|Leo Fender with '50's P Bass|
|Paul Tutmarc with NO. 736 bass|
Tutmarc was designing and selling lap steel guitars through his company, Audiovox.
|Audiovox Bass No. 736|
That same year he offered the Model 736 Bass Fiddle. This was a four string, solid-body, fretted, electric instrument.
|' 35 Audiovox Bass|
It had a short scale neck, only 30 1/2” length. He only made about 100 of these instruments. A horseshoe magnetic pick-up lies inside the body under the bridge. The cable runs through the body and out of the instruments upper bout. It had only a volume potentiometer.
|Bud Tutmarc Serenader Bass|
By 1947, his son, Bud Tutmarc was running the business and offered a similarly designed bass, which sold under the Serenader name. A year later these basses were offered through a wholesaler the following year.
In the 1930’s the same company that made Dobros was offering the Regal Bassoguitar. This monster was a cross between an acoustic guitar and an upright bass.
|Regal Electric Double Bass|
The Regal Company also offered an electric double bass.
|Rickenbacker Bass Viol|
Rickenbacker built the Electro Bass Viol around 1936. Both the Regal and the Rickenbacker instruments were electric, but looked more like viols than guitars. The Regal bass came with a separate amplifier, but the Electro model mounted on top of the amp unit via a peg/pickup.
|1938 Gibson Mandobass|
It had a oval shaped body, and a peg at the instruments end, so it could be played in an upright position. Remember, this was long before they introduced their model EB-0. The bass player for the Les Paul Trio utilized one of these Gibson instruments.
|'52 Fender Precision Bass|
It was not until 1951 that Leo Fender offered the Precision Bass for sale. He had developed this with the assistance of George Fullerton. Although the body looks quite different, the basis of the design was the Fender Telecaster. The original body was more slab-like. It came with one single coil pickup that was placed in the center of the instruments body. A chromed hand rest stood above this pickup and this had several purposes.
This was a rest for the performer’s palm and it also aided in reducing 60 cycle hum. But perhaps the biggest reason for the bridge cover was to protect the pickup, since the pickup on the earliest models did have not a pickup cover.
The difference between Fender success and Tutmarc effort, was marketing. Leo knew musicians and was able to get his bass into the hands of many of the big names. Plus, Leo had created a large, professional amplifier to go along with his bass.
He practiced every night since the feel of the strings and fretboard of the Precision Bass were so much different than an upright bass. Eventually he became very proficient playing the electric bass.
Another Precision Bass player that was featured in early Fender advertisements was Shifte Henri. He is immortalized in the Elvis song Jailhouse Rock; “Shifte Henri said to Bugs for heaven’s sake...”
Another player that was famous for use of the Precision Bass was James Jamerson. His unique style influenced so many players. Jamerson was part of The Funk Brothers that laid down the backing tracks for Motown artists.
Carol Kaye, of the Wrecking Crew fame, talks about Jamerson's sound and influence. She also used a 1960's era Fender Precision Bass on most of her sessions.
|'52 Gibson EB-1|
|'57 Gibson EB-1|
|1959-60 Gibson EB-0|
By 1960 the design of the EB-0 was changed to look more like a Gibson SG.
|1961 Gibson EB-3|
The Gibson EB-3 electric bass was introduced in 1961. It was similar to the SG style EB-0 but came with a "mini-humbucker" in the bridge position. This instrument inclsuded a Varitone control. All of the Gibson basses so far were all short scale instruments.
|1964 Gibson Thunderbird|
This bass was created by automotive designer Ray Dietrich. The Thunderbird also has the distinction of being the first Gibson bass to use dual-humbucking pickups.
|1960 Jazz Bass|
|1960 Jazz Bass - original finish|
The basses neck was slightly thinner at 1 7/16th”, versus the 1 1/2” width of the Precision Bass at the nut. Both instruments had neck scales of 34 inches.
The neck on the Jazz bass came with a rosewood fretboard and clay dot position markers, just like the original Jazzmaster guitar. The offset body of the Jazz Bass made it almost and inch longer the the Precision Bass.
The original model was offered only in a sunburst finish with a tortoise shell pickguard and a chromed metal plate for the volume and tone controls. It also came with a bridge cover, which was stamped with Fender’s stylized “F” initial and a chromed cover/hand-rest for the middle pickup. Both pickups were hidden by the covers, which service the dual purpose of shielding the pickups and a palm rest.
|'62 Jazz Bass|
By late 1961 the stacked volume/tone potentiometers were replaced with three knob;.volume-volume-master tone.
|1961 J-bass string mutes|
These were replaced in 1963 with mutes that were glued to the inside of the bridge cover.
|1964 Fender Jazz Bass|
|'66 Jazz Bass|
In 1969 the logo decal was changed to a larger style decal and the neck was offered with a maple veneer option that had black binding and black block inlays.
