Saturday, April 23, 2011

Fender Precision Slab Bass

Post World War II saw a marked increase in the popularity of the guitar throughout the world. My take on this is due to United State soldiers, especially those from the southern USA who brought their guitars with them to play and sing songs that reminded them of home. Britain was especially accepting of this cultural exchange. 

This was a time that Brits were not only listening to country music, but rhythm and blues, that was introduced by Black soldiers. 

Big Band music would shortly fade away, due to economics and “combos” of four or five players made dance music. 

Skiffle Music became popular, as did R&B and American Rock &  Roll.

The Marshall Plan aka the European Recovery Plan designed to rebuild Europe by lending money to nations resulted in debt to the US. This debt resulted in tariffs placed on US products imported to Britain. Subsequently American guitars and amplifiers were available in the UK, but they were very expensive.

There were a few ways around this problem.  

The most common method was to import guitars from European countries. This was a boon to manufacturers such as Hagstrom, Hofner, Framus, EKO, Italia, Crucianelli, Selmer and others. The other way was for British manufacturers to build guitars and amps. 

Marshall, and Vox amplifiers found their beginnings and built amplifiers based on their own unique variations of the Fender Bassman. Later Watkins, Harry Joyce, and Hi-Watt entered the scene. 

Steve Curries Slab P-Bass
One last method was when an major American company wants to test market a product to see if it will sell. This was the case with a special British-only version of the Fender Precision Bass. This guitar was known as the Fender Slab Precision bass and it entered the UK in 1966. 

(Fender would test market some gear in later years in Japan and Europe.)

The original “slab” bass was the 1950's Precision Bass, which had a Telecaster-style headstock and one single coil pickup that was not split. The 1966 Precision Slab bass looked exactly like the 1966 US version of the P-Bass, but it did not have the body contours. This instrument was only available to the British market.

There were only a handful of these instruments. The estimate is 25 or 35 bass guitars. Most all of them went to well known British players.

John Entwhistle of The Who was among the first to receive a slab bass. Steve Currie of T. Rex purchased a slab bass, as did John Sprigate of The Glitter Band. Chip Hawkes of the Tremeloes can be seen in early videos with his Fender Precision Slab bass.

Based on their rarity, the Precision Slab bass is very collectible, but seldom seen. The Fender Custom Shop at one time offered  a reissue of the Precision Slab Bass

It came only in Olympic White, a black pickguard, a maple cap neck, and the original-style split P-bass pickups.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)



MSDos5 said...

Nice work on this piece, I haven't kept up with this blog lately. Steve Harris of iron maiden played one also :-)

Marc said...

Thank you. The Slab is an interesting and not too mentioned bit of Fender history.


Jimi said...

I´ve heard they used leftover bodies from Precision 1.
Saw one which had the through-body-routings in the back filled, sprayed over white. Anyway collectible and rare.

JOHN said...


lrak vilkingson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
lrak vilkingson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Albert Vickers said...

Nice pick job on that slab. 47 years playing bass I never did get my hands on that fender Slab bass. Just too much money! Still I have my 66 P bass, a Maverick Nemisis, etc etc but I would love to play that slab just one,
On the 4

Martin said...

I have one. Serial 13870X. Bought it 7 years ago in a small shop in Denmark for about EUR 3000. Owner knew it was special, but not what exactly it was. It has unfortunately been stripped, but is otherwise original.
Best part is the wide neck, the heavy body and the very precise tone. Very different from my Jazz'es. And then of course the thrill of owning it.

Anonymous said...

I am collecting all Data on Slabs/Hybrids.
Would it Be possible to contact me?
Oliver (

Albert Vickers said...

After posting here in October I bought a bass body that turns out to be a P Slab! It was in a badly done stripped back to the wood. Think it was gonna be someones re build and it must have just slipped away till I bought it from France. It came with neck plate and serial number but no neck. I planned to rebuild it. I also have a beautiful 1966/7 Hohner Jazz bass made in West Germany, and 3 tone burst. Hohner was the first guitar I bought more than 50 years ago!

Anonymous said...

Albert, Can you give me more Info in your Slab body? See email above
Thank you

Albert Vickers said...

