First electric bass in jazz

Discussion in 'Ask Todd Johnson' started by ZENBASSGUY, Oct 18, 2010.

  1. Hey Todd and everyone else, i'm doing a research paper for my jazz history class and i am trying to trace the evolution of electric bass in jazz. so far the earliest i have found is Monk Montgomery. Any Ideas as to early electric players or even better the first album electric bass was used on??


  2. Are you asking about someone slapping a pickup on a double-bass, or about an electric bass guitar?
  3. electric bass guitar is what the main idea of the research is but if you know the first electrified upright that could be useful as well..
  4. I think you're on the right track regarding Monk Montgomery and the Fender Precision Bass. Since the latter was introduced in 1951, and Monk was with the Lionel Hampton Big Band from 1951 to 1953, it's possible that the first jazz album with electric bass was one of Lionel Hampton's.

    This site seems to have a better LH discography than Wikipedia:,_Lionel/Discography/
    including six released in 1953. However, since it doesn't list 1955's Hampton-Getz album, it does not appear to be complete.

    Nevertheless, by cross-referencing to Amazon and other sites you may be able to eliminate the albums on which others play bass, and focus on those remaining.

    Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World: Performance and Production, by John Shepherd, which is (at least partially) searchable via Google Books, states that the first electric bass recording was by Monk Montgomery with Hampton, in 1953. But that electric bass was used, albeit unrecorded, by Vernon Alley in 1940. Obviously Vernon did not play a Precision. Perhaps it was a Tutmarc.

    If any recordings were made using a Tutmarc bass, perhaps Paul Tutmarc's grandson Greg would know. Greg's e-mail address is available here:

    Here's a brief Tutmarc thread:
    And an oldest bass recording thread:
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  6. Todd Johnson

    Todd Johnson

    Sep 27, 2005
    Anthem, AZ
    Monk Montgomery would have been my guess......

    Looks like you've got plenty of info.

    Good luck with your stuff!! :)
  7. WOW!!! thanks guys this all really helps me a lot i appreciate it.
  8. I mean it was called a jazz bass for a reason :p
  9. Petethebassman


    Mar 7, 2008
    I did a TB search on Monk Montgomery and found this thread and wanted to add some info on the subject; last Sunday I was at a flea market and found a double LP by Lionel Hampton. The album is called "The Complete 1953 Paris Session" by Lionel Hampton and his Paris All Stars and it was issued on the French Vogue label in the 1970's. The inner gatefold sleeve has full liner notes, complete personnel credits and recording information, stating the music was recorded on September 28th, 1953 at L'ecole Normale de Musique in Paris. The album has seven cuts with big band and three trio pieces with Billy Mackell (guitar), William Montgomery (electric bass) and Lionel Hampton (vibes). The recording quality is quite good and Monk Montgomery's bass comes through loud and clear. Monk's tone and playing concept is very much like upright bass playing typical of the late 1940's/early 1950's, but you can still hear it's a Fender bass as the notes have more definition (especially noticeable on the trio pieces).
  10. so after all my research i've found that Roy Johnson actually played electric with Hampton before Monk did but it was Monk who is credited with really making the "fender" bass known.

    Ironically Monk didn't want to play electric at first it was Hampton that wanted the sound because he could hear the electric better.

    just sharing my recently gained knowledge now off to practice..

    groove on....
  11. Does Roy Johnson appear on any recording with Hamp?

    Supporting Petethebassman's contribution: Lionel Hampton In Paris LP
  12. KoalaBass


    Aug 12, 2011
    The 2 first Sun Ra's records features some electric bass work, it's from around 55-56
    design likes this.
  13. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps
    Everett Hull, founder of Ampeg, invented the first pickup for upright bass. It was really just a mic he hooked onto an endpin and stuck inside the bass, but while it's antiquated compared to pickups and mics today, it worked and a lot of upright players of his day (late 40's-early 50's) used them. He called it the Amplified Peg, or Ampeg for short.
  14. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Always groove.... Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Columbia, Md
    Interesting, never knew that.
  15. JimmyM

    JimmyM Supporting Member

    Apr 11, 2005
    Apopka, FL
    Endorsing: Ampeg Amps
    Oh, I'm full of useless info, Rich ;)
  16. RichSnyder

    RichSnyder Always groove.... Supporting Member

    Jun 19, 2003
    Columbia, Md
    I remember the quote from Cliff Claven on "Cheers", something like "Did you know that 78% of people that know useless statistics have no sex life."
  17. Current Bass Player magazine has a history of the P-bass's first 10 years, and Monk Montgomery and various recordings and such are listed in there.
  18. etoncrow

    etoncrow (aka Greg Harman, the curmudgeon with a conundrum) Supporting Member

  19. gerry grable

    gerry grable

    Nov 9, 2010
    Your probably right with Monk Montgomery being the first, but I wasn't aware of him until long after Wes came on the scene. I do recall that for me, and many jazz players that I knew in NYC in the very early 60's, the real "shocker" was when Dizzy hired Frank Schiafano. "Heavens! How could he? And after Ray Brown." ;)
  20. PJMcK1954


    Jan 18, 2012
    Initially, a lot of bassists hated Leo Fender's Precision Bass and regarded it as a "b*st*rd instrument." This attitude was quite prevalent when a young British bassist was playing the local music scene in the early 1960's. He had a change of view, but it's not his change of heart that he is remembered for. It's his work with the super group Cream that made him fmos. Has anyone forgotten Jack Bruce? (I did't think so.)
  21. PJMcK1954


    Jan 18, 2012
    I recall reading (though I don't remember the source of information) that Leo Fender (1909-1991) liked C&W music and hoped that his then-newly marketed Precision Bass would initially become popular with the Nashville scene.
    It didn't.
    Ironically the first artists to adopt the Precision Bass were some jazz artists.
    As we already know, Lionel Hampton was one of the first proponents of the electric bass. One article in Downbeat magazine with a photo of Lionel Hampton posing with the Precision Bass announced that "Hamp-lified Fiddle May Lighten Bassists' Burdens."
    I undestand that Roy Johnson, Lionel Hampton's bassist might've been the first jazz artist to use the Precision Bass in a popular setting. It was, however, Monk Montgomery (1921-1982), who first toured with the Precision Bass. According to Don Randall, Leo Fender's associate, "Monk was the guy who really got us off the ground with our electric bass."