Nate Watts

For over 40 years, Nate Watts has anchored Stevie Wonder’s band, both live and in the studio. Drawing from two of the most powerful and pervasive influences in the bass world—Motown master James Jamerson and Wonder’s unique keyboard bass style—Watts crafted his own deep-pocketed, melodically-savvy approach, which has led to his highly-inspirational bass lines on such Wonder classics as “I Wish,” “Sir Duke,” “As,” “Contusion,” “Another Star” and the tour-de-force “Do I Do.” He is likely the first bassist to double on keyboard bass live.

Born in Detroit on March 25th, 1954, Nathan Lamar Watts started on trumpet and switched to electric bass in high school, at the urging of childhood pals [drummer] Ollie Brown and [guitarist] Ray Parker, Jr, with whom he had a trio. Nate bought a National Bass from Montgomery Ward, learned his first bass line—James Brown’s “Cold Sweat”—and soaked up the influence of Jamerson, Tony Newton, and Bob Babbitt, and the rest of the Funk Brothers (who he watched through the basement window at Motown’s Hitsville Studios). Also catching his ear was the rock and roll of Jimi Hendrix, Deep Purple, Rare Earth, Mahogany Rush and Steppenwolf. In 1974, via Parker, Jr’s recommendation, Watts got a call from Stevie Wonder’s office. Making a good debut showing at a large concert in Memphis and acing an L.A. audition, Nate was firmly in place for the recording of Wonder’s 1976 smash, Songs in the Key of Life.

In addition to anchoring chart-topping hits for Wonder, Watts’ fertile fingerstyle and slapped parts can be heard on such smash hits as The Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited” and “Slow Hand,” Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s “Say, Say, Say,” the Jacksons’ “Heartbreak Hotel,” Jermaine Jackson’s “Let’s Get Serious” and Sergio Mendes’ “The Waters of March.” He also co-wrote the Deniece Williams standard, “Free.” For the past 25 years, Watts has served as Wonder’s Musical Director, on top of his bass duties. In the spring of 2019 he will be releasing his solo debut, Music Multiplex, featuring such guests as Wonder, Marcus Miller, and Victor Wooten.

 

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Lesson Packs Featuring Nate Watts

Nate Watts’ Greatest Hits: Stevie Wonder

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Nate Watts’ Greatest Hits: Assorted Artists

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Nate Watt: Influences

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