by Tom Kealey
Lee Sklar has been a prominent figure among Hollywood session bassists dating back to the 1970s and ever since. Sklar (born Leland Bruce Sklar, May 28, 1947, Milwaukee, WI) has more than 2000 albums to his credit (and still counting), and is considered to be one of the “A” players in the highly selective L.A. rock music community where the competition for recording dates is fierce, and where only the strongest will survive. His very recognisable bass playing style has been heard on hits by Linda Ronstadt, James Taylor, Hall & Oates, Jackson Browne, Phil Collins, Clint Black, Reba McEntire, and George Strait, to name just a few. And never one to remain idle, Sklar has entered the new millennium with a vengeance, taking on new projects with Willie Nelson, Steven Curtis Chapman, Nils Lofgren, Lisa Loeb, and many more.
The reputation of a fine session player is not held exclusively to the record industry. Television and motion picture musical directors have called upon Sklar for his expertise countless times. He has played on TV shows such as Hill Street Blues, Knight Rider, Simon and Simon, and also on many motion pictures, including Forrest Gump, Ghost, Kindergarten Cop, and My Best Friend’s Wedding. The list is virtually endless.
Sklar moved from Wisconsin to Southern California when he was very young and started playing piano at age four. When he entered Birmingham Junior High in Van Nuys he fully intended to continue as a pianist in the school music program but found that there was an overabundance of piano students, but no string bass players. His instructor, Mr. Ted Lynn, asked Sklar if he would consider playing bass and, if so, he would teach him. As Sklar stated it, “…my life changed. Piano took a back seat and bass was it!”
It was toward the end of the ’60s and after completing his education at California State University, Northridge, as a music/art major that Sklar met James Taylor and they started doing some gigs. They thought they might be playing together for about a month, but then Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” became a huge hit record and Sklar’s career began to gain steam. Sklar’s first sessions were with Taylor. The buzz surrounding this new bass player didn’t take long to spread around Hollywood, and suddenly there was an icon in the making.
Over the years Sklar has worked with nearly all of the top session players in Hollywood, but on the backs of album covers his name seems to pop up more frequently alongside drummer Russ Kunkel, guitarist Dan Kortchmar, and keyboardist Craig Doerge. This quartet would come to be known as the Section and they would record three of their own albums between 1972 and 1977 with the participation of additional select sidepersonnel. Occasionally the Section would give a subtly announced live performance, much to the delight of their esoteric followers who would seek them out and feast on their mastery.