By 1972 the bridge pickup was moved slightly closer to the bridge. This went unnoticed by most players.
|'74 Fender Jazz Bass|
|'76 Jazz Bass with serial number|
In 1976 the serial number was added to the neck instead of being embossed on the neck plate.
|John Paul Jones|
Well known Jazz Bass players include John Paul Jones of Led Zepplin, John Entwhistle played one for a while, Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane used a Jazz Bass too.
Larry Graham had a customized Jazz Bass. Bootsy Collins played a Jazz Bass during his days in James Brown’s band.
|1966 Fender Mustang Bass|
In 1966 the Fender Mustang bass was issued as a companion to Fender's shorter-scaled, two-pickup Fender Mustang guitars. This would be the last original bass designed by Leo Fender before his departure from the company in 1965.
The Mustang Bass has a short 30" scale and a single split pickup, which although similar to the Precision Bass was backwards. It had one volume and one tone control, with strings-through-body routing.
Like the early Precision and Jazz basses, the Mustang Bass was fitted with string mutes
|1966 Fender Bass V|
This would eliminate those “woof” tones that bass player get when the play high up on the neck. It was a failure. The bodies were later used on other Fender guitars.
|'55 Hofner Bass|
Taking a step back to 1955, and going the other side of the world, Walter Höfner of Höfner Musical Instruments made a decision to construct an electric bass that would appeal to upright bass players; the ones that performed in club venues and did not want to lug around a bulky double bass. His company had been building violins and instruments in the viol family for decades, so his plan was to construct an electric bass guitar that would be similar in appearance to a double bass.
|Hofner Factory in the 1960's|
The prototype Violin Bass in 1955. It differs slightly from production models as it has a black scrachplate and control panel. The logo on the body is on the upper bass bout, not under the tailpiece. The headstock shape also appears to be slightly different than the production model. The ovular control panel had two tone and two volume potentiometers.
This version was first presented to the public at the Frankfurt Musikmesse in the spring of 1956 and offered to dealers for sale to the public.
The first batch of basses had the pickups "wide spaced", that is one by the neck and one by the bridge. In 1957 the bridge pickup was moved to a place slightly above the instruments center, possibly to improve tone.
Two years later the oval control panel, which had twin volume and tone controls was eliminated and replaced with the more familiar rectangular control panel.
The fascia on this was made of black plastic and had a volume control for each pickup, an on/off slider switch for each pickup and a switch for a capicitor that was labeled “Rhythm/Solo”.
|'61 Hofner bass|
The pickup covers were no longer toaster models, but now came with solid chrome covers surrounded by a black pickup ring.
This is the same original bass used by Paul McCartney during the Beatles days in Germany and Liverpool at the Cavern Club.
|'62 Hofner bass|
The following year, the diamond logo pickups were changed to Höfner staple pickups. These basses were now being made with two piece necks. The tuners were updated from two-on-a-strip models to individual machines. This is the same bass guitar that Paul McCartney had used since his days with the Beatles. His original 1961 bass was stolen.
The headstock logo was changed back to a gold decal.
By 1972 the control panel was changed back to a smaller version. The script on the logo was now in silver.
Meanwhile around 1953 in Czechoslavakia, the factories were under Communist control and private enterprise was forbidden. A cooperative known as the Rezonel factory called Drevokov was building furniture. An order was given to create electric guitars.
|Jolana Basso IV|
Around 1960, the company was selling electric instruments under the Jolana brand name. Their bass offering was the Basso IV, which was very much based on Fender instruments.
By 1963 Jolana offered the Pampero bass, which had a body style similar to a Gibson EB-2.
|Jolana Basso IX|
Their other models from the 1960’s included the Studio Bass and the oddly shaped Jolana Basso IX.
|1962 EKO 1100|
Also offered was the more (or less) conventional shaped Eko 1100.
|Crucianelli Espana & Lear Basses|
Around this same time frame, rival Italian manufacturer Crucianelli, began making violin style basses. Their models included the España bass and the Lear model. Both were hollow body instruments with decorative F-holes and bolt-on necks.
|1961 Hagstrom bass|
In 1960 Albin Hagtrom, an accordion manufacturer of Sweden began producing electric guitars and electric bass guitars.
