The Most Famous Left-Handed Bassists of All Time

April 30, 2020 7 min read

Famous left handed bass players

Lefty-guitarists are often heralded for their idiosyncratic playing style, but where the love for the left handed bass players? Click here to learn about some of music's most famous.

The bass is a string instrument that produces low pitched sounds. It is vital in a modern orchestra but also had its heyday in 1920s Jazz Age, in which base rifts and sounds were common staples of the genre.

A bass can also be short for a bass guitar, which is an electric form of the instrument. The bass guitar was first made famous in the 1950s with the advent of the Fender guitar but made its debut in the 1930s.

Both of these instruments derive from viols, which made their first appearance in history books in 1516. Artists and musicians of the era described them as being as "large as a person."

As most people are right-handed, they play the bass by holding it with their left hand and plucking it with their right. However, lefties do the opposite.

Left-handed bass players may think they're an anomaly, but they're actually in good company.

Read on for more about some of history's most famous left-handed bassists.

Is Paul McCartney Left-Handed?

Perhaps the most famous left-handed bass player is Sir Paul McCartney himself, a member of the Fab Four aka The Beatles. The Beatles were so famous that in 1966, John Lennon stated that they were more famous than Jesus during an interview.

Some may think that Paul McCartney's left-handed nature is an urban legend, particularly if they have seen him playing with his right hand in the early days of the band. But there is a reason for this.

When Paul first picked up the bass, he played it with his right hand, but he found it incredibly awkward. Instead, he found it easier to reverse the strings and pluck with his left hand instead of his right.

Left-handed bassists around the world rejoice: you have a true legend in your ranks!

Paul Gray

The late Paul Gray was sometimes referred to as #2 or The Pig, and was a founding member of the famous metal band Slipknot. The band was so successful that it earned several Grammy Awards for its work.

Although Paul Gray was also a backing vocalist and songwriter, his main gig was playing as the bassist in several bands. And, like Paul McCartney, he was also a left-handed bass player.

Unfortunately, Gray passed away at the age of 38 after an apparent overdose. He was one of three of the original members of Slipknot who was still active with the band upon his death.

dUg Pinnick 

(Kings X and KXM - Notable Bass - Schecter dUg Pinnick Signature bass, Schecter 12-string) 

Doug ‘dUg’ Pinnick is known first and foremost as the frontman, vocalist and bassist for hard rock/ progressive metal band King's X. Born in Joliet, IL in 1950, Pinnick grew up listening to an array of musical greats such as Sly and the Family Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and Led Zeppelin, adopting influences from each musical style into his music. 

His distinctive style of bass playing comes from his unwillingness to simply follow the guitar player when writing bass lines, choosing instead to write progressive metal bass lines that sound more like R&B and Funk basslines, where the bass lays a foundation for the entire song and guitar and keyboards build harmonic layers on that foundation. 

Pinnock plays Schecter basses and has a Schecter dUg Pinnick signature model and a revolutionary 12-string bass model to his credit. His latest project is a collaboration with guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and drummer Ray Luzier of Korn called KXM. 


Robbie Merrill 

(Godsmack - Notable Bass - Spector Euro 4LX-35) 

Robbie Merrill is known primarily as one of the founding members of the Metal/Alternative band Godsmack, and is not a natural lefty. Merrill plays lefty bass because of a birth defect that limited his use of the middle fingers on his left hand, making it necessary that he fret notes with this right hand and use his thumb and index fingers of his left hand to pluck, slap and thump out thunderous metal bass lines. 

Rob Merrill Bass Solo

Merrill’s style is unique among metal bassists for his frequent use of odd-note groupings, creating rhythms that are more complex than those found in most mainstream rock. Merrill plays a Spector Euro 4 lefty bass often tuned down low to a powerful C, G, C, G tuning, giving his bass lines a thunderous sound. 


Karl Green 

(Herman’s Hermits - Notable Bass - Fender Precision Bass, Rickenbacker) 

Karl Anthony Green is an English songwriter and bassist who is best known for his work in the 60's and 70's on bass guitar and backing vocals for the British Invasion band Herman's Hermits, featuring Peter Noone. 

 Green garnered songwriting credits on a number of the bands songs, and was a capable player, playing on many of Herman's Hermits studio recordings. Green was in Herman's Hermits from its creation until 1980, when he left to pursue opportunities outside of music. 


