Tom Fowler, Bassist for Frank Zappa & Ray Charles Dies at 73

American rock group Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention, circa 1974. Left to right: bassist Tom Fowler, saxophonist Napoleon Murphy Brock, singer and guitarist Frank Zappa (1940 - 1993), keyboard player George Duke, marimba player Ruth Underwood and drummer Chester Thompson.

The world has lost another incredibly talented musician. Tom Fowler, best known for playing bass for Ray Charles and Frank Zappa and the Mothers, passed away at the age of 73. Fowler died on July 2, 2024, from complications of an aneurysm. Engineer and producer Dennis Moody confirmed the news and paid tribute to Fowler in a heartfelt message on Facebook.

Moody wrote that Fowler was “one of the most creative, intelligent and wackiest people I’ve ever met. Tom played bass on a half-dozen Frank Zappa albums, and as well of the last 10 years with Ray Charles. I met Tom and his brother Walt when I was 20 years old. He and I remained friends forever, touring the world and making lots of incredible music.”

Arthur Barrow, who also played bass for Zappa, shared his own sentiments on Facebook and wrote, “He was a hero to me. The first time I heard ‘Echidna’s [Arf (Of You)]’ I almost fell over when he played the big 5/16 lick on the bass! I had no idea that a clumsy bass could do such a thing! He was an inspiration for me to buy a bass and start practicing. I have known him since about 1976. RIP old friend — missing you very much.”

Before Fowler became known for the bass, he played the violin at an early age. He began playing with Zappa in the early ’70s, along with his brother, Bruce Fowler on trombone. He appeared on several of Zappa’s albums in the ’70s. During that time, he also played with the band Air Pocket (with several of his siblings including Bruce and trumpeter Walt Fowler), George Duke, Steve Hackett and Jean-Luc Ponty. Later in life, he played with Ray Charles and appeared on his final studio album.

If you are a fan, check out this radio program that was dedicated to Fowler.

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70s Pop Idols

May 2019

The biggest and best from the worlds of rock and disco!

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