The first versions were offered in a sparkle finish sold under the Hagstrom brand name. These usually had a single cutaway, one or two pickups and roller knobs with switches for controls.
|1962 Kent bass|
The Kent bass, was made by Hagstrom came with a plastic pickguard that housed the pickups and electronics. The back of the body was made of vinyl. It had an insert in the center that was made of gold coloured diamond shaped plastic. This was supposed to give it an acoustic sound. It did not work and many players removed it, since it was just glued on to the face plate. This bass was sold in the UK under the Futurama brand name, imported by the Selmer company.
|Hagstrom Coronado IV and HII basses|
Hagstrom basses and guitars were imported to the US, by the Hershman Musical Instrument Company. . Hagstrom then offered basses under their own name which included the Fender shaped H models.
In 1967 Hagstrom offered the first electric 8 string bass guitar. All of these guitars and basses featured extremely thin necks and were advertised as The World’s Fastest Necks.
|Framus Star bass|
In 1957 Francis Hall, the owner of Rickenbacker guitars and his design team created the model 4000 electric bass guitar. The prototype was built in April and quickly offered for sale by June of 1957.
The fretboard was made of unbound rosewood wood and topped with 20 frets on its original mahogany neck. The neck was changed a few years later to a laminate of maple and mahogany.
The original model came only in Mapleglo, but by 1960 Fireglo was the most popular colour.
The original model had a single pickup with a volume and tone control. It was offered through the mid 1980’s when it was replaced by the model 4001.
|'58 Shorthorn bass|
In 1958 Nate Daniel finally decided to create a that the four-string model. Thousands of these were sold as Silvetone basses.
It was called the Longhorn. The body was design to look like an Aeolian lyre paired with a long neck. Daniel drew the design while doodling one day and found that it was well balanced and made all the frets accessible. Three models were offered, a six-string bass, a four-string and the Guitarlin, a 31-fret guitar. All models came with a cream-to-bronze finish on the instruments Formica top.
Leo Fender left the company named after him after the CBS Corporation acquired Fender Guitars. Mr. Fender, Forrest White and Tom Walker, who was a Fender salesman, were interested in starting up a new enterprise. So in 1971 they founded The MusicMan Company to build guitars and amplifiers.
|1977 MusicMan Stringray bass|
In the world of the electric bass guitar this is significant because MusicMan was the first to offer a bass guitar with built in active electronics. This was the Music Man Stingray bass.
This bass featured a built in 3 band buffering pre-amplifier which increased the basses low-end as well as the mid-range and high-range output. This started a move and other manufacturers followed suit.
The body was made of graphite instead of wood. New strings were required for this instrument since it was tuned at the base of the instruments body instead of at the headstock.
Due to its unique design and use of materials this bass rarely went out of tune. It also featured the patented Trans Trem tremolo bar that kept the string in tune while in use.
|1982 Warwick "Nobby"|
With Warwick, Wilfer set out to build a European bass worthy of competing with Asian and America models. His basses are excellent. The current Star Bass used by Bootsy Collins was manufactured by Warwick and marketed for a few years.
The electric bass has evolved to the point that most manufacturers now offer five and six string models of their bass guitars, while twenty years ago this was unheard of.
The same can be said of fretless basses.
|Ashbory Bass from Guild Guitars|
One of the more unique bass instruments was the Ashbory Bass. This unique instrument was designed by Alun Ashworth-Jones and Nigel Thombory. Hence the combination of names Ash-Bory.
Alhough the neck was fretless, painted on fret markers guided the player to the correct position.
Guild guitars initially manufactured these basses. After Guild was acquired by Fender Musical Instruments, they were manufactured in Asia under the DeArmond brand-name. I do not think these instruments are currently being manufactured, however there are electric bass ukuleles that use these same strings available.
|Ernie Ball Earthwood bass|
This was a huge instrument, that was played like a conventional electric bass guitar. It was loosely based on the Mexican guitarron.
|Martin Acoustic bass|
Guitar manufacturers did not pursue acoustic electric bass guitars until around the time that MTV began their “Unplugged” series of concerts many years ago. Now there is a plethora of instruments available. Most acoustic bass guitars do not use magnetic pickups, instead the opt for piezo crystal pickups that sense the vibration of the strings and transfer it into energy.
|Lightwave Optucak pickup|
Links to the pictures used can be found by clicking the text below them. Links in the text of this article will provide further information.
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