J.W. Black and Albert Molinaro – The Fender Bass: An Illustrated History

J.W. Black and Albert Molinaro

Bass players have always been somewhat taken for granted. It’s almost as if they didn’t have to be good, merely profi-cient, for the music of the band to come across.

Of course, anybody who has been in a band knows that’s not true; a great band has a bassist and drummer who can forge a cohesive groove, staying in the pocket and keeping time. And the best bassists aren’t necessarily showmen (although there have been a few), but rather masters of keeping up the bottom end without undue flash: these are the Bill Wymans and Duck Dunns of the music world.

As a collectible instrument, the bass lags well behind the guitar among many collectors. A simple reason is that there are fewer bass players, but more to the point is that most basses were used as intended – “run hard and put away wet,” as the saying goes. There aren’t nearly as many collector-grade basses as there are guitars. Few seem to have been forgotten under the bed without first being heavily played.

Fortunately, this state of affairs does not extend to books on bass guitars. There have been a number over the years, and this newest from Hal Leonard may be the best. Researched with care and attention to detail, the book is full of facts about the Fender bass, arguably the best-known and most influential electric bass of all time.

Leo Fender began work on an electric bass not long after finishing the production model Telecaster. The “Precision Bass,” as this new instrument was called, was officially introduced in ’52, although the authors have photographed an excellent example from late ’51. This was followed by the Jazz Bass in ’60, Mustang Bass in ’66, and Telecaster Bass in ’68, as well as the Bass VI in ’61.

Perhaps the best part is that this book is chock full of photos, photos, and more photos, including many early and original instruments, catalogs and advertisements, diagrams, paint chips, tuners, electronics, and various other parts important in identifying originality. Also included is a decade-by-decade history of changes in the lines, custom color availability, serial numbering system, and more. Paper quality and binding are first-rate. Highly recommended to all guitar collectors.

Hal Leonard 2001, Softbound 128 pages, ISBN 0-634-02640-2, $24.95.

This article originally appeared in VG‘s April ’02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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