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“Ginger Baker and myself were really a hot jazz rhythm section, and even when Eric was playing, Cream was basically a jazz band. We never told Eric that, but that's another story.”

Quote - J. Bruce for Tony Bacon 1989 (14.05.20)

The definition of an icon and a heritage musician embedded into musical history is something that can only be given, not claimed. For a player to gain recognition by both fans and musicians alike a special chemistry and wizardry must be present. 😎

This chapter brings us to a truly inspirational and groundbreaking player whose body of work and contribution to music has seen him inducted into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame.

A player of great dexterity and a charismatic personality to complete the package, we focus on the jazz master turned Blues revolutionary. 🎼 

Straight from the white room, the exceptional Mr Jack Bruce. 

Image courtesy - Heinrich Klaffs. (1972)

Say Cello To Bass 🎸 

A life dedicated to music almost always stems from a creative past or a musical background, Jack ticks all the above. 14th May 1943 in Bishopbriggs, Lanarkshire, Scotland 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 saw the birth of John Symon Asher Bruce.

Born into a musical family Bruce was destined to hone his craft within the industry. Mother Betty and father Charlie were musical parents and continuously on the move, Jack attended 14 schools until eventually being able to settle. The core foundation of the family was music and the continued education and development of music as an individual.

Early years in life crafted Jack into a classically trained player, specialising in bass, cello and composition, and he briefly attended the Royal Scottish Academy of Music.

His ability and dedication as a multi-instrumentalist and sight reading musician at such an early age also capable of composition was at the time an extremely desired set of skills in the booming years of psychedelic rock 'n' roll. ✌️ 

Photographer image courtesy of - marybq.tumblr.com

Early encounters and development prompted Jack to favour cello as his instrument of choice, but with inspirational and groundbreaking music being released at the time certain instruments began to become mainstream and desirable.

“Vintage Guitar: You started on upright bass…
Jack Bruce: I started on cello. I wanted to play bass simply because there was one available at school. I took lessons from a very old teacher; he must have been in his 70s. He thought my hands were too small. They wouldn’t go around the neck.

Another music teacher named Jean Kidd, who was a huge influence on me and on many other people in Glasgow, suggested I pick up the cello, and I took to that like a duck to water. After about six weeks I got a scholarship to the Conservatory. I had some formal lessons on bass a little later, but I was mostly applying cello techniques to the bass.”

J. Bruce by Willie G. Moseley

As a player, Jack Bruce has a very unique approach and style, he's very much a signature Bass Player, hence the reason he’s continually revered by musicians and fans. When you listen to this body of work you feel a real energy and sense off artistic relativity and development, this would later be known to be part of a movement within the same period now expressed as “lead bass players”.

An incredible career as part of an iconic and historically influential band along with a truly diverse and successful solo back catalogue. His style as a player along with trademark techniques on the bass perfectly captured by the guys and girls at “NoTreble.com" in this truly respectful and accurate overview of the man: 👍 

“Let’s Talk Style,
As I dig into some of the deeper cuts, I realize that one word can be used to define Bruce’s musical modus operandi: energy. This doesn’t mean that every song is a heavy hitting up-tempo number (although many are), but that his bass lines are up front, deliberate and enthusiastic.

Sonically, his tone has a similar positive charge; Bruce isn’t afraid to push the envelope (or the overdrive) in order to be heard. He tends to be more mid-range centric, which works well in a power trio and gives plenty of definition to the bass lines that carry the tune. He has less conventional taste when it comes to instruments, going from a Fender Bass VI to a Gibson EB-3 to a fretless Warwick, which further sets his style apart from other bass players.

Jack Bruce curtesy of Marek Hofman

Bruce’s work in Cream, and especially his solo material, is unique in the sense that he has plenty of creative control – the music reflects his willingness to explore and compose. Most of the Cream material is written by, for, and around the specific players and instrumentation, allowing each of the players to show their talents and play off of one another. Session bass players and hired guns rarely have the luxury of this much musical freedom (since they’re typically trying to please their employers), and Bruce’s energetic style speaks to this method of music making. A handful of Cream songs center around revamped pentatonic-based lines; they’re usually syncopated and composed with a hint of dissonance to add harmonic complexity. Other tunes pull from traditional blues patterns, such as the “box” or walking pattern, in order to create the framework of the groove.

Stepping out of Cream, Bruce’s solo work is a fusion of rock, jazz and blues with nods to his background in classical composition. Transitions from one section to another are frequently marked by this classical string section approach, using voice leading and counterpoint to give direction. His personal catalogue is extremely diverse, he continues to maintain his signature tone and strong willed vocals, and knowing that he’s written multiple hits that are still widely known today makes him a particularly unusual player.”

 Ryan Madora on Jack Bruce. - notreble.com

Cream (1966-1968) 🎼 

“I don't call them Cream songs. I call them songs that I wrote at that time.”

