Chuck Jacobs: From Traverse City To Nashville
Ask any musician and they will likely tell you there was that one make-or-break audition that forever changed their career. That was the case for bassist and former Traverse City resident Chuck Jacobs 33 years ago this month, when an impromptu audition for country music superstar Kenny Rogers took place.
“I figured I was going to be in a rock and roll band or some high-end jazz band for my whole career,” said Jacobs. “A former bandmate of mine from my rock and roll days (Edgar Struble) was Kenny’s keyboardist and music director. In passing I mentioned that if Kenny was ever looking for a full time bass player I would be interested. Kenny had the bass lines played by a second keyboardist in his band. A few weeks later I got the call from Edgar and was told Kenny wanted to hire me.”
Jacobs was asked to come to one of the shows and meet Rogers.
“After the show we are all back at the hotel and I started jamming in the room with Kenny’s guitarist Randy Dorman. We were playing a lot of jazz. Kenny was in the room next door and we didn’t know it,” said Jacobs.
“He typically was not a late night person and liked things quiet. We jammed well until three in the morning and since he never came over and told us to quit I guess I passed the audition and was hired the next day. I later learned that Kenny was a big jazz fan.”
Now Jacobs is not only Kenny Rogers’s bassist, but also his music director. He will make two appearances in the region over the next couple weeks: this Friday Dec. 30 at the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant, and Jan. 13 at the Kewadin Casino in Sault Ste. Marie.
FROM ROCK TO COUNTRY
After graduating from Traverse City High School in the mid ’60s, Jacobs was a part of the Michigan rock and roll scene.
“I was in the Rainmakers and we had a few regional hits on Midwest radio. We toured with Bob Seger and what would eventually become Grand Funk among others,” said Jacobs.
Jacobs joined The Dapps, based out of James Brown’s studio in Cincinnati, touring the south with Hank Ballard and Little Johnny Taylor, and then hooked with Wayne Cochran & the CC Riders, where he replaced the legendary Jaco Pastorius. He eventually moved to New York City and toured the country performing jazz with The Roy Meriwether Trio from 1975-1978 before joining Rogers.
He became a fixture in Nashville, where his bass work was sought after by Dolly Parton, Ray Charles, Lionel Richie, Wynona Judd, Smokey Robinson, Garth Brooks, Reba McEntire, Kenny Loggins, Trisha Yearwood, and numerous others. He also wrote the bestselling instructional book The Bottom Line:
To Be A Success Playing The Bass.
Music of all styles
“One of the things I have been very fortunate about is that Kenny has been a great boss. He has encouraged and supported my work and projects outside of his band,”
said Jacobs. “I not only consider him a great boss, but a great friend.”
When not in the studio or on the road with Rogers, Jacobs keeps busy with several projects including a website development company that has included designing sites for Ringo Starr and football legend Phil Simms. He also formed a record label with his brother Dan and to date they have produced over 30 artists. In addition he and Dan have a jazz group, the Jacobs Brothers.
“I have always loved jazz and in addition to Dan (an accomplished trumpet and flute player who has performed with a who’s who of jazz artists) my brother Rod plays drums in the band,” said Jacobs. “Plus Randy Dorman from Kenny’s band plays guitar. Randy and I hit it off 33 years ago and have been best friends since.”
The Jacobs Brothers gather each summer for a jam session near Torch Lake and plan to release a new CD soon.
“What I am most proud of is that jam session is to raise money for a music scholarship in our mother’s name,” said Jacobs.
TRAVERSE CITY STILL BECKONS
Jacobs credits Traverse City for supporting artists.
“One thing is the attitude towards artists in general is better there than anywhere I have lived or visited. There is this real sense of community that just doesn’t exist in most places,” said Jacobs.
“Every time I go back I notice that it feels like an artist enclave. Even though I am not directly a part of it, I draw a lot of inspiration from it and really credit my success from growing up in that environment.”
As for the future Jacobs looks to enjoying several more years with Kenny Rogers.
“Kenny told us he was going to retire when he was 65. Now he is 73 and shows no signs of slowing down,” said Jacobs. “We are getting ready to go back in the studio and record another CD so I see us touring for several more years. We are all having a great time, we all have side projects and we love performing.”
For more information check out chuckjacobs.com.
Bassist Chuck Jacobs is now the music director for Kenny Rogers.