Hi, and thanks for asking. I don't know what to tell you though as you need to be specific?
I have parts off of a 63 single coil P Bass and a 66 P.
I am to re builds.
My age and disability lead me away from playing last year and I converted a Strat and a Telecaster to 30"short scale bass'.
I have read so much on the P basses, but what is real and what is false is hard to know. I think Fender is a mine field so I wanna go slow.
I have soo many questions myself :-)

Anonymous said...

So Do you have a 66 Slab Body with neck plate?
I would love to see photos of it!

aka ziggybass said...

Yes I do, but I am not having much luck posting photos to you. Seems you are ring fenced by 'norply'.
I am friends with many mates from famous 60's bands and they are easier to contact.
By the way Frank Allen of the Searchers has played a slab P bass for years. As far as I recall it was rebuilt by a Swedish Luthier and just gived to Frank in the 1980's + - ! It was re finished in 3 tone burst! He wont sell it :-)
Give me an email address I can wite to easily and I will keep you in the loop regard the 2 single coil and the 66 re builds. I wish you good luck. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Plse try sending to:


Albert Vickers said...

Ok Oli I got the mail adress. Thanks for making the effort. I will try a test email later. Right now I am coping with a re finish in Nitro.

Regards from malaga Spain :-)

this is refusing to send and I am getting error messages (again) will keep trying.
My email is

lrak vilkingson said...

I had one which belonged to my dad which he gave me. Stupidly I put it in the window of Andy's guitars on Denmark Street in London in 2005 or thereabouts to see if it got some interest, all of a sudden a worker there said it has been sold without us knowing and a cheque would be issued. After admitting it had been sold I couldn't get hold of the owner mr Andy Preston and they shut up shop straight after. I never got anything back and i couldn't keep affording solicitors bills to carry on chasing mr Andy Preston. He apparently went bankrupt. I still don't even know how much it sold for and i'm still having sleepless nights over it. I have all the details of the case and a couple of his responses and the signed receipt i had him sign for receiving it and having it displayed in the window. Was a huge shame as i didnt really want to sell it but we were so broke and it was the only thing i had of any value.
Im still hopeful something can come out of it even after this amount of time. So sorely missed.

Reg Banks said...

Hi I have one all original .sounds great BUT the truss rod is broken and the bass frets out, not sure which route to take.

Taranvir Johal said...

Hi, does anyone know the exact specification of the pickups? Like the wire gauge, type of magnet etc. I know they're 10k scatterwound

Baz Matthews said...

Hi Taravir Johal,
They are standard P-Bass pickups from the year.
From Barry Matthews - I wrote the book "A Fender Bass for Britain - a History of the 1966 Slab-bodied Precision Bass" released in 2009.

Happy to communicate with anyone who wants to talk about them or ask about them.I am currently preparing a further article which may be included in a guitar magazine shortly so would be really pleased to find any further examples - I have collected details of 26 black-guarded ones and several of the USA version so far.

My email address is

To Irak Vilkingson - I saw your bass when Andy had it and can give you photos and the serial no. if you are interested, it may help you trace it!

Baz Matthews said...

To all Slab lovers out there
It is now 50 years since the Slab was born! Hoping to commemorate it with an article. Please get in touch if you own or have owned one - all information appreciated.
Hoping to hear from you
Big Baz Matthews
07890903419 (England)

The Hybrid Hunter said...

Hybrid Lovers,
well the official 50th anniversary is slightly over as the initial order for a "Telecaster Hybrid Bass" was placed in early summer by the inventor Mr. Barrie Midford-Millership.
He must be seen as the godfather of the Hybrid Slab basses.

I have done extensive research on the Hybrid Slab basses for a future publication.
All I can say is that big parts of the yet distributed history on the Hybrids need to be overwritten and corrected.

In the meantime I can highly recommend the book

"The Mighty Hybrid and The Keeper of The Slabs"

by Mr. Midford-Millership

More Information on his initial order, the basses and his book on:

There you can also order a copy of the book!!

Many thanks for reading and be prepared for a revolutionary future publication on the Hybrid Slab basses.

Many greetings
Oliver Baumann
The Hybrid Hunter

The Hybrid Hunter said...

Slight typo correction:
Must read: ....initial order for a "Telecaster Bass"....

The Hybrid Hunter

Albert Vickers said...

