Wednesday, April 26, 2006
My Favorite Bass
My favorite bass is a mid-60s Fender Jazz. It was originally sold during the time that Leo Fender was in the process of turning over the keys of the Fender factory to C.B.S. I bought it in 1973 for $150.00 to clear a debt and at the time, thinking it was rather ugly, I thought I would hang on to it until the seller had the money to buy it back...WRONG!I took the bass on a road trip and fell in love. Luckily, the $150.00 never came back to me and the bass stayed. Unluckily, at least from a collector's point of view, I still thought the bass was ugly. I decided that I was much smarter than Leo and made some design changes. Can I get a "what a dope" from the congregation? Had I left it alone, it would be worth 12 to 16 thousand. I started by sanding off a perfect nitrocellulose sunburst finish and oiling the bare wood with Watco walnut oil...NICE! Then I decided that Fender really blew it with their bridge design. So I bought a Leo Kwan Badass bridge in Lawton, Oklahoma. By the time I got around to installing it, I was playing in some dump in New Mexico and realized that the model bridge I had was made for Gibson basses. Problem solver that I am, impatient as I was to customize my bass, and bored as one can be in a motel room on Rte. 66 somewhere in Shithole, New Mexico, I carved out the footprint of the wrong bridge...in the wrong place, and installed it (see my post entitled "Do It Right Or Do It Twice"). Yes, Swiss Army Knives are cool tools, but no, they can't replace a router. After fighting the intonation nightmare of my misplaced bridge for a few nights, I fixed the placement problem with the aforementioned router...I mean army knife. And that's the way it stayed.My next bit of brilliance I'll blame on Jaco Pastorius. I've often wondered how many perfectly good basses he fucked up with that goddamned solo album of his. Here I was, playing in a club band, singing half the night and I thought it would be a great idea to rip out my frets and surprise the band with my brand-new Jaco sound. Jesus! Good thing I'm 6'7" and they were scared of me or they would have beat the hell out of me on the spot. They had every right to. I ordered a new neck the next morning. As the years passed, that bass became an extention of my hands and we became inseparable. I have had many arrows in my quiver but this one has always hit the mark. It is still without a proper finish, still has the wrong bridge (but in the right place) and I'm on the third neck, a "62 Fender Custom Shop reissue. It has become a family member returned from travelling a world of wild adventures. Missing an ear lobe and a few teeth, one leg carved out of a table leg, but with great stories to tell in an old familiar voice. The old girl is ugly as ever...and I love her like the moment I met her for the first time.