THE LOW END
In Search of Uncle Bookie, Part 2
Last month we were discussing the trials
and tribulations behind the deal to buy this
wonderful bass. This month let’s discuss the
restoration and resurrection.
When I purchased it, it was an utter disaster.
It had suffered from years of neglect and
experimentation by ham-fisted wannabe
luthiers. At first glance, I could determine a
clay dot neck and not much more. Before
it was for sale, I made the assessment that
it was a 1960 neck and body with all-1970s
parts. That proved to be correct. The body
had been stripped, but whoever did it hadn’t
altered any cavities or contours—it was as cut
by the factory. The original finish is in all the
cavities and the 9/60 pencil date is clear and
vibrant. A very long time ago, though, the
worst refin I’ve ever seen was performed on
this bass. Nothing was removed, not the covers, strings, pickguard or anything. Someone
just painted around them. The finish looks
like it was applied by a rogue member of the
Homer Formby Conservatory after a weekend
bender. The barn-door-red stain is like nothing I’ve ever seen before (or hope to see
again). The four mute holes are undisturbed,
and the body still has the exterior ground
The neck had been stripped of its finish a million years ago, but it was sent for a refinish in
something that makes ‘70s Fender “thick skin”
look like worn nitrocellulose. This concoction
was professionally applied. The 8/60 neck date
was preserved, but the logo is long gone.
This finish has roughly the same sleek feel as a
snow globe after kids eating peppermint sticks
have played with it. The neck was attached to
the body via its original neck plate. The four
attachment screws, oy vey They were slot
head decking screws, but they were the right
size, and they appear to be marine grade. The
nut is missing under the E and A strings—with
matchbook covers as a substitute. The frets
have not been serviced since Al Kaline was a
Tiger, and not a battery in your stompbox. A
major grind and polish are in store.
The parts also were as I expected. Every
stitch of hardware and electronics came from
a 1974 Jazz Bass. I plugged the bass into
an amp and got lots of really bad noise. I
sprayed out the pots and they started oozing
what looked to be syrup. This was the result
of damp storage and grease—someone had
lubed the pots with petroleum jelly. These
pots are now trash. I hooked the pickups
up to my multimeter and found that the tail
pickup read open coil and the neck pickup
had all the windings torn.
Functionally, the bass was a disaster. The
electronics needed to be made useable, the
neck needed a new nut, and the frets needed
to be cleaned up. I wanted the bass to be
playable. The question was whether I should
restore it or leave it alone.
Every purist I spoke to said, “Make it play-
able and leave it as is.” I wanted to do some
homework. The former owner of the bass was
famous, however the bass was not. It was an
electric bass in the arsenal of a doghouse
player and seemed to serve as a guest bass
or for very occasional use. Don’t get me
wrong, this bass was loved. I have documen-
tation that says Stanley Clarke was on this
bass. After talking this through with others,
pleading with my conscience and making an
educated judgment, I decided to fully restore
the bass—I may be going against common
sense, but Jerry Barnes told me Uncle Bookie
probably would have restored it too.
So who would do the work? Luckily, I had a
mostly complete set of hardware from a 1961
stacker Jazz Bass. The ’ 61 pickups I have are
blown, so I’ll have them rewound. The finish
work was a difficult choice, since I work with
many great refinishers. I went with Krishna
Jain of Guitar Garage in Massachusetts.
Krishna knows basses really well, his finishes
are superb and his turnaround time is amazing. I was debating between Fiesta Red and
Olympic White, but after a long talk with
Krishna and Matt Brewster of 30th Street
Guitars and Rust Guitars, I decided to go
with Olympic White. Matt is my voodoo-guru
of all things to be repaired. He will do the
mechanical restoration and a Rust Guitar-style mild relic’ing. This bass will return to its
original glory as a 1960 stack-knob Jazz Bass.
When I paid Buddy Williams for the bass, I
promised him I would provide this bass with
a good home, standing right next to my Gold
Guard P-basses and my slab board J-basses.
The Low Down
It’s been a glorious adventure, definitely a pinnacle moment of my career. I’m flattered that I
was asked to be the purchaser of this bass, and
humbled too. The opportunity was afforded
in part because of the credibility I’ve gained
by having this column—so I guess I owe all
my readers a big “thank you” too (but no, you
cannot borrow the bass). Until next time, drop
the gig bag and bring the cannoli.
Kevin Borden has been a bass player since 1975 and
is currently the principle and co-owner, with “Dr.” Ben
Sopranzetti, of Kebo’s Bass Works: kebosbassworks.com.
He can be reached at: Kebobass@yahoo.com.
Feel free to call him KeBo.