Bassist spreads groove, message at OUS

Published 12:00 am Saturday, June 3, 2006

assist J.V. Collier’s music has taken him all over the world, but it somehow brought him back to the same place this week.

The Los Angeles-based musician, who’s spent the last 12 years playing for Grammy-winner Bruce Hornsby, took the stage at Ohio University Southern to impart a life of lessons, in a setting straight out of his childhood.

Collier got his education about the tough times early. He grew up in a poor community in Dixon, Tenn. before his father, trying to build a better life for his family, uprooted the whole clan and brought them to Detroit.

Email newsletter signup

Not surprisingly, the heart of Motown is where Collier first found his love of music, but he didn’t immediately pickup a bass and start plucking. No, he found his first instrumental love on the other end of the coolness spectrum … the trombone.

“My teacher used to assign you to an instrument by your lips,” Collier said with a laugh. “My younger brother ended up playing trumpet because he had thinner lips, but because I had full lips I had to play trombone.”

Luckily for Bruce Hornsby, Was (Not Was) and Gladys Knight (all of whom Collier has played for) he discovered the bass soon afterward … but even this discovery was almost by default.

“I had a friend who knew how to play a little guitar, and we were huge Jimi Hendrix fans, and he said ‘Well, I’m playing guitar, so I’m going to be Hendrix,’” Collier said.

That left either bass or drums for Collier to play, and as he knew even at that young age that his family wouldn’t be able to afford so much as a snare, the die was cast, and a career was launched.

He was 13 when he picked it up, but within just a few years, Collier was playing regularly with session musicians in Detroit. Those veterans were not only his first music teachers, but also some of the most influential guides in his life.

“We would record on these old tape machines, and they would always break down, and when they would that meant I was in class,” Collier said. “It was life lessons and music lessons, they would put on old recordings they had done and point out different things to me.

“They gave me so much knowledge and so much information that I decided that I would pass that on as they had passed that on to me, and, I’m sure, someone had passed it on to them at some time.”

Passing it on was exactly why OUS’ Diversity Task Force had brought Collier to the school last week, said professor Dr. Charles Jarrett.

“We wanted someone who was a member of a minority group, but someone who had become very successful,” Jarrett said. “We wanted someone who would be an inspiration to our students.”

As students enthusiastically shared the stage with Collier during his show, it would have seemed that ‘inspiration’ would have been an understatement. It may have been 30 years later and half a nation away, but it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to say that Collier was fulfilling a promise … to pass along the lessons of past music greats, to help the next generation find their groove.