Bobby began his professional career at age 15 with Bo Diddley, but he attained widespread attention as a 16-year-old for his distinctive picked and muted bass line on Sly Stone’s “I Get High On You” (from Sly’s 1975 album High On You). Since then, he has contributed his soulful feel and incredibly dynamic playing to a long list of world-class artists, including:
Tower of Power (filling in on 40 shows for Rocco Prestia in 2001)
Quicksilver Messenger Service
In addition to his stellar career as a sideman, Bobby has been a member and co-founder of several of the Bay Area’s finest all-star collaborations, including Zero, KVHW, the Avalon Allstars, and Don’t Push the Clown; he continues to work with Zero/KVHW guitarist Steve Kimock in various situations. Bobby’s 1997 solo album Down the Road—with special guest performances by the Turtle Island String Quartet, Tower of Power drummer David Garibaldi, and legendary percussionist Airto Moreira—is a showcase for his diverse compositional, harmonic, and rhythmic chops.
Bobby’s a world-class bass collector and a “vintage freak” of the first order, but the 1961 Fender Jazz affectionately known as the Shark Bass has been his main squeeze since 1977. The other instrument most commonly associated with him is the Bobby Vega Halfling Bass, an acoustic bass guitar built by luthier Tom Ribbecke. He uses Dunlop Tortex .73 picks on both.
When it comes to Bobby’s amps and cabs, Glockenklang is where it’s at—he owns Bass Art and Heart-Core heads and cabs—and he also uses a custom amp made by his friend Kirkwood Rough. His cables were made by Monster many years ago, and he uses nickelwound, standard-gauge D’Addarios on the Shark Bass. Last but not least, Bobby is the proud owner of the very first Badass Bass II bridge, custom-made for him by Glen Quan. It has been on the Shark Bass for three decades.
Bobby’s reputation as a creative force has taken him into many other musical arenas. An accomplished composer, he has collaborated on the soundtracks for the TV documentary Vietnam: A Television History, the Francis Ford Coppola film One from the Heart, and the Sega video game Sonic The Hedgehog 3.
In 2007, he played more than 200 gigs, made in-store appearances, taught clinics, and began working as a producer. His appearance at last year’s School of Bass weekend in Phoenix, Arizona was a highlight of that event, and his performance and interview with Bass Player editor-in-chief Bill Leigh is one of the most popular features in the history of bassplayer.tv (indeed, readers voted it their favorite Bass Player TV video of 2007).
Four decades and nearly 5,000 gigs after he first began playing bass, Bobby Vega continues to develop his complex and heady blend of rhythm & blues, rock, funk, technique, and tone, “laying it down” with incredible feeling and groove.
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