Paul Reed Smith credited with first modern 5-string

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by BassHappy, Sep 19, 2013.


  1. Hey TB'ers

    Just a historical note, apparently Paul is credited with making the first "modern" 5 string in 1977.

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    I can't imagine that some unknown luthiers weren't banging around on some 5 string designs way prior to this in their basements and garages, but I can't find anything. Anyone?

    He made #7 for me in 1976 which was replaced with #11 in 1977. It looks like the five string was made from the same batch of dark highly figured mahogany as my #11.

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    I would guess it would have to be either the 10th or 12th instrument Paul had ever made.

    I remember Paul talking about Tony Bunn being an awesome player - who had the original idea and worked with him on the design - but I never met Tony, and I never realized Paul had built a 5 string for him.

    More here: http://alembic.com/club/messages/449/109381.html

    And here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Bunn

    PS: just found a Fender 5 string from the 60's here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FENDER_BASS_V_view.JPG Body kind of similar to the mustang, anyone ever seen one of these?

    Maybe this is not considered the "modern" era?
  2. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass Gnarsty bass tones Supporting Member

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    Yup, I've played a couple of Fender Bass Vs. They are definitely not a "modern" five string. I believe they were EADGC, and as you can see they only had 15 frets. The reason for fewer frets would be that you could play horizontally instead of vertically.
  3. Fuzzbass

    Fuzzbass Gnarsty bass tones Supporting Member

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    Paul Reed Smith grew up in my hometown and I often went to him for setup/repair. When his fiver came out I didn't think it was a first, but that's probably because I was aware of the Fender, and didn't understand the differences between the Fender and the PRS (I was a n00b back then).
  4. So, what scale was the 1965 Fender V, anyone know? Looks pretty tiny.

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  5. frankieC

    frankieC A swell guy from Warren Harding High Supporting Member

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    I recall the Fender V's in the (Printed) Fender catalog of the day. I believe they were advertised as "E" thru high "B", back in the day. I tried one out back in the late 60's at Muscara Music, in Belleville (or Bloomfield), NJ. It was tuned to "B" when I took it off the wall.
    ...Of course, it could have been flat, too. lol
  6. tsar nicholas

    tsar nicholas

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    Very cool! I dig these. Doesn't Michael Manring have a neato PRS bass also?
  7. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

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    Most bass history books/articles credit Alembic as producing the first 'modern' (i.e., full scale length B-G) bass (in conjunction with Jimmy Johnson), followed by Fodera being the first to formally add a B-G full scale 5 string to their product line (the first one went to Tommy Kennedy). I believe that was in the early 80's, but might have been a smidge earlier (I remember playing Tommy's 5 when he got it, and that caused quite a buzz in St. Louis back then).

    I'm sure there were some earlier one-offs (like the PRS I guess), but it seems those two companies were the first to put these types of instruments into the hands of players that were noticed by the bass playing public.

    I guess Carl Thompson is considered the maker of the first full scale 6 string (in partnership with Anthony Jackson, soon followed by Ken Smith and then Fodera... all sequentially working with Anthony.
  8. Handyman

    Handyman

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    I don't know about the history of the five string, but that PRS bass sure looks great.

    The position of the neck pickup seems extreme, but its easy on the eyes.
  9. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

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    Looks quite a bit like the Gibson Grabber (or one of those models... Ripper, whatever)... that kind of 'SG guitar' influence. Looks a LOT better than most of the later bass instruments that they came out with, although the current line (other than the hideous bridge) looks pretty darn nice!
  10. KUNGfuSHERIFF

    KUNGfuSHERIFF

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    This has been established fact for years. Jimmy Johnson got his first Alembic four-string in 1976 and the first five-string later in 1976 or the following year.
  11. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

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    Yeah, I couldn't remember the year, but that is pretty much universally considered the 'start of the whole thing'. I love Jimmy Johnson!

    I think Fodera's production model was early 80's, but that could have been earlier also..... kind of 'foggy' on remembering back in the day. I do remember it wasn't that long after I bought my Stingray in 77.
  12. Roscoe East

    Roscoe East

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  13. Vince Klortho

    Vince Klortho

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    According to Mica from Alembic, as stated in the thread linked to previously, JJ received his five-string in May of 1976. It required the assistance of GHS to make a B string for it to be possible.
  14. awilkie84

    awilkie84 Supporting Member

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    That's what I thought. Predates the PRS by a year.
  15. mmbongo

    mmbongo I like turtles. Supporting Member

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    Wow, it also came with the first ever Yellow Neon strings, predating DR by 30 years!
  16. ggvicviper

    ggvicviper P is the Key. Call me Marc or Marky Potatoes. Gold Supporting Member

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    I'm pretty sure that before Vinnie went solo (in 1983), Spector had built a 5er in 1979 - the original NS-5, with Vinnie working on inlays. It's on Spector's website. It's a REAL odd bass, because they had to think of some way to make a 5-string P. They ended up putting three P parts together to create a giant super P pickup.

    Also, Steinberger had a 5er in 1982. I've also heard modulus did one in the late 70's too.

    Production instruments? That goes to Yamaha with the BB5000 in 1984. Peavey (Foundation & Dyna Bass), Guild (Pilot), G&L (L5000), Ibanez (Roadster) and Ernie Ball Music Man (Stingray 5) all followed suit between 1985 and 1988. Fender did it in '89 with Squier HM-5 and the Heartfield DR, and a "big daddy" Fender with the Jazz Bass Plus V in 1990.
  17. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

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    I'm again just quoting quite a few articles and that BassPlayer sponsored 'Bass Book', along with my memory of the fist Fodera 5 back in the day that Tommy got when we were all still living in St. Louis. That 5 was one of the very early basses that Fodera built, I believe in 83.

    Doesn't mean there weren't other 'one offs', etc. between 76 and 83 of course.

    Again, no dog in this hunt, and I really couldn't care less actually! My first 5 was the Stingray 5 right when they came out... mid 80's or so (edit: Actually might have been a Warmoth parts 5 string J a it earlier than that, made by Jimmy Gravity at Gravity strings). Gravity also, with his partner at the time (Melon), made a very early 5 string used by Eddie Van Halen on a few cuts on 5150, called the Apostrophe bass, inspired by that first Fodera 5 in the early 80's. I believe that album came out in 85, and Eddie has that bass a while before, so that was a very early one also, made most likely in early 1984.
  18. BruceWane

    BruceWane

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    Credit where it is due, but it wasn't exactly a brand new idea. 5 string double basses with a low B are known to have existed as far back as the late 1800's.............and in higher tuning well back into the 1700's.
  19. Limo

    Limo Gold Supporting Member

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    Correct me if I'm wrong but didn't Vinnie Fodera build his first 5 string for Stuart Spector in 1978 or 79?
  20. KJung

    KJung Supporting Member

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    I have no idea. Again, the only thing Fodera is credited with in the 'somewhat accepted history of the instrument' is being the first company to have a 5 string in their product line as a 'production instrument', around 1983.

    The real, and quite frankly, the only 'historically important' instrument seems to be that Alembic built for Jimmy Johnson in 76 (per the post above). All the rest is kind of secondary and 'interesting' I guess (like the Gravity made 'Van Halen Apostrophe in 84, etc.).

    The topic interests me since I was very early 'in' with a 5 string, and actually spent some time with that first Fodera 5, since back then I was gigging in the same circles as Tommy (although, of course, not gigging with the same skill, talent and amazingness!).

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