Since October The second bass body I purchased in 2015 has proven to be an early copy of the Original 66 Slab. It has a 70's F P Bass neck plate and we set out to prove it was a 70's copy so no one is dissopointed or surprised.
The slab body I rescued 18 plus years ago in France still looks good and I am waiting for a gap in my other rebuild programs to photograph it and get as much feed back asap about it!

I know there are people here who want to see it.

A Vickers, aka ziggybass

Barry Matthews said...

Interesting to hear about your research, 'Hybrid Hunter'. It is a shame the man who made them in the Fender factory, Babe Simoni, and the man who distributed them in England, Ivor Arbiter, are no longer with us, though I did personally meet and interview them both before they died and I included their comments in the book "A Fender Bass for Britain - a History of the 1966 Slab-bodied Bass." Also visited the Fender factory and discussed production procedure with a number of those that worked there.
Since the book's publication in 2009 more of the basses have come to light, which I have been able to list and examine many, but the basic facts the book contained I believe to be as accurate as it is possible to be at this distance of time. The Slab is a Precision Bass which hasn't been contoured and as such it's inventor was Leo Fender. A number of guitar experts agree.
When I spoke about the 50th anniversary, I wasn't specifying a particular day but the 50th anniversary year!
Will be interesting to see your new information.
Barry Matthews

The Hybrid Hunter said...

Well I can not second your opinion.
To me the inventor of the Hybrid bass is Mr Midford-Millership with his custom order of a Telecaster bass.
Fender was only the fulfiller of a custom order and with what they delivered they haven't thought about that much what to Build.
They just pulled parts off the shelf to fulfill this order. Of course they did a gorgeous and iconic Design with it.
But if they would have seriously invented a new Design following a Telecaster order the would have had more Telecaster details like the small headstock for example.
Even more if they put a Telecaster bass into production in 1968.
That all would make no sense.
No fact is that after the order of Mr Midford-Millership and upon receipt of the single bass in later 1966 Arbiter first showed that bass to several dealer and musicians and the huge response caused them to place the small production run.
I have yet discovered twice as many examples most experts are convinced that have Been produced.
But there are also fakes out there and I have traced several!!

The Hybrid Hunter

The Hybrid Hunter said...

Sorry, typo correction:
Must read:

"Fact is that after the order of Mr ......."

Albert Vickers said...

Mostly pointless gibberish some of it written in terrible English. 2 sides. One wants to know what it's worth, and I'm only interested in an instruments voice!! Will it sound good? That cannot be resolved here!

The Hybrid Hunter said...

that is very hard to say how it will sound. An original Hybrid Slab body is only part
of the whole thing.
Most important is that maple capped maple neck....
You can email me if you want like we already did some time ago.

The Hybrid Hunter

Albert Vickers said...

The 66 Fender Slab
Well I held my first fender Bass in 1958. I have owned dozens of them. have stubby fingers and having the tips of the fingers on my fret hand smashed nearly 30 years ago my prefered instrument is the P Bass and the Jazz Bass with the P bass neck and 42mm nut!
I read a lot of stuff over the years regarding Fender and the 'SLAB Bass and a lot of hearsay at gigs and pubs etc, and ignored it mostly as irrelevent to normal life.
There is some guy calling himself 'keeper of the slab'. My God what is the world coming to. If I had the money I could buy an art museum, it wouldn't make me an expert on art.
From an educators perspective I think Barry Matthews has made a real effort to produce a well founded honest work documenting as much as is rational regarding the fender slab bass. Instead of massaging egos some of you should get together and share honestly what each of you knows/believe and post it as a free and Gratis Thesis for the world in general and let the students (those who care)of musical history be the judges
Remember the music, dance, sing and have fun. Life is to short to know everything!

Barry said...

I have two 1966 Fender Precision basses F138700 & F138711. I met the man who built them, Virgilio "Babe" Simoni. He worked for Fender from 1953 until 1973. He remembers the order from Ivor Arbiter, a good friend of mine.When I spoke to him researching my book Ivor did not remember any order. I also spoke to George Fullerton, who assisted Leo to design the Precision bass in the early 1950's. He related to me how things worked with orders. Babe Simoni made quite a few different instruments (the Custom, Swinger & 1966 slab bodied Precision bass). Babe Simoni told me he was asked to come up with a design to use up maple capped necks, and this was the result.
So Leo Fender invented the Precision bass with the help of George Fullerton & Babe Simoni designed the '66 slab, a Precision without contours. I don't think I would like to steal a dead man's laurels, Oliver.

