|McCartney's 1964 auctioned Höfner|
Karl Höfner GmbH & Co. KG, better known as the Hofner Company, has been manufacturing stringed musical instruments for over 100 years. The business was founded by Karl Höfner.
Höfner was originally apprenticed to Anton Schaller, who made violins, violas, cellos and double bass instruments. In 1887 Karl Höfner founded his workshop in Schönbach, own instruments and he established quite a reputation throughout Germany, Austria-Hungary, Russia and other European countries.
After the first World War he sons, Josef and Walter came into the family business and began the exporting of Höfner stringed instruments into new markets.
|Walter, Wanda and Josef Höfner|
|Collection of wood at Schönbach factory|
At the end of the war, the Czech and German speaking population of Schönbach were expropriated as the result of the company being recognized by the Czech state. This resulted in the acquisition of what was Höfner by the government.
|Hofner Möhrendorf, Bavaria.|
It was a struggle to resume the business since supplies were very scarce due to the war. But Walter and Josef Höfner began working on a way to build a new factory and also find houses in which their craftsmen could live.
The President, The Committee and the model 500/1 bass guitar.
It was also during the 1950’s that Rock n’ Roll exploded on the scene. This unforeseen change caused guitar production to swell to 50% of Höfner’s overall business.
|Nick Smith's Höfner Collection|
|1963 Höfner model 172|
Höfner built a further production site in Haguenau, in order to escape the room shortage in Bubenreuth although also the complex was expanded in Bubenreuth three times.
Hamburg Germany. At the timee didn’t have a lot of money and was looking for a nice bass. The Höfner 500/1 was a great fit; he bought one.
This bass was manufactured in 1962. He had no idea that this would become his signature instrument and make Höfner a household word among musicians.
|Christian and Gerhilde Benker|
Sir Paul McCartney relates, "I remember going along to the shop in Hamburg, and there was this bass which was quite cheap. I couldn't afford a Fender. Fenders even then seemed to be about £100. All I could really afford was about £30 ... so for about £30 I found this Hofner violin bass. And to me it seemed like, because I was left-handed, it looked less daft because it was symmetrical. Didn't look as bad as a cutaway which was the wrong way. So I got into that."
McCartney would acquire two of these models—his original 1961 model, and an updated 1962 model the company gave him in 1963. Afterward, McCartney mainly played the 1962 model, leaving the original as a backup.
|Let It Be with 1961 Hofner|
|Let It Be with 1962 Hofner|
Sir Paul is still in possession of the 1962 bass as of 2014 and used it during the 2014 Grammy's Beatles Special TV performance as well as numerous other appearances.
The older model 500/1 Hofner's have no binding on the neck as do most of the newer models.
The 3 piece set in and bound neck is made of flame maple/beech/flame maple and joins the body at the 16th fret. It is 21 mm at the nut and widens to 24 mm at the 12th fret. All 500/1 basses come with a zero fret. This bass has a short 30"/76cm scale. The fret board is made of ebony and has white pearl dot inlays. There are dots on the side of the bound neck. There is a white heel cap.
The nickel tuners are made by Höfner and fitted with white buttons. The bass's trapeze tailpiece is also made of nickel. The single coil pickups are made by Höfner and are called staple pickups. The electronics panel are produced in house and the potentiometers have a golden colour. The cord jack is on the instruments side.
The Cavern bass is a copy of McCartney’s original 1961 model. This bass comes with a neck pickup and a middle pickup, while the other 500/1 designs have a neck and bridge pickup. This bass has no binding on the neck and comes with an unusual headstock design.
The Mersey model, named after the British town that was home to The Cavern Club where The Beatles and many other bands got their start. This mode has a lighter sunburst finish.
The Ignition model comes with different pickups than the others. The finish on this model has a more pronounced red in the sunburst or it can be ordered with a black finish.
The unique ECO model has a body finished in and ivory colour. The wood materials are similar, but the neck is topped with a light blue fret board made of a composite material and has black dot position markers. The tuners on this bass are slightly different and are called Rugby Ball tuners. The electronics panel is black with gold knobs.
Höfner also continues to build several models of the 500/5 bass, which is now known as The Club Bass. These basses have more of a traditional shape and a rounded cutaway on the body.
Except for the body design, the specifications are similar to the H500/1 Violin bass.
These basses are offered in several variation; The Höfner Club Bass, which has a traditional sunburst finish, the CT design, which has a black finish, the Höfner Club Bass Limited Edition, which has cream bindings and is finished with violin varnish, so it has a distinct brown colour. The pickups on this model are at the base of the neck and in the center position. There is also a Höfner Ignition Club Bass with slightly different pickups.
Stu Suttcliffe was The Beatles original bass guitarist. He played a 1960's Höfner HCT 500/5 President bass. Höfner no longer offers this model.
Sir Paul's 1964 Höfner 500/1, which was a gift from the company, was auctioned at Julien's in August of 2013 and the winning bid was $201,800.
This Höfner bass guitar was presented to McCartney in 1964 and was displayed at the London music trade show at the Russell Hotel. In mid-1965, it was then sold by a Bedfordshire music store to a young bassist. It eventually resurfaced years later in 1994 when it was purchased by an English guitar dealer, who, after extensive research, discovered that the bass was indeed the one bass made especially for McCartney in 1964.
The guitar was taken to Höfner in Germany to verify its authenticity. This was confirmed by Christian Benker of Höfner Musikinstrumente. Additionally, Alby Paynter, who worked for Selmer and Co. in London between 1954 and 1967, also examined the guitar and confirmed this was the bass with which he was personally involved clearing through customs in 1964.
Additionally, Dave Wilkinson, another Selmer employee at the time, remembered the instrument being on show at its central London shop.
Beat Instrumental Monthly. McCartney was quoted as saying, “I have had a Hofner Violin bass ever since I started. I’ve got three or four models but the ancient one is still my favourite … The only difference in any of they can be seen on the one Selmers had made for me, that has gold pickups.”
©UniqueGuitar Publishing (text only)
This video is long, but it is fascinating to see a 500/1 bass being created.