Ken Casey 

(Dropkick Murphys - Notable Bass - Fender Jazz and Precision Basses) 

Ken Casey is one of the founding members, as well as the primary songwriter, bass player and a vocalist for the Celtic Punk group the Dropkick Murphys. Starting the band in 1996 with guitarist Rick Barton and singer Mike McColgan, Casey is the only original member left in the band. He is known for his melodic vocals and solid punk rock bass playing, as well as his irreverent Celtic punk lyrics. 

The Dropkick Murphys’ Celtic style couples traditional Celtic folk harmonies and melodies with hard rock and heavy metal instruments. The bass and melody lines in these tunes are often fast and complex and require a great deal of skill to execute cleanly. Casey plays Fender Jazz and P Basses.


Gerald Casale 

(DEVO - Notable Basses - Gibson Ripper (modified) and Steinberger L-Series)

 Gerald Casale is an original member of the New Wave/Techno band DEVO, an influential band that virtually introduced Techno music to the United States in the late 1970‘s. Known primarily for their massive hit recordWhip It!Devo and Casale worked in an array of musical styles that often included cover tunes. Their most famous cover is of the Stones’ hitSatisfaction, a tune that featured Casale’s quirky bass work and DEVO’s innovative approach to music -- and just about everything. 

Satisfaction Live on SNL

Casale played a Gibson Ripper bass which he modified by sawing the horns off, making it almost a teardrop shape. Devo is famous for their modifications to guitars, as can be seen in the above video, often duct-taping effects pedals to their guitars, creating a distinctive look and irreverent sound. Casale later played Steinberger L-Series basses. 

Jennifer Leitham

Jennifer Leitham may not be a rock legend, but she does know a thing or two about classical bass. A left-handed bassist, she has earned the nickname "Lefty." She is also referred to as "The Southpaw," a common nickname for left-handed individuals.

Jennifer Leitham plays the upright bass, which produces a much more classical sound than the bass guitar. However, upright basses are often utilized in jazz music, and Jennifer plays both styles.

The left-handed nature of her bass playing has been the subject of some of her album titles, most notably Lefty Leaps In and The Southpaw.

Although her left hand is dominant, Jennifer sometimes chooses to play with her right hand. She says this is because the sound of the music on a classical upright bass comes from the grip, not the strings. As such, she believes many people who have a more authentic classical touch grip the bass with their dominant hand and strum with their less dominant hand.

She passes this along to students who come to her to study the bass and encourages them to become used to playing in an ambidextrous manner.

In addition to her bass playing, Jennifer transitioned from male to female in 2001. She was formerly known as John Leitham.

She has appeared in a documentary about her life, entitled "I Stand Corrected."

Joris Teepe

Joris Teepe may not be a household name like Paul McCartney, but he is a well-known left-handed bassist. He is particularly well-known amongst the jazz circuits, as he has worked as a big band leader.

Originally from Holland, Joris moved to New York City in the early 1990s to kick-start his career. He has arranged music from Duke Ellington to John Coltrane. He also writes for ensembles and symphonic orchestras.

In addition to often collaborating with other musicians, he works tirelessly in jazz education. He is the head of the jazz department at a conservatory in Holland and teaches bass in New Jersey.

Wayman Tisdale

Wayman Tisdale was more widely known for his career in the NBA, but he was also a smooth jazz bassist. And like everyone else on this list, he was a leftie.

As a basketball player, he had a 12-year career as a power forward. He played originally for the Indiana Pacers, and then had stints with the Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns.

Wayman retired from basketball in 1997 but produced his first album in 1995. He stated that the influence of his music career was most funk bands from the 1970s.

Over his lifetime, he created eight albums in which he played various instruments. Of course, his instrument of choice was the bass.

His 2001 album, Face to Face, was top of Billboard's contemporary jazz chart.

Unfortunately, Wayman passed away in 2009 after a two-year battle with cancer. However, he is still commemorated in music and sports, with a few songs written and recorded in his memory by some of his closest friends. An NCAA college basketball award is also named for his memory.

Inspiring Future Musicians

These left-handed bass players are just a few of those who have made an impact on the music industry. There are many others, including Chris Jennings, Richard Hammond, Lee Pomeroy and Jason Christopher.

They have no doubt, made their mark, or continue to do so, on modern music. Some, like Paul McCartney, have even helped shape an entire genre of music. Rock-n-roll would never be what it is today without The Beatles and Paul McCartney.

Check out our site for everything guitar related. You can even find tips and tricks exclusively for left-handed guitarists and bassists.

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