It’s sometime said that there are no bass heroes in the way there are for guitars. Of course, serious musicians know how incredibly wrong that is. Bass players are actually the backbone of the entire band, and a select group of bass players have revolutionized the entire feel of multiple musical genres. Some of them are the gods of the groove, like James Jamerson. Some are kings of the riff, like John Paul Jones. Some have pushed bass into the lead spotlight, like Jaco Pastorius, Jack Bruce, Chris Squire, and Geddy Lee. But when it comes to fingerstyle funk, where the bass straddles the line between rhythm and harmony so well that it becomes an essential part of the entire band’s sound, no one has been as revolutionary and influential as Francis “Rocco” Prestia, the legendary bassist for Bay Area R&B/funk/soul band Tower of Power.
What are some of the defining aspects of Rocco’s playing style? While you may think that bass players have always done muted and ghosted 16th notes over a solid groove, that wasn’t always the case. Starting in the late 1960s, Rocco, working with drummer Dave Garibaldi, created the sound of a rhythm section that added something that had never been there before. When you hear songs like “What Is Hip?” or “Oakland Stroke”, Rocco’s bass drives the music in ways that were completely innovative at the time, and literally thousands of bass lines that followed were founded in a sound that Rocco invented.
It’s no surprise, then, that a player like Rocco would have specific ideas on how a bass can be designed to better accommodate the needs of serious players. While many bass players have had to make do with designs that have gone mostly unchanged since the 1950s, Rocco came to ESP in 2012 with thoughts on how to make bass better.
At first, we were going to work with him to simply create a custom bass that could be added to our Signature Series, but Rocco wasn’t into that idea. Instead of creating a bass of his own, he wanted to make a bass that anyone and everyone could enjoy and appreciate, regardless of what genre or style they played. That was the start of the LTD RB Series basses, and we have continued to refine these excellent instruments ever since.
Above and Beyond
The 2018 versions of the RB-1004SM and RB-1005SM are beyond outstanding… they are some of the best basses ever made at any price. These basses have a number of traditional aspects in their design, like bolt-on construction at 34” scale, and a C-shaped neck that will feel familiar to players of classic basses. But unlike most older basses, the RB Series neck is extraordinarily stable, with a five-piece maple/walnut design.
The body of the RB Series basses is made of Swamp Ash, known for its resonant, full-spectrum tone, and we’ve added a spalted maple top which not only looks killer, but adds to its excellent articulation. The RB Series basses employ an ebony fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets and oval abalone inlays chosen by Rocco.
The man himself, performing at a recent ESP clinic.
Of course, the biggest factor in a bass’s tone is its pickups, which is why the RB Series basses offer a set of Seymour Duncan Quarter Pound P4 and J4 (P5 and J5 on the 5-string version) pickups, giving you the versatility you want for any gig. Other high-quality components on the RB Series basses include Grover tuners, and a Gotoh 404BO bridge with string-thru-body design for fantastic sustain.
If you’re still on the fence about trying an RB Series bass, listen to Jim B, one of our ESP All Access community members: “This is hands-down the best instrument that I've had my hands on in some time. Great tone choices, lightweight, and incredibly easy to play.” Contact your ESP dealer today and get into the bass that was made by a legendary master!