Dan Lakin (1982) Bass
Ed. Note: Dan was a member of the 1980, 1981 and 1982 NTW Jazz Ensembles. In 1980 he toured, with the Jazz Ensemble, to Greece and Romania as part of an international tour. You can hear Dan on the Jaztrak produced albums, Pillars of Jazz, and Tierra Nueva albums on this website.
Part I: Autobiographical Sketch
I started playing electric bass in 1976 at the age of eleven. In 1978 I started taking lessons from a high school friend of my brother, Mark Jiaras (1979). Mark was the first chair bassist in the New Trier West Recording Jazz Ensemble. I was in eighth grade at the time getting ready for high school. After hearing about the program from Mark, I decided to try out when I arrived at New Trier West the following year. I actually lived closer to New Trier East but chose West because of the strong jazz department run by Mr. Roger Mills. Bass players were in high demand, so I was welcomed into the program as a freshman. When I arrived, I found out that I needed to also take up the upright bass and participate in the orchestra program as well. I went for it!
First, I was outfitted with instruments that New Trier owned and were provided to me, free of charge, until I graduated. These included a great black 1972 Fender Jazz Bass and a nice upright to keep at home for practicing, as an upright bass is quite difficult to transport! I had weekly private lessons in both electric and upright bass. Some days I had four, or even five periods, of the nine-period school day in music. Add to this, after-school rehearsals for whatever musical the theatre department was putting on, and my musical plate was full! No time to get in trouble like many of my non-musical friends. Idle time is the devils time as some say…
But the NTW Jazz program is what really hooked me. As a freshman I was part of the Lab Jazz Ensemble. Mr. Mills (Roger from this point on) was quite intimating. To be honest I was very nervous playing in front of him. He seemed to know just about everything about all instruments. For example, he knew where he wanted me to pluck the bass. Back towards the bridge which gives the bass a more “punchy” sound. He was even familiar with the hottest bass player in the world at that time, Jaco Pastorius. The “punchy” sound was his calling card.
I completed my freshman year and the beginning of my sophomore year in the Lab Jazz program. At this time the top band, the Recording Jazz Ensemble only had one bass player. Alan Berliant (1981), who was quite capable, and a really good bassist, but there was no backup. Typically, each band would have two bassists. Then it was announced the Recording Jazz Ensemble would travel to Greece and Romania for a 2-week performance, tour in the spring of 1980, and Alan was the only bassist.
Mr. Mills then asked me to join the top jazz ensemble. I believe this was in December of 1979. I do remember taking my bass with me, as I visited my grandfather in Florida over Christmas break, with some of the charts to begin learning my parts for the big tour. The first few weeks of rehearsals – seventh period, were high stress affairs as I was so nervous. This was the big leagues now! Things got better when I became familiar with the charts. Although I learned the entire show, I would more, or less, be playing the easier numbers. I was proud to do it. The B-team.
Another aspect I liked about the program was that our performances at the school were widely attended by other students, and not just the parents of the performers. Tickets were hard to get! Demand was high. It was cool to be the Jazz Ensemble! The top band was looked upon more like a varsity sports team, a winning sports team.
The tour to Greece and Romania was magical. For me, Greece was quite a treat! I was blown away by the Acropolis in Athens! I was so excited to be included. Many from the trip will remember my great ability to nap. I’ll explain. The band went on a tourist bus to see some sights. There were three different tour groups on the bus. We were first group to be dropped off at our hotel. But I didn’t make that drop off as I was snoozing in the back. When the bus got to the last groups drop off, I woke up. No one working the bus knew English. I somehow got back to my hotel. But it was very scary. We laughed about it the next day.
I was second chair through my junior year as Alan was one year my senior. My senior year was interesting because New Trier West combined with New Trier East. It was a big deal and competition was stiff to get in the top band, The Recording Jazz Ensemble. I made it and shared the top chair with a player from New Trier East. I met some great players/people that year, it was quite memorable. At the end of that year, Mr. Mills awarded me with the Louis Armstrong award. This award was akin to “Miss Congeniality” in the Miss USA contest. I was and still am thrilled to have been part of such a great program.
Part 2: Biography
Dan started playing the bass in 1976 at the age of eleven. After formal training in jazz in high school, Dan set his sights on Rock N’ Roll.
In 1991 Dan started a buy and sell company specializing in bass guitars. This was called, Dan Lakin Basses. Pre- internet, the business was based around a monthly list mailed to subscribers. At its peak it reached one thousand bassists.
From 1991 – 1994 Dan had the opportunity to see (and hear and feel) almost all relevant basses on the market. Some needed repair so Dan worked with a local repairman named Hugh McFarland. Hugh was highly skilled, and his fretwork was legendary. Hugh also had experience in production after working at the Dean Guitar factory in the 80’s.
In 1994, Hugh and Dan decided to put together a bass from scratch using features only found in high end basses. Most of these were not Fender style So they set to create a high end, “Fender style” bass. Combining the J bass with the Stingray (kind of a best of Leo Fender bass), the Lakland Bass was born.
They settled in on a MM/J pickup configuration. The idea was born after Dan read a review of the Warwick Dolphin that had a soap bar pickup in the bridge position and had the ability to split the coils, so it was ether a MM or a J depending on how it was set.
Work on the prototype started in January of 1994. Dan provided the neck shape and opinions on electronics, while Hugh focused on the physical attributes of the bass. The prototype was finished in July of 1994. Hugh and Dan attended the Nashville NAMM Show that year with prototype in hand.
They moved out of Hugh’s workshop in January of 1995 and carved out a shop in Dan’s family’s tire recycling factory on Dominick Street, in Chicago. Hugh left in 1996 and his former apprentice, Carl Pedigo took the lead in the factory.
Lakland became the choice of many top bassists throughout the world. An import line of more affordable basses called the Skyline Series was added to the product mix in 2001. Dan ran Lakland until 2010 when he sold the business.