Wilton Felder was a tenor saxophonist for The Jazz Crusaders, a successful jazz group that formed in the early 1960s. He was also a prolific session bass player, appearing on recordings for The Jackson 5, B.B. King, Joe Cocker, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan and others. The distinctive bass line for The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” is Felder’s creation.
The Crusaders (they dropped “Jazz” from their name in the 70s) moved in a more pop-oriented direction in the 70s, adding electric guitar and switching to electric piano. The group went through several iterations and lineups during the next few decades.
A 1981 New York Times interview with Felder (August 31, 1940-September 27, 2015) included his explanation of how he developed his big sound. Texas clubs in the early part of his career didn’t often have microphones, and as increasingly amplified guitars began to drown out other instruments, Felder learned to play loud. He adopted a metal mouthpiece, used hard reeds and “played strong.”