How Pantera’s Rex Brown Went From Playing Tuba to Bass
Rex Brown is currently celebrating the legacy he helped build, playing bass and revisiting the music of Pantera on the band current tour dates. But did you know that the bass wasn’t his first instrument? That actually would be the tuba.
During an interview conducted with Gibson TV in December 2020 that’s been making the rounds online, Brown goes into detail about how he eventually found his way to the instrument he’s most known for today, which is the bass.
Brown revealed his musical education started with a desire to be part of his middle school band’s drumline, but as he revealed, that didn’t come to fruition with the band director suggesting that he play the tuba.
Brown recalls, “Dude, I weighed about 80 pounds and trying to pick one of these things up, that’s another story altogether. But I went on to be All-State every year. I started at beginner class. Within two months, I was in the intermediate class and then three months I was head chair, so something was happening.”
Rex says his quick ascent picking up the tuba led to more opportunities within the band, and he was asked to try out for guitar. “Every chord and every downbeat was the Chet Atkins fucking chord. Nobody does that, and they couldn’t find a kid anywhere to do that, so that’s when I picked up the bass,” says Brown.
He recalls, “I was like, ‘Man, this has got to be easy.’ They had like these ’72, ’73 Fender Jazz precisions and they’d let me take them home. They had the cool amps and stuff.”
Brown says he eventually struck up a good rapport with the band director to where there was some trust as his passion for the instrument grew. “I’ve always been one of those cats where you just look someone in the eye and you tell them the truth, that’s who you are. There’s no pretension there, you know. I was like, ‘You mind if I take the bass? I’d really like to learn over the weekend.’ And he was like, ‘Yeah, you’ve done so well with the tuba, so no problem,'” says the bassist.
But according to Brown, he pushed the boundaries of that trust a bit once he got older. “I got kind of sneaky in the 9th grade. The door had a window that you could open up and I kind of borrowed some amps for the weekend. [The band director] found out about it and pulled me into the office and was like, ‘You been taking the amps away?’ But they looked fine. There was no scuffs or anything, so I was like, ‘Dude I was gonna tell ya, but it was just impromptu. A jam came up.'”
As many Pantera fans know, those jams became more frequent for the teenage bassist, who eventually crossed paths with brothers Vinnie Paul Abbott and his brother Darrell, with the three musicians forming the base of what would become Pantera.
Watch more of Rex Brown’s story in the Gibson TV Icons video below.