Turning Adversity Into Opportunity

Beaver Felton: Bassist, Teacher, Paraplegic

Interview with Bass Inside Magazine 


In a world of music where it can seem to be 'the faster and the flashier the better', Beaver Felton was (and is) one of the fastest and the flashiest. So it must have proven very difficult not to tour, not to want to headline your own act, not to seek out the biggest and best band to showcase your talent. Instead, you choose to focus all your efforts and energy on the running of a (admittedly) successful music store in Orlando, Florida.

Particularly when your business partner and long time buddy, Dave LaRue, is doing exactly what you are more than capable of doing with your own skills.

This was the most pressing of my questions posed to Beaver,  "Why the store and what does it give you, how do you handle not being a rock star when you could easily be in the leagues of Stu Hamm and Alain Caron?"

Beaver is a world class player with the same drive to succeed, the same pull to be a star that we all have. This article makes a fascinating story on how he copes and in fact turns an otherwise stressful situation to his favor and success. One man's story of tragedy turned into triumph...

Bass Inside: Do you see much of Dave (LaRue, Beaver's silent partner and bassist for Dixie Dregs) these days?

Beaver Felton: Well, Dave lives about an hour and a half from here these days, he doesn't actually live in Orlando. He comes in to teach, mainly every Saturday or every other Saturday. Last night he and I went out to a concert, went and saw Dream Theater, Joe Satriani and Kings X.

Bass Inside: Readers please note: The bassists for all three of these bands will be in the October issue of Bass Inside.

Beaver Felton: Indeed? Well, they are certainly all good, no doubt about that.

Bass Inside: You play in a cover band?

Beaver Felton: Yeah, a weekend cover band, have been for about the last 10 years, probably. Ever since my accident which was in `85. Just before my accident I had ironically just got recognized internationally. I had just gotten featured in Guitar Player magazine.

After that I was in a bad car accident and had to redirect my career. I didn't know if I was going to be able to travel that much. So that's when I really started getting into all that instructional stuff. (Editor's note: Beaver has released over 100 audiotapes and multiple video tapes on bass.)

When I arrived on your website, for the very first time, (Bass Central), just as a bassist checking out your store inventory, the thing that smacked me in the head after hearing an mp3 file on your playing was the logical question, "Why is this man not pursuing his career when he is every bit as good and as unique as any of those who have carved a career in performance?" People like Stu Hamm, Billy Sheehan and others.

That actually is a good question. I will say this, and there is a ton of good bass players at this point in time, that there will always be a part of me that wished I had pursued a bass solo career.

The turning point was, in fact, that car accident. I don't know if you know this: I am in a wheelchair, a disabled paraplegic. I've still got my hands, obviously.

The fire burns in most of us, the wish to be a 'rock star'. It must have been very difficult.

It was quite ironic that as I finally was getting international recognition, within that same month, it was all taken away.

Must have been very devastating.

Oh, absolutely. A lot of people in the music industry don't know this, but I was a triple gold medallist as a weight lifter in `75. My whole life had been very much physically active. Of course, I like to think I was a strong stage personality. At one point, I swore I would never go back on stage because I did not want to compromise being what I considered being a good stage man.

Even though I could still play bass as well, still sitting in a wheelchair is a whole different thing. Especially after being an entertainer for ten years.

I rub elbows with and know a lot of bass players who have done their own solo projects, it's not always the financial security that one might think it is.

Especially when you consider that a highly successful bass album sells a mere 75,000 copies.

Exactly, and you are probably not gonna live on that for the rest of your life. So after that accident I had to figure out what I was gonna do that was going to sustain me long-term, financially. I've always been an instructor, and having just been featured in Guitar Player, I had mentioned in that article that I was getting ready to start a series of instructional tapes. This was still before the accident. In the article Mike Varney said that should I do that instructional series they would likely be very successful, based upon the wide variety of techniques.

