The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s resident crooner Shy Baldwin is inspired by a few real life singers including Johnny Mathis and Harry Belafonte. So it should be no surprise to hear that Liza Weil’s new musical Mrs. Maisel character is also an homage to rock and roll history. Specifically, a legendary woman in music whose name might not sound familiar, but her discography should.
In season 3 of Mrs. Maisel, the Gilmore girl plays Carole Keen, a cat eye glasses-wearing bass player in Shy’s touring band who befriends opening act Midge (Rachel Brosnahan) and teaches her about life on the road. (Rule No. 1: charge your room service to the handsy piano tuner.) In real life, Weil’s Carole is inspired by the cat eye glasses-wearing bass player named Carol Kaye. While Kaye wasn’t a touring musician, she was a prolific session player who it’s estimated has played on over 10,000 recordings in her career.
Kaye got her in the late 1950s making her debut as a guitarist on Sam Cooke’s rendition of “Summertime.” She also played the guitar on Ritchie Valens’ hit “La Bamba.” Kaye later picked up the bass, but only by happenstance. A bass player didn’t show up for a 1963 recording session, so she filled in. “I dug being on the bottom of the band,” Kaye would tell Louder Sound last year about discovering the bass. “It was my own little spot. I knew what to do and what to invent.”
Kaye became the lone female member of The Wrecking Crew, a group of studio musicians in the ‘60s. She would play electric bass for the Beach Boys, Nancy Sinatra, Tina Turner, Sonny and Cher, and Mathis, just to name a few. Her basslines became a staple on Beach Boys records including “California Girls” and “Good Vibrations.” Her unique sound came from the fact that she would use a pick instead of plucking with her fingers, something that few did at the time. Kaye’s talent also took Hollywood by storm with appearances on the original themes for The Brady Bunch, Hawaii Five-O and Mission: Impossible.
While she hasn’t done much recording since the early 2000s, Kaye still offers music lessons via Skype on her website. She’s also written 40 instructional books for those who want to play like Carol Kaye.
Knowing all of this, it’s fitting that for Mrs. Maisel’s music-filled third season, creator Amy Sherman-Palladino brought the First Lady of Bass along for the ride. Mrs. Maisel’s tribute to a living music legend is also a sad reminder that Kaye is one of many deserving women who have yet to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. While the show might not be able to convince that voting body to get her in there, here’s to hoping Weil’s Carol will be back for season 4.