Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Framus Star Bass

The Allied Forces took control of the Sudetenland in WWII. This had and adverse effect on the town of Schoenbach, which was bordering north northern and western Czech/Hungary Bohemia.

The town was enclave of German speaking violin and musical instrument makers. Musical instrument building had always been a thriving business in this city. In 1945 Fred Wilfer learned of the Allied plans to take over the region. He saw this as a good thing.

With the arrival of Western musicians Wilfer hit on the idea of manufacturing Western musical instruments.

He contacted government authorities in Bavaria and they obliged his plans for creating conditions necessary to construct a facility for this purpose. Wilfer was classified by the Czechoslovakian authorities as an anti-fascist. Thus the US military government in 1946 gave him permission to open his manufacturing plant.

It was called the Franconian Musical Instruments Manufacturer Fred Wilfer. In German the acronym is FRAMUS. Wilfer hired craftsmen who had been displaced from Schoenbach.

Violins were less popular and being replaced by the guitar. The violin makers turned their task to building guitars, which had become popular due to the American occupation of Germany.

The company’s catalogue included a wide array of instruments, however the most unique was their line of bass guitars was the Framus Star Bass.

Fender had set the standard for bass guitars with the Precision Bass. The neck was wider than a guitar neck to accommodate the thicker bass strings. It was 1-5/8” at the nut and 2-1/2” at the 20th fret.

The Star Bass is one of the Framus bass guitars that Bill Wyman of The Rolling Stones played in the early to mid 1960’s. The neck was reported to be a mere 1.25” at the nut and 1.75” at the 12th fret. The neck length of a Fender Precision bass is 34”. The Framus is short in scale and is only 30.5”. The weight of the Framus Star bass was about 5 lbs which could be attributable to its hollow body.
Most professional bass guitars that were manufactured in the United States had large tuners with large keys. The tuning keys on the Star Bass and other Framus bass guitars were similar to those used on standard electric guitars. The neck had 20 frets which was one shy of the Precision bass which had 21. The body on the Star Bass had a single Florentine cutaway on the lower bout. The top and back were mahogany and the sides were maple. It was bound with a white plastic strip.

The ultra-thin neck was rosewood with mother of pearl markers. The body was 2” deep and approximately 9” at the upper bout and 12.875” at the center of the lower bout.

The bass was favored by Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones. He held it almost vertically as he played the bass. Because of his popularity it was also called The Stone bass.

Framus made other bass guitars too. Its line included the Akkerman Bass which resembled the Star bass. The Atlantik, the BL, the Caravelle and Sorento were solid body models.

The Star was updated to several models including the Hollywood Star Bass, the De Luxe Star Bass and the Golden De Luxe Star Bass. Later on the company produced the BL-12 and the Nashville Standard and Standard De Luxe.

Some of the players that favored Framus instruments included a very young Bill Lawrence (guitar pickup manufacturer), who used the stage name Billy Lorento back in 1953.

Peter Kraus model
Peter Kraus was a Framus endorser and played a 4 string guitar during the Folk era.

Dutch guitarist Jan Akkerman also endorsed Framus. Charlie Mingus and Jim Hall were also players of Framus guitars at one time.

In the early 1970’s the Framus bass guitars took on a more traditional American flare. This is also the era which closed Framus. Due to the market being flooded with less expensive Asian guitars, Framus declared bankruptcy in 1975 and closed its doors.

Wyman's Framus
1982 the Framus legacy continued under the direction of Fred Wilfer’s son, Hans Peter Wilfer. He called the company Warwick and they manufactured a line of marvelous professional bass guitars. In 1995 Wilfer the younger revived the Framus name with its present series of high end electric guitars and amplifiers.

2012 Framus Star Bass
The Star Bass is currently produced by the new Framus Corporation. However it is a more conventional hollowbody bass guitar and the neck is more of a traditional size. 

The 1960's Star Bass was an easy-to-play instrument that had the feel of an electric guitar and certainly had the thinnest bass neck I’ve ever encountered.

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