Big Baz--Barry said...

Just a correction on my previous comment, My 2 basses F138700 & 138711 are Both 1966 slab-bodied Precision basses one has the body refinished and the other is stock original. {b}

Big Baz--Barry said...

Just another point, the one refinished was done by Clive Brown (a great restorer) a superb refinish it looks so good you would not think it was a refinished body. when I got the bass the finish was a bodge but now it looks great.

Oliver said...

Good Morning
Never Seen 138711.
Is that one pictured somewhere in your book?


Big Baz--Barry said...

No It has recently come to light, I have Pictures of 24 different ones that are Black guarded, and Many others.

Big Baz--Barry said...

Oliver, I have tracked down slabs from England,Finland Norway, Sweden, Germany, France Iceland, South-Africa, For the first Batch, and of course the USA, for the second Batch.

Big Baz--Barry said...

Hi.Albert have you got your book yet Baz

Albert Vickers said...

Lovely John. Spend my money on tpoo many. Have A 66 body F183...hoping big Baz can help sort it out. Had.18 years but it's sad without a neck.

Albert Vickers said...

Yes Baz, but need your current email as tesco get returned. Need Help!

Albert Vickers said...

Baz if you have skype I can show you my neck less body etc and we can chat? skype address via email only!

Big Baz--Barry said...

Hi Albe, I'm trying to set up Skype on my Ipad when is the best time to try & get in touch, Bazza.

JonnitheBass said...

Fender bass for Britain seems legitimate

Albert Vickers said...

Thanks JonintheBass, Fender Bass for Britain is the only book I ever bought so I can give it as a gift to any young musician interested in Fender Bass History.

Big Baz--Barry said...

Hi Johnithebass, Have you got a 1966 slab-bass? Is it in good condition? Do you play in a Band? Have you any pictures

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Albert Vickers said...

After so much wasted time. Turns out my Slab is not original. Too much excitement from other people carried me along. It is a Fender but either a Re Issue or a Custom Shop. It's cost me so much money to have the burnt wood stabilized and body areas re built and painted.
I didn't buy the neck Baz had offered me, and have not heard another word from him.
That aside I have read all the books now and clearly Barry Matthews review of events was obviously not only a labour of love, but a journey to discover the truth. I failed to find that in the other dedicated more recent book on the subject. Thanks Baz!

Shelley Di Capri said...

Barrie Midford-Millership's book, The Mighty Hybrid & The Keeper of The Slabs is THE authoritative word on the matter of 1966 Slab Basses. Anything else just doesn't measure up. At all.

Albert Vickers said...

Jajaja. You his girlfriend?

Shelley Di Capri said...

Not in the slightest, I've never met him: I'm just a discerning reader who knows a good book when she reads one. Why do I have to be a gf to appreciate a good book? That kind of reasoning belongs to the playground.

Stephen Lee said...

I have also read "The Mighty Hybrid and The Keeper of the Slabs" by Barrie Midford-Millership. Barrie has presented a thorough and complete description and presentation of his version of history with facts, photos and information that backs his claims! The top level of disagreement is refuting the central point of Barries story with fact, which is not what you have not done. The 7th level of disagreement is to resort to name calling. This is what you have done. Shame on you, Barry Matthews and Albert Vickers. :^(! !!!!

Steve said...

I have read both books, but more importantly as a collector of Vintage Fender Basses, and owner of one of these basses, I have done my own research. In my opinion, the history contained in The Midford-Millership book is spot on, and it is disappointing the other piece has many historically inaccuracies being put forward as facts. And, I believe the bass shown throughout the Matthews pamphlet, the one with the highly figured maple, is a reproduction. Leo would never have allowed this wood to be used, and although he sold the company in January 1965, all examples I have seen during the following transition years continued to display unremarkable grain patterns.

But the real reason for this post is to agree with Stephen Lee. Name calling is so unprofessional, so classless. The only upside is that it allows the reader to better understand the true character of the poster.

And before anyone asks, I am not Mr. Midford-Millership’s girlfriend either.