THE LOW END
Wow, That’s Weird! – Part II
Last month, we looked at anomalies from
Rickenbacker, Gibson and Fender. This month,
we’ll explore some Fender bass oddities and
misconceptions. Ninety-five percent of weird
things we see are done post-factory, so if
you’re not sure, see a trained professional.
nal to the bass. What about a custom color,
sixties P-Bass with a matching headstock? Yes,
this too could be original. These are very rare,
so if you’re buying one, have it verified.
bass advertisement that says, “bass is 100%,”
but there’s no neck date? Early slab board
Fenders may or may not have had a pencil
Let’s explore a few inconsistencies with vintage
Fender bass finishes. Have you ever seen an
original sunburst finished bass where the grain
just looked weird? There is a big chance that
the wood was so “blah” that the grain was
actually penciled in, or the original Olympic
White finish was “funny”
so grain lines were painted over the white and
then shot in sunburst! The
majority of these basses
I’ve seen were from the
mid to late sixties.
Let’s explore hardware and quality control. It’s
been said the seventies was the decade when
quality control didn’t exist in American manufacturing. Fender was no exception. Have you
ever seen a bass where the gap(s) between
the neck and body were wide enough to fit
a Kennedy coin? Most just write this off as a
mismatched neck and body, but there’s a good
This next item has caused the need for many
Rolaids: you just dropped five figures on a bass
only to find the position dots are mismatched.
I’ve seen clay and pearl dots used on the same
bass! Sometimes the neck dots are one substance and the side dots are another. I’ve even
seen a mix of both on the neck and sides.
What about a mid-sixties
sunburst bass with a finish
that looks stringy, peely
or shattered? Odds are
you’re looking at a very
early polyester finish.
These finishes typically
didn’t hold up well. I’ve
seen them literally come
off in sheets!
Have you ever seen a
100 percent correct mid
to late-sixties bass with a
transition logo, all original
parts, but a factory-original slab board neck?
Yes, I own a 100 percent
original slab board ‘66
Precision Bass. This is
rare, but true, as Tom
Murphy told me. It was a
leftover neck, found and
used five years later. Have
you every seen a body
with a series of numbers
stamped under the guard
or on the neck? This signi-
fies that the instrument was
sent back to the factory for either major war-
ranty work or (most likely) a factory refinish.
Take a close look at the fretboard—it’s a slab board with the ‘66 Transition
logo. This neck is 100 percent factory original.
chance this is factory original. I bought a 1975
Jazz Bass new whose gaps are this bad. I’ve
seen original basses with a neck pocket 1/4”
to 1/3” wider than the neck. This is more common on lefty basses; it is unsightly, but original
and fully functional.
A finish painted over another finish? This is factory correct. I’ve seen dark custom colors over
sunbursts and dark custom colors over lighter
color. My good friend Ben Sopranzetti has a
deadly ‘ 62 P-Bass whose original Candy Apple
Red was shot over the appropriate primer that
was shot over Olympic White!
As long as we’re talking about custom colors,
there is a misconception that only white or
mint pickguards were used on all custom colors
other than white and blond. Not true. Tortoise
guards can be found on nearly every conceivable color. I personally have a one-owner 1962
Candy Apple J-Bass with a tortoise guard.
This next little bout of weirdness I see all the
time: the serial number on the plate of a Bass
V is typically in the 600000 range of 1975 or
so. No one seems to know why they used this
serial number starting in the sixties on the Bass
V neck plate.
Finally, this applies to an original Fender Bass:
don’t use the pot codes to date your bass.
Pots are bought by tens of thousands and used
until they’re gone, so your 1968-necked P-Bass
with the 1966 pots is a 1968. If the pots come
after the neck date, you need to date all the
features—it’s possible the instrument was a
Remember, have a trained professional make
certain verifications; there could be thousands
of dollars at stake. Next month, we’ll look at
vintage bass bargains under $1500. Until next
time, drop the gig bag, and bring the cannolis!
Another misconception is that all vintage Jazz
Basses in a custom color have matching headstocks. Not all do. It was common in the very
early Jazz Basses not to match the headstocks,
and I’ve seen a few pre- 72 basses that were
unmatched, too. This is very important: if you
are buying a custom color Jazz Bass without a
matching headstock, be sure the neck is origi-
Oddities are also common to Fender necks.
Have you ever seen a rosewood board that just
looks like the ugliest piece of wood ever? The
grain is wide and weird, and runs in a funny
pattern, the color is off—it just doesn’t look
right. This is called padouk, an odd flavor of
rosewood that, in my opinion, should not be
used unless it’s coated like a Ricky. I shy away
from these basses, but there are guys who love
these necks because of the softness of the
tone. Have you ever seen an early slab board
Kevin Borden has been a bass player since 1975, and is
currently President of Goodguysguitars.com.
Feel free to call him KeBo.
He can be reached at