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LHUM-100 Visiting Artist: Victor Wooten

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Victor was influenced by bass mentors, Stanley Clarke, Larry Graham and Bootsy Collins, but cites his brothers and parents as his main influences. "In music and in life, my parents and brothers were the foundation. They prepared me for life by giving and teaching me love and honesty. They also taught me to keep my mind open and learn to adapt to life’s ever-changing circumstances. Their guidance has helped me stay grounded today." By the early ’80s, now living in Newport News, Virginia, the brothers became mainstays at Busch Gardens theme park in nearby Williamsburg.

Victor was hired as a bluegrass fiddler after older brother, Roy, convinced Busch Gardens’ administrators that Victor could play. "I remember getting a phone call from Roy. He told me that he’d gotten me a job playing fiddle. I’d never played fiddle in my life. Roy asked me if I thought that I could learn to do it. I said, “Yeah.” So, I borrowed a violin from my high school and learned a few fiddle tunes. The people at Busch never knew. I worked there in the country show for many years."

It was while working in the theme park that Victor and his brothers made connections with musicians in Nashville and New York. In 1988, Victor moved to Nashville, where he worked with singer Jonell Mosser and met New Grass Revival banjo ace Béla Fleck. Later that same year, Fleck enlisted Vic, his brother Roy (a.k.a. Future Man) and harmonica-playing keyboardist Howard Levy to perform with him marking the birth of Flecktones. After three highly successful albums, Levy departed in 1993. The band’s new trio format enabled Victor to develop and display a staggering array of fingerboard skills that turned him into a bass hero of epic proportions and helped earn the band their first Grammy.

With the Flecktones in full flight, Victor set his sights on a solo career, first forming Bass Extremes with fellow low-end lord Steve Bailey (leading to an instructional book/CD and two CDs, to date), and finally releasing his critically-acclaimed and ground-breaking solo debut, A Show of Hands, on Compass Records in 1996 (voted one of the most important bass recordings of all time). Soon after, Victor took his solo show on the road with drummer J.D. Blair. Momentum and accolades built with successive tours and the release of What Did He Say? in 1997, the Grammy-nominated Yin-Yang in 1999, and the double CD, Live In America in 2001.

In 2005, Victor revisited his solo side with the release of Soul Circus (Vanguard Records). A three-ring affair, the disc boasts such guests as the Wooten brothers, Bootsy Collins, Arrested Development rapper/vocalist Speech, Howard Levy, Dennis Chambers, Saundra Williams, J.D. Blair, Derico Watson, fellow Flecktone Jeff Coffin, and a who’s-who of bassists, including Steve Bailey, Oteil Burbridge, Will Lee, Rhonda Smith, Christian McBride, T.M. Stevens, Bill Dickens, and Gary Grainger.

Palmystery (Heads Up Records), Victor’s latest solo work, showcases a wide array of playing and writing skills with songs like “Left, Right, and Center” (featuring three drummers all playing together), “Miss U” (featuring The Lee Boys), “Us 2” (featuring Victor on slide bass along with blues man Keb Mo), and the thought provoking “I Saw God,” which boldly states "He look like me – She look like you." (Featured in the movie The Moses Code).

Victor also spearheaded the idea for the super group SMV (Stanley Clarke, Marcus Miller, Victor Wooten). Their new release, Thunder (Heads Up Records), as well as the Thunder tour has quickly become a must-have, must-see product for people all around the world.

In addition, Victor is a teacher and a philosopher of music and life. In 2006, he published The Music Lesson: A Spiritual Search for Growth through Music. His Bass/Nature Camp, now in its tenth year, has helped hundreds of musicians of all ages from all corners of the world.

Recommended Reading and Listening Assignments

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Recommended Assessment

  • Write reflections on the visit with Victor Wooten.
  • Apply some of Victor Wooten’s “lessons” from The Music Lesson and reflect on that.
  • Listen to Victor Wooten’s music and reflect upon it.