John Entwistle young age

John Entwistle: “I’m the guy on the left”

I think John Entwistle is a quintessential bass player. He’s the guy standing in the corner and doing his job. He doesn’t get caught in the spotlight… And girls don’t throw their bras at him… He’s just a unique musician. And that’s it.

John Entwistle is one of the reasons you will never see a The Who cover band.”

Short Bio of John Entwistle

For those who have just embarked on the path of bass playing and do not understand who we are talking about.

John Entwistle is an English bass guitarist, composer, artist, and producer. Just like Jaco Pastorius, John had his unique, recognizable sound and style of playing.

The Ox in studuio with Fender bass

John Entwistle was born in England on October 9, 1944. He is best known as the founder and member of the legendary band The Who. He is a bass guitar virtuoso, producer, composer, artist, sound engineer, and owner of quite strong fingers…

Having started studying the piano at the age of seven, he soon lost interest in it and switched to the trumpet.

Young John Entwistle

In high school, he met future members of The Who, Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey. After meeting Townshend, the guys played jazz for some time but soon decided to play rock and roll. John finally switched to bass guitar. Being the quietest and calmest member of the wildest band, he heavily influenced the formation and development of the legendary The Who.

In 1967, he married his high school sweetheart, Alison Weiss, and bought a huge house, which he turned into a museum. The passion for collecting various artifacts remained with him until the end of his life. He purchased the Quarwood mansion in 1978 and made it another large museum, which, among other things, housed a collection of guitars that belonged to various musicians.

John's mansion

John Entwistle is known as “The Ox” and “Thunderfingers.” He received his first nickname due to his dense physique and ability to eat and drink a lot. As you may have guessed, the second one – thunderfingers, came from his unique style of play.

John Entwistle’s Unique Sound

Playing in the neck pickup area, almost above the fretboard, John got a slap-like, unique sound. Perhaps because he was previously playing the trumpet, the guy developed his finger dexterity. He called his style of playing “typewriting.” These days, former Mudvayne bassist Ryan Martini uses a similar technique.

It’s interesting that Flea and Marcus Miller also started out playing horns.

Young the Who bassist John Entwistle

His sound was balancing on the verge of slap and tapping. Couple that with an extraordinary sound engineering approach, separate amplification of different frequencies, and numerous speakers and cabinets, which someone called “little Manhattan” by analogy with the skyscrapers of New York. In addition, Entwistle partly didn’t think like a bass player. Playing his bass like a regular electric guitar, he created unrealistic dynamics and powerful sound.

He was the quietest man in private but the loudest man on stage.”

Bill Wyman, Rolling Stones bass player
Young John Entwistle playing in concert

John was the first to use Marshall monitors to hear himself on stage. Pete Townshend recalled: “John used the monitors to hear himself over Keith’s machine-gun drums, and I used them to hear something other than John.”

John was at his best during live performances, when the band members often switched roles. John played solo sections, Pete supported the rhythmic part with heavy guitar chords, and drummer Keith Moon played his kit more like a keyboard instrument.

By modern standards, The Who haven’t got a proper bass player.”

John Entwistle 1989

Together, they continued to experiment with sound. Soon, the guys were famous as the loudest band on the planet. The volume at a concert in London in 1976 exceeded 126 decibels, which became a record for live performances and entered the Guinness Book of Records. The band influenced the music industry of that time and many musicians, including Jimi Hendrix.

Unfortunately, the payback was partial hearing loss. In later years, John sometimes had to read lips to understand his interlocutor. Randy Bachman of Bachman-Turner Overdrive joked that Entwistle had to play based on the rush of air from his giant amp.

John Entwistle bass solo in Atlanta (video)

John Entwistle and His Guitars

In addition to amplification, John also experimented with instruments. He changed numerous bass guitars, including homemade and custom shop instruments. Here are just a few of them:

  • Fender 1965 Jazz Bass;
  • Fender Precision Bass;
  • Rickenbacker 4001;
  • Alembic series I;
  • Modulus graphite Buzzard 1991;
  • Gibson Thunderbird IV bass 1964;
  • Warwick Buzzard Bass;
  • Status series Buzzard Bass;
  • And many other bass guitars.

The culmination of the search was the famous Buzzard Bass configuration, which corresponded to the musician’s ideas about the perfect sound and shape. In my subjective opinion, that’s one of the weirdest-looking bass guitars ever created by man.))

Buzzard bass
Warwick Buzzard

Solo Career and Painting

Also, John Entwistle was the first of the band to start a solo career. In 1971, he recorded the album “Smash Your Head Against the Wall,” followed by:

  • Whistle Rymes (1972)
  • Rigor Mortis sets in (1973)
  • Mad Dog (1975)
  • Too late the hero (1981)
  • The Rock (1996)

In the 1990s, he toured with the John Entwistle Band and participated in Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band. For a while, he was a member of the superband The Best (one of the best rock band names I’ve ever come across…).

Few people know, but John was also a talented artist. He regularly participated in exhibitions and designed some of The Who’s albums.

I’m still the bass guitarist. If you’re reading this bio at a show – don’t forget to wave – I’m the one on the left. If you’re reading this at an art show – Help support a starving Artist. BUY SOMETHING!”

The inscription on one of the paintings
The Who bassist The Ox (John Entwistle)

Tragic Ending

John Entwistle died in room 658 of the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Nevada on June 27, 2002. The day before, he stayed in a room with a local stripper and a “groupie,” who discovered his lifeless body in bed the following morning. According to experts, the cause of death was a massive heart attack caused by an overdose of cocaine. At the time of his death, he was already suffering from heart problems but continued to smoke 20 cigarettes a day.

The farewell ceremony took place in England on July 10, 2002. His body was cremated, and his ashes were buried privately in the presence of his family and loved ones. His son sold most of his property, real estate, and collections of guitars and basses at an auction.

Only after his death did many relatives learn that John had been a Freemason for most of his adult life.

The band decided not to cancel the tour. In John’s place, they temporarily invited Pino Palladino, a session musician and virtuoso who deserves a separate article. Pete asked him on the phone: “Play as you see fit, but just do it loud…”


John Entwistle is a phenomenon in the music world. His contribution to music and influence on musicians is hard to overestimate. Almost every bassist’s biography on Wikipedia contains lines about the influence of The Who and John Entwistle in particular. His masterly bass guitar skills, innovation, and unique approach to sound make it impossible to confuse him with someone else.

I’ll tell you something about myself. I grew up in an era with no Internet and always listened to music first. I even often didn’t know what a musician looked like. I remember when one of my friends brought The Who video cassette from St. Petersburg. There was some dissonance between what you hear and see. Wild music, everyone is going crazy, Pete is breaking guitars, and Robert is throwing the microphone into the audience… However, “the guy on the left” is doing something even more unimaginable, but he’s barely even moving… That was unreal…!

I’m writing this article and feel my breath caught in my throat, as when I was a child… And I already know what I’ll listen to today…

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