Farewell to Tom Fowler, Frank Zappa's longtime bassist

Farewell to Tom Fowler, Frank Zappa’s longtime bassist

Tom Fowler, the bassist known for playing with Frank Zappa hey Mothers of Invention and with Ray Charlesdied this week at the age of 73.

The engineer and producer Dennis Moody confirmed the news only now in a Facebook post, specifying that Fowler died on July 2 due to complications from an aneurysm that had struck him the previous week.

Moody praised Fowler as “one of the most creative, intelligent, and extravagant people I’ve ever met.” Tom played bass on a half-dozen Frank Zappa albums and for the last 10 years with Ray Charles. I met Tom and his brother Walt when I was 20. We’ve been friends forever, touring the world and making so much incredible music.”

Also Arthur Barrowwho played bass for Zappa in the late 1970s and early 1980s, wrote about Fowler’s passing in a Facebook post.

“He was a hero to me,” Barrow wrote. “The first time I heard ‘Echidna’s Arf (Of You)‘I almost fell over when he played the big 5/16 lick on the bass! I had no idea a bass could do that! He inspired me to buy a bass and start practicing. I’d known him since about 1976. RIP old friend – I miss you very much.”

Born June 10, 1951, in Salt Lake City, Fowler began playing violin at a young age before switching to bass. His recording debut with Zappa was “Over-Nite Sensation” from 1973, which also features his brother Bruce Fowler on trombone. He appeared on other Zappa albums throughout the 1970s, up to “Tan Studio” of 1978.

During that time Fowler played bass for many other artists, including George Duke, Jean-Luc Ponty And Steve Hackett. He was also part of the jazz fusion group Air Pocketwhich included brothers Walt (trumpet, myaphone), Bruce (trombone), Steve (alto saxophone, flute) and Ed (bass). He played with Ray Charles from 1993 to 2004 and participated in his last studio album, the posthumous “Genius Loves Company”, which won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year in 2005.

Sharing his thoughts on the success of a live performance, Fowler told Zappa Books in 2000: “A live situation has to have a lot of peaks and valleys and it’s a good show, then you can have the slow stuff. My dream? Frank Zappa and Ray Charles in concert together for the first time, with special appearances by Jean-Luc Ponty and It’s a Beautiful Day. And that’s my life in one concert. The Fowler Brothers open for me. Then we all go to my restaurant and have a bite to eat.”