Introduced in 1982, Peavey’s T-20 was different from other basses in the Peavey lineup, the two-pickup T-40, and the single-pickup T-45.
The T-40 (“Bass Space” October ’06) and its six-string sibling, the T-60, debuted as the first instruments to be made with parts carved using CNC machines, and their necks were bilaminated and pre-stressed. Their pickups had a unique system that converted the output from humbucking to single-coil.
Marketed with founder Hartley Peavey’s mantra of “quality products for working musicians at fair prices” in mind, the T-60 and T-40 were an instant success.
Interestingly, the T-45 (“Bass Space,” June ’03) wasn’t just a single-pickup variant of the T-40. The T-45’s solitary pickup wasn’t in the same location as one of the two pickups on a T-40, although the models had the same body style – in company literature, the pickup was described as “harmonically placed.” The T-45 had rear-loaded controls, no pickguard, and three knobs (for volume, tone, and midrange frequency rolloff) instead of the expected two knobs for volume and tone only.
The T-40 had a 20-fret neck, while the T-45 had a 21-fret neck. Both instruments had the industry-standard scale of 34″.
The T-20, designed by luthier Mike Powers, got Peavey deeper into the bass business in a more impressive manner, by offering several new innovations.
The neck and body of the new bass were, of course, manufactured in the same manner as the T-40 and T-45, and its scale was also 34 inches. When it was first introduced, the April 1, 1982 price list noted that the T-20 was available with a “selected hardwood” body and a 21-fret maple neck.
The body silhouette of the T-20 was different from the other two Peavey basses. To some observers, the T-40/T-45 body looked stodgy, and the T-20’s slimmer profile brought it more in line with most contemporary bass body silhouettes. Company literature also touted a laminated cream pickguard.
There were hardware differences as well. The tuning key ratio on the T-20 was described as 24:1, while the tuners on the other basses were 22:1. What’s more, the T-20 had a new bridge instead of the die-cast monsters seen on the earlier twosome. The T-20’s bridge was a lightweight “triple chrome plated” item, which had barrel-shaped saddles instead of the rectangular saddles found on the earlier die-cast bridge. Strings loaded through the body on the T-40 and T-45, but loaded through the end of the bridge on the T-20.
The new electronics on the T-20 were obvious at first sight. A new, powerful, single-coil Super Ferrite pickup was installed at an angle, and the price list proclaimed that it, too, was “harmonically placed”.
The pickup was surrounded by an “integral, mounting ring/thumb rest combination”, and the practical, asymmetrical design of this item was another aesthetically-intriguing idea that probably caught the eye of many players.
Sporting “lightning P” knobs like all other Peavey guitars and basses of the time, the T-20 had a (less-complicated) “tone compensated volume control” and a “wide-range tone control”.
The T-20 had two finishes noted on the April ’82 price list, “Satin Sunburst” and “Gloss Sunburst”. There’s no mention of an oiled, natural finish, although such instruments were apparently available right at the outset. Suggested retail included a molded, oval-shaped case.
The new, sleeker-looking Peavey bass proved to be popular, possibly because it was a simpler instrument, visually and sonically. It was balanced, easy to play, and the potent new pickup was bright and beefy.
The August 1, 1983 price noted that the T-20 now came in several finishes, including Natural with a maple neck (a rosewood fretboard was a $25 upgrade), as well as what would turn out to be a fairly-rare T-20FL fretless version, the rosewood fretboard of which had dot markers and “sissy lines” for reference.
Two new attractive metallic colors, Sun Fire Red or Frost Blue (seen on the T-20 in the inset photo) were also cited on the same price list. Curiously, a cream pickguard was also mentioned again, but many, if not most, Peavey guitars and basses in Frost Blue were seen with black pickguards. That particular color scheme on the T-20 may have delighted budget-minded bassists who aspired to emulate Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris.
By the latter part of 1984, the T-20 was gone… or was t? The T-40 and T-45 remained on a November ’84 price list, along with several similar guitars, under a heading titled “Technology Series.” There was also a “Contemporary” series of three guitars, and an “Impact Series” of seven guitars and five basses.
The first bass listed in the Impact Series was the Fury. Not only did the Fury itself look familiar, its description was almost identical to the T-20, but literature also referred to the Fury’s “select hardwood Naturalite body design” and “Graphlon top nut.” This time, the pickguard was noted as a black/white/black laminate, which is what the T-20 shown here has. Even more finishes, including Black, Burgundy, and Inca Gold, were available on the ’84 Fury, and the case was now priced separately.
A close perusal of a first edition Fury indicates that differences between that model and a T-20 include the nut, an even-sleeker body shape (cutaway horns that are more pointed), a narrower pickguard that conforms to the body silhouette, and a trapezoid-shaped bridge, as found on Foundation and Patriot basses (also members of the Impact Series).
The T-20ish configuration of the Fury would last until sometime in 1986. The Fury moniker would be resurrected in 1987, on an instrument that resembled a Fender Precision Bass.
Even though it was fairly ubiquitous in its time, the T-20 was actually a relatively short-lived model from Peavey. It’s a very playable and sturdy instrument, and is usually a bargain in the used/vintage market.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’07 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.