Fender Hall of Fame Inducts Jamerson, Yamano
Aug. 7, 2009, By Jeff Owens
Hundreds of employees and guests looked on and applauded as Fender inducted two titans from very different corners of the music industry at its annual Hall of Fame ceremony.
So honored were James Jamerson (1936-1983), legendary house bassist for Detroit’s Motown Records throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, and Masamitsu “Mike” Yamano, former CEO of Japan’s Yamano Music Co. Ltd. and a pivotal figure in Fender’s mid-1980s resurrection.
The ceremony took place on Friday, Aug. 7, at the Tempe Center for the Performing Arts in Tempe, Ariz., near Fender’s corporate headquarters in Scottsdale, Ariz. The Fender Hall of Fame was founded in 2007 to recognize and honor those who have made outstanding contributions to Fender throughout the company’s history. Inductees include illustrious and influential figures within the Fender corporation, other industry figures who have made a significant contribution to Fender, and artists who have made their place in music history using Fender instruments.
“It’s days like today that remind you that this is really a very special company,” said Bill Mendello, Fender CEO and board chairman, welcoming everyone. “This company has a legacy unlike any other company I know of in the industry.”
Very special guests on hand included Takashi Nonomura, general manager of Yamano Music’s overseas division, and Jamerson’s widow, Annie Jamerson, and daughter, Penny Jamerson.
Mendello talked about how Yamano provided invaluable aid as Fender modern-era CEO Bill Schultz led a small group of investors in reviving the ailing company in the mid-1980s after years of neglect under CBS.
“Mike Yamano has been a constant in Fender success for more than 40 years,” he said. “His vision and leadership in one of the most important periods in Fender’s development has helped Fender grow into the leadership position it’s in today.”
In a video message from his home in Japan, Yamano himself said, “I am humbled to receive this recognition and am pleased to be inducted into the Fender Hall of Fame.”
On accepting the honor on behalf of Yamano, Nonomura called the induction “one of the most memorable moments in the 117-year history” of Yamano Music.
A video tribute for Jamerson included remembrances and congratulations from Motown legend Smokey Robinson, uber-bassists Marcus Miller and Geddy Lee, and others.
From left, Penny Jamerson, Bob Babbitt. Bill Mendello and Annie Jamerson with the plaque honoring James Jamerson.
Fellow Motown bass legend Bob Babbitt, present at the ceremony, knew and worked with Jamerson, and noted that the great bassist “inspired so many—not only bass players, but all musicians. Some of the most incredible classic bass parts that were ever recorded.”
The house grew utterly silent as Babbitt, pausing occasionally as if nearly overcome by emotion, noted that when Jamerson played, “He heard things that no one else heard and saw things that no one else saw.”
“James was his own spirit,” Babbitt said. “I think his legacy will be with us through eternity. That’s saying something.”
Annie Jamerson called the ceremony “a beautiful moment” and thanked everyone graciously for “honoring my husband this way.”
“We are just so honored,” she said. “I thank god for blessing Mr. Leo Fender with the gift of putting together an instrument that my husband would pick up and that would propel him into greatness with music being heard around the world. I’m so proud to have him as my husband, and that you’re honoring us.”
Jamerson’s daughter, Penny, said, “It’s a special time, because on Aug. 2, 1983, my father passed away, and for his legacy to continue on—because he didn’t know how special he was at that time—it’s so special to take the time and have people put this together.”
In very different ways, Jamerson and Yamano are towering figures in Fender history.
Jamerson transformed the role of electric bass in popular music. He was Motown’s top session bassist from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, and his impeccable and infectious bass guitar work underpinned more hit records than that of perhaps any other bassist in history. His influence on bassists of all eras and styles is incalculable, and he is universally regarded as one of the instrument’s finest players.
His unerring musical instincts—brought to life on a 1962 Fender Precision Bass® guitar—were called upon time and again for what would prove to be timelessly enduring classics by the Miracles, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, the Four Tops, the Supremes and many other artists.
Although he received little public recognition or credit during his lifetime for his mastery, the countless hits fueled by Jamerson’s propulsive and musically adventurous bass work remain beloved by millions worldwide as each generation discovers and rediscovers the magic of Motown’s 1960s golden age.
In 1985, as president of the Tokyo-based musical instrument distributor and retailer bearing his family’s name, Yamano provided crucial early support to Fender’s re-emergence. As a major investor, board member and close friend, he extended an invaluable helping hand—his financial generosity, expert guidance and longstanding friendship literally helped save Fender. He was instrumental in the creation and administration of highly successful joint venture Fender Japan, a key element in the development of the modern Fender corporation.
The inaugural Hall of Fame ceremony in August 2007 honored Clarence “Leo” Fender, Don Randall, Charlie Hayes, Forrest White and Freddie Tavares, in addition to Schultz. The 2008 ceremony honored the Beach Boys and guitarist James Burton, photographer/adman Robert Perine, and Fender’s Dan Smith, Bill Carson and Don Johnston.
Masamitsu “Mike” Yamano.