Hanover, New Hampshire in 1978 while living in Norwich, Vermont. Following high school, he attended the Berklee College of Music in Boston, where he met guitarist Steve Vai and, through him, met Joe Satriani. Hamm played bass on Vai’s debut solo album, Flex-Able, which was released in 1984.
Hamm has performed and recorded with Steve Vai, Frank Gambale, Joe Satriani and many other well-respected guitarists. It was playing live on tour with Satriani that brought Hamm’s skills to national attention. Subsequent recordings with Satriani and other rock/fusion artists, along with the release of his own solo recordings (featuring a.o. keyboard player Tommy Mars), solidified his reputation as a bassist and performer.
Hamm’s first solo album, Radio Free Albemuth, inspired by the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name, was released in 1988. On it, Hamm demonstrated his abilities on a number of original compositions spanning a variety of genres including fusion, country, and classical. On solo pieces like “Country Music (A night in Hell),” he demonstrates his slapping and two-handed tapping proficiency as well as the ability to make the bass imitate the sounds of a wide range of instruments; the piece has since become a popular live piece. On the same album, he performs an arrangement of Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata.
Early in his career, Hamm was associated with Philip Kubicki’s Factor basses. Later, Fender musical instruments produced two signature model electric basses designed and endorsed by Hamm himself, the first artist model bass ever made by Fender: the “Urge Bass” and the “Urge II Bass” upgrade with a D-Drop Tuner. Features include a sleek alder body, a graphite reinforced maple neck with a 2-octave rosewood fingerboard, a pair of dual-coil Ceramic Noiseless Jazz Bass single-coils (neck/bridge), a custom-wound split-coil Precision Bass humbucking pickup (middle) and a 3-band active EQ with 18V power supply. These basses were discontinued in 2010. Hamm then had his own Washburn signature models since 2011, the AB40SH acoustic bass and the Hammer, featuring EMG pickups, Hipshot bridge/tuners and a 3-band active EQ – followed by a fretless version (SHBH3FLTSS) and the Stuart Hamm Electric Bass series, introduced in January 20, 2012. In 2014 he moved to Warwick basses and started work on a signature model based on his Washburn with the Warwick Streamer model shape.
Hamm’s slapping, popping and two-handed tapping techniques are demonstrated on his solo recordings as well as in his instructional videos Slap, Pop & Tap For The Bass and Deeper Inside the Bass. A popular part of his live performance often includes a two-handed tapping arrangement of Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” (from the animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas).
Since mid-March 2011 Hamm has performed with “The Deadlies,” houseband for KOFY-TV’s “Creepy KOFY Movie Time.”
In July 2011, Hamm accepted the position of Director of Bass Programs at Musician’s Institute in Hollywood, CA. For the past two decades, Hamm has also toured as one of the world’s premier bass clinicians.