He’s all about that bass
Longtime guitarist treasures music as a way to express himself
By Michael Futch | Photography by Tony Wooten
Pete Everett and his band were all-out swinging on a Friday night at Throwback Thursdays Sports Bar & Grill in Dunn.
Everett leads the veteran trio — billed as Pete Everett and the Total Package Band — on his unusual nine-string electric bass guitar.
The bass guitar is typically a four-stringed instrument.
When the musicians arrived, they were their own roadies, setting up equipment at one end of the bar. There was no stage.
A group of about 21 people drank, talked and listened to music that provided a heady soundtrack for the evening. Some played pool.
For the opening set on this April night, the trio performed a lot of contemporary jazz. Other members of the band are 53-year-old Bob James on keyboards and 54-year-old Lynn Muldrow on drums.
Everett, 54, says he has been playing with Muldrow for 32 years and with James for 29 years.
At this point, they know what they’re doing.
The can play aggressively or produce a smooth sound — whatever the song requires.
“This is my band,” Everett says from a seat at one of the tables. “Bill was using my band. It was us.”
“Bill” is Bill Curtis, also of Fayetteville, the man who started the funky Fatback Band.
Everett says he played with Curtis and Fatback for roughly 22 years, but he’s now with Total Package. He also helped anchor the rhythm section of the Chocolate Buttermilk Band.
“He’s an outstanding musician,” Muldrow says of the bandleader. “I’ve played with quite a few bass players in my younger years, but when I started playing with Pete – man, it was a whole ’nother level. He was teaching me how to grow up as well as learning the music game.”
Most of the time when a group is touring, Muldrow says, the bass player and drummer share a room.
The two of them “locked together,” Muldrow says.
“The more we play together, he said, the better we’re going to get. I took some of his words of wisdom and ran with it. And here it is 32 years later, and we’re still together playing.”
Muldrow says he would rank Everett “among some of the top cats in the world. He’s never really gotten to be on the scene but on the level of Fatback. People just don’t know how good he is.”
Everett’s nine-string bass — a $14,000 instrument made by Conklin Guitars in Springfield, Missouri — is a special part of his astute musicianship, which dates to the age of 16.
“Everywhere I go, I take my Conklin 8-stringed beast,” he says in a quote taken from the Conklin website that features him as an artist. “Everyone wants to know something about it. It has been a conversation piece, from how wide the neck is to how it is tuned.”
Everett says company founder Bill Conklin built him an eight-stringed bass that he played for 20 years.
“I told him I wanted a nine-string with a lower low,” he says. “You can go deeper and higher.”
Conklin endorsed Everett on the eight-string, Muldrow says. “Then the guy saw him playing the eight-string and said, ‘You need to be playing nine.’ He said, ‘I’ll build a nine for you.’ The last few years, he’s been playing the nine.”
Everett has since been endorsed by Conklin guitars on the nine-string bass, too, according to Muldrow.
Conklin, he says, told him that he knows of only three nine-string bass players.
Everett’s first professional job was with the Cornelius Brothers and Sister Rose, whose R&B body of work includes “Treat Her Like a Lady” and “Too Late to Turn Back Now” from the 1970s.
Everett has worked with other musicians over the years, including recordings and live dates with Ice Together, Norman Connors, Robert Damper, Clarence Carter, Larry Graham, Archie Bell, Lenny Williams and Margie Alexander.
He estimates that he plays on at least 40 commercial recordings.
“I do a lot of gospel,” he says. “You have to be a chameleon in this game. We do more gospel than anything else. We got to do a show with Muhammad Ali’s family in July in Florida.”
His biggest date, he says, was an appearance at the acclaimed Glastonbury Festival, a celebration of contemporary performing arts in Pilton, a city in Somerset, England, west of London. Paul McCartney and James Brown were on the same bill that year — 2004.
But Everett says if only three people show up for one of his shows, he’s OK with that.
“My first instrument was trumpet,” he says after the band started warming up for a sound check. He was a student at North Street School — which is now known as T.C. Berrien Elementary School — in Fayetteville.
Everett attended Douglas Byrd High School, where he participated in the marching band under the direction of Thomas Fulk. As early as ninth grade, he was playing the trumpet and tuba. For a couple of years, he performed in the All-State Symphonic Band as the third-chair tuba player.
After that, he attended Fayetteville State University, where he made the football team. He left school and joined the Army when his girlfriend became pregnant. He said his stint in the Army lasted about five months.
He returned to Fayetteville and took the test to join the U.S. Postal Service, where he was employed for 32 years. During that time, he started playing with the Chocolate Buttermilk Band.
“I still work with the Buttermilk Band with the (Nate Evans’) Temptations. I’m the lead singer for Chocolate Buttermilk when we open for the Temps,” Everett says.
The spinoff touring Temptations lineup is known as the Temptations Review Featuring Nate Evans.
Everett’s gospel group, the Prodigal Sons, has just recorded a couple of songs for a CD. He will soon drop a song that he wrote, “Thank You for Saving Me.”
Along with that, Everett says, he just released a song with the Chocolate Buttermilk Band called “No Money, No Honey.”
“I’ve enjoyed my life,” he says, noting that being able to play music was a way to express himself.
“I think I would have had a boring life if I had not had music in my life. That’s all I’ve ever done, ever since high school.”