So that gave me the time and the credibility. I had established a name finally. That's really what happened. I started out making my own tapes. Then HotLicks contacted me for a video. Then Hal Leonard contacted me and I did 7 or 8 CD-Book packages.

It's like things were given to you, then taken away and then given back to you again.

Ah, yeah, something like that, I guess. No doubt about it though, it could have been a whole lot worse.

How did you tie in with Dave LaRue in the first place?

I had been a Steve Morse fan my whole life. He, like myself, grew up in Georgia. Back in `89 or `90 I went to see Steve play. I had heard he had a new bass player. I met the guy and at that time I was staff columnist for a Peavey magazine called The Monitor. So the next column in the next issue that I wrote was about chords on bass. I used Dave LaRue as an example, as I had just seen him. He used such and such chords behind Steve (Morse) to really compliment the chord changes.

About a couple weeks later when Dave read the article, he called me just to thank me. We hit it off as friends ever since. He ended up becoming a founding partner of Bass Central.

For a store especially in a smaller demographic than one that specializes in guitars, you have done all right at Bass Central?

We have been very lucky. We give great service, I can say that with confidence and we keep a huge inventory. Probably the largest bass inventory on the planet! We handle Alembic, Fodera, MTD.

It must be a dream come true, surrounded by boutique custom basses all the time.

Oh it's nice, but here is another irony...even though I have three full time employees, I am putting all my time into running the business. I am spending so much time on the internet or just writing up the deals we are doing, finances etcetera, I literally never have the chance to play these basses while I am here at work.

This is a three or four man operation to make this thing run.

So in spite of adversity, things are now working out rather well, including a recent engagement to his lady. Also being interviewed by then-premiere bass magazines in the world had helped with getting the instructional series off the ground.

People that call or email us (which is a 100 plus per day), a huge number of them, maybe 50% of them at least, know of the store from hearing about me in magazines, in catalogues or Hot Licks videos. This gear or that gear, GHS strings or whatever.

I guess the more my name got around, the more name recognition followed. That has been parlayed into the store. People say all the time, "Oh, yeah I have 3 of your videos or your CD's." So that's just from talking to people out of your living room (on the videos). Would you say you are self-taught, both musically and business-wise?

I think I have pretty good business sense at this point. Now Dave's name is of course higher up the totem pole than mine, so it's good for name recognition, which is always good.
Considering the level of your chops, do you do any recording for yourself at this time?

I haven't in several years, I just haven't had the time. I think that if I were not engaged to be married, things would be different in that area. But running your business takes time, having a relationship takes time, and then you have to sleep! (laughs) I am reforming this cover band I have been in for a while.

Yeah, I found your ad somewhere.

There's a chance I am going to be working on some originals probably later this year with a guitar player friend of mine. That's just a maybe. But with the weekend band even now, that is my only link to sanity. That is literally my only link!

Playing live...

Exactly!

Do you see yourself do any more instructional tapes?

Well, I put it to you this way. I get companies as well as customers asking me all the time. But the reality is that the market is flooded. I have been referred to as one of 'The Grand Daddies of Bass Tutorials'. `Cos I have had the stuff out there since `86...

But I was recently contacted about doing something online. I was approached by this company for lessons online that are downloaded. No more videos, CD's or tapes, just downloadable programs. It would be something where a person could go online and download a lesson.

Do you see yourself working with Bass Central until you are finished working?

Yeah, I definitely consider it a long-term career choice. Playing live has been something I have done for over 30 years, so that is in my blood, too. But either way, what I really love doing is just playing.

And Beaver truly can play! Take a listen to the mp3 file we have loaded on this page (See Bass Inside) Once you hear it, don't be too surprised if you find yourself either writing the man to ask him to get back out there in the performance world or ordering one of his many instructional videos.

Beaver took a tragic situation, got over feeling bad for himself and turned his life around and into a success story. An inspiration to all of us, both as a player and a person who refused to accept what life had handed to him. -Bass inside

Contact Beaver at