Jack Bruce for Tony Bacon - 1989 (14.05.20)


A long and fulfilling career within the industry saw Jack work with all the great names; he toured with plenty of artists including Lou Reed, Frank Zappa, Robin Trower, Ringo Starr and this All Star Band, Mose Allison and Kip Hanrahan, to name a few...

Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award as a member of Cream, and continues to compose, record, and tour to support his records.

But the truly defining moment was his involvement and contributions to the internationally renowned staple melodic riffs he co-created where's the other members of Cream. ☮️

Jack Bruce (left) with Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton in Cream in the mid-1960s - image BBC.co.uk

Cream were fundamentally one of the first supergroups to arrive on the 60’s scene.

“The virtuoso playing of Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce and Ginger Baker made Cream the first band of soloists. In their two year career they brought the blues to a whole generation of white rockers and spawned legions of power trios, boogie bands and heavy metal groups...

According to rock critic Dave Marsh, Cream created “the fastest, loudest, most overpowering blues-based rock ever heard, particularly onstage.” Though they lasted only two years, Cream sold 15 million records; earned the first certified platinum album in history (for the double set Wheels of Fire); played to standing-room-only audiences across Europe and North America; and redefined the instrumentalist’s role in rock.”

Cream by Howard Druckman via gingerbaker.com

Cream line up - via https://chieforganizer.org/

The expressive creativity within the group along with the level of talent, sophistication and artistic empathy is still regarded to this day as one of the best bands to ever grace the planet 🌍 .


The now timeless and iconic riff to this track “Sunshine of your love” was created from the mind of Jack Bruce after inspirational night attending a Jimi Hendrix gig. A classic rock story that came full circle when Jimi Hendrix famously stopped mid performance to pay homage.

“The Story Behind ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ By Cream

Coming as a single for the Cream album Disraeli Gears in 1967, “Sunshine Of Your Love” is considered as one of the monumental cuts of the rock super trio. Bassist Jack Bruce wrote the music after attending a Jimi Hendrix concert and developing a bass riff afterward, assisted by Eric Clapton in the process. As for the lyrics, beat poet Pete Brown took the responsibility. He has also written the lyrics for “I Feel Free” and “White Room”.

The opening line was inspired by Brown working with Bruce till the wee hours of the morning, sharing in a Songfacts interview: “We had been working all night and had gotten some stuff done. We had very little time to write for Cream, but we happened to have some spare time and Jack came up with the riff. He was playing a stand-up – he still had his stand-up bass, because he’d been a jazz musician. He was playing stand-up bass, and he said, ‘What about this then?’ and played the famous riff. I looked out the window and wrote down, ‘It’s getting near dawn.’ That’s how it happened. It’s actually all true, really, all real stuff.”

“Sunshine Of Your Love” was known for its unique drum rhythm which was based on an Indian beat. Engineer Tom Dowd said in the documentary Tom Dowd And The Language Of Music that: “There just wasn’t this common ground that they had on so many of the other songs. I said, ‘Have you ever seen an American Western where the Indian beat – the downbeat – is the beat? Why don’t you play that one. Ginger went inside and they started to run the song again. When they started playing that way, all of the parts came together and they were elated.”

Everything came full circle when Jimi Hendrix played the song on his performances, unaware that he was the inspiration for the bass line. On Happening for Lulu, he stopped playing “Hey Joe” midway and decided to perform the number instead. “We’d like to stop playing this rubbish and dedicate a song to the Cream, regardless of what kind of group they may be in. We dedicate this to Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce,” Hendrix declared. "

Quote via - https://iloveclassicrock.com


La Bendable Bass Strings 💪

To sound like an icon you must first understand the icon. There has been much debate and ongoing discussion regarding Jack Bruce’s string choice in the early days, he has expressed the brand he used during the 60’s but not specifically the gauge.

Didn’t it ultimately receive a “psychedelic” paint job by the Fool, the Dutch art collective that also painted Clapton’s Gibson SG?

It did. But when it got painted, the neck was so sticky I couldn’t play it. I used some borrowed instruments, and started looking for something new, and that’s when I found the Gibson EB-3, which was very important because I wanted to develop a style of playing that was very guitar-like, instead of playing root notes. I used La Bella light-gauge strings, which I could bend.”

J.Bruce for By Willie G. Moseley

Image - https://www.vintageguitar.com/2892/jack-bruce/

As with many players back in the 60s they were trying out everything available as there was limited options and technologies and stream designs by being invented at the time, it was a real revolutionary period for both music and musical instrument manufacture, here we see Jack making a brief appearance on a Rotosound Advert for Superwounds.

Image courtesy of Rotosound archives

Gathering information and taking reference from Jack's gauge choices over the years with S.I.T for example and throughout his career we can estimate of this would be equivalent La Bella set in the modern day.

But we welcome all suggestions and further knowledge as we are well aware that the Jack Bruce string choice around the Cream era is a massive topic of debate among bass players and fans alike, get in touch leave a comment and let's build a community of knowledge. ✌️ .

Image Credit -  JackBruce.com

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