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1960 Supro Airline Pocket Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by MattsAllFolks, Apr 18, 2019.

  1. MattsAllFolks


    Apr 18, 2019
    Hello everyone!

    I found this forum on Google, so I hope I'm posting this in the right spot!

    (Photos of the bass).

    A few years back my grandfather passed away, and in his possessions was this bass guitar. I am a bass player, and decided to take it. It belonged to my uncle who I was named after, who passed away when he was 19 years old(long before I was born).

    Its not in great condition and I'm not expecting to be able to do much to it, but would appreciate any information on this bass. Also, any places I could find new thumb rests for it(also, why are there two?).

    The headstock looks like it cracked long ago, but was fixed somehow(Probably by my grandfather, who was a carpenter). The headstock is really sturdy, and it seems like he did a great job in the repair(in terms of how sturdy it all still feels). The bass still sounds great, and everything works on it.

    Whats with the wooden bridge on it? is there any significance with it?

    I wish it was in better condition as this bass is a beauty to play. I love the guitar neck, the size makes fingering the frets much easier.

    Thanks for any information!

    Last edited: Apr 18, 2019
  2. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    You "found" this today? A post from Matthew Hill and your TB name is "Matts All Folks?" Color me skeptical.

    Putting that aside, I've been eyeballing those pocket basses for a while. Its a shame that one is missing the pickguards and thumbrests.
  3. charlie monroe

    charlie monroe Gold Supporting Member

    Feb 14, 2011
    Buffalo, NY
    He found TB today, Sherlock.
  4. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    Thanks, Watson.
    bobyoung53 and Microbass like this.
  5. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    It's called a pocket bass not because it is pocket sized, but because beneath the rear-mounted control cover a circle saw bit has been used to drill "pockets" into the rear wood. The long-scale Supros from the mid-sixties use the same rear guard but do not have the "pockets."

    Underneath the bridge bass is another pickup -- literally. A funky electromagnetic pickup which functions more like a tone control. That's why you see the cloth wire running into the body.

    My experience is that the chrome-covered pickups are very sensitive to string type and offer dramatically different tones depending on whether flats, rounds, or tapes are loaded.

    There are two tug bars to accommodate both finger and thumb-style plucking.
    Honkey tonk, cdef, mikewalker and 4 others like this.
  6. Dr. Cheese

    Dr. Cheese Gold Supporting Member

    Mar 3, 2004
    Metro St. Louis
    That is a really cool old bass!
    EatS1stBassist likes this.
  7. EatS1stBassist


    Apr 15, 2016
    So cal
    Cool bass!:thumbsup:
  8. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    You can see what’s inside a Pocket Bass in this video:

  9. sok monkee

    sok monkee Supporting Member

    Jun 20, 2007
    Burlington N.C.
    Welcome to TB. Very cool bass! great video, A keeper for sure!!!
    4 Strings Good likes this.
  10. markjazzbassist

    markjazzbassist Supporting Member

    Apr 19, 2005
    Lakewood, OH
    Great bass. Pickup one is visible, pickup 2 is a piezo pickup in the bridge. Short scale bass, I would recommend getting new strings for it.
  11. Rabidhamster


    Jan 15, 2014
    Those are awesome! I had a guitar version with the neck pickup and a bridge contact pickup. Supposedly this actually predates the piezo, it’s allegedly some sort of different contact pickup but I was afraid to take the thing apart to

    For the age I wouldn’t consider that in bad condition, just maybe put new strings and set it up if it needs it, clean the pots if it needs it, and rock!
  12. PaulCISSA

    PaulCISSA Unsweetened, highly-caffeinated Supporting Member

    Jul 10, 2014
    Northest New Jersey
    Welcome to TB. Stick around and visit often. There's a world of good info here and a lot of unruly characters. Makes for a good place to spend your social media time. Don't be a stranger. :thumbsup:
    Keger Jupit and Dr. Cheese like this.
  13. TNCreature

    TNCreature Jinkies! Supporting Member

    Jan 25, 2010
    Philadelphia Burbs
    Welcome and thanks for posting. I haven't seen one of thos in years
  14. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    @MattsAllFolks - welcome to TalkBass!

    And congratulations on inheriting one of the rarest of rare birds among bass guitars. The Pocket Bass (and pretty much everything else Supro ever made) is among the coolest of cool gear. And the fact it’s a family heirloom just makes its story that much more interesting.

    Play it well! :thumbsup:
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2019
    mikewalker and Aqualung60 like this.
  15. MVE


    Aug 8, 2010
    That thing looks awesome.

    What is the scale length? Looks like 26 or so from the pics.

    I bet it makes a great DB sound.
  16. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    The bridge pickup is not a piezo. Situated within the bridge base are two wound bobbins; there is a well routed in the body to accommodate this thickened base. The bridge saddle has two pins which go into center holes of the bobbins. String vibration through the pins excites the bobbins and produces sound -- not enough for the bridge pickup to be used by itself but more like a tone control.
  17. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    If memory serves, the scale is 24".
    MVE likes this.
  18. brianrost

    brianrost Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 26, 2000
    Boston, Taxachusetts
    I used to own one of these about 15 years ago, it was sunburst. Finding strings was a real problem at the time. I'm not sure it's any easier to find them today. I used regular short scale (30") strings but the tension was so low that it was hard to fret notes without bending the pitch. You could mount electric guitar strings and use it as a piccolo bass.

    I found the high string clearance over the body (due to the bridge design) was uncomfortable after years of playing Fenders. EDIT: The knobs are volume and pickup balance, there is no tone control. The neck pickup is relatively dark and the bridge pickup really bright, so balancing the two was how you dialed in your tone. The drilled out body was super light so neck dive was a problem.

    It was fun to play, though, especially when I brought it to a gig with a friend who played Airline guitars...he freaked out when he saw the bass.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2019
    EatS1stBassist likes this.
  19. 40Hz

    40Hz Supporting Member

    Beat me to it! :laugh:

    And yes indeed. There aren’t too many pickup designs that deserve to be called unique. But the bridge pickup on the Pocket bass definitely qualifies for having that adjective applied.

    One of the reasons I love Supro as a company is their stuff is refreshingly odd. Even their Huntington-I did something very different with the switching and piezo bridge. Much like the Pocket, the Huntington piezo acts more as texture or tone toggle rather than just your garden variety piezo pickup. Knocked me for a loop when I first got mine. Had to send them a email to find out what it was doing and how to use it. About the only time I couldn't figure out something on a bass all by myself.
    Last edited: Apr 19, 2019
    Honkey tonk likes this.
  20. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    I'm basing my comments on the long-scale violin bass and not the Pocket Bass, which I have never owned. I did not say the second knob, for the bridge pickup, was a tone control but instead it functioned as a tone control because by itself the bridge pickup did not generate enough output to be soloed. But this may just be a malfunction in my bass, and a properly functioning bridge pickup in fact may be solo-able. Certainly it is bright when compared to the other pickup.

    That high bridge does present problems and can take one into the same Rabbit-hole Land one can experience with set-up and bridge adjustment on vintage Gretsches and Magnatones. I had to shim the neck to get a decent action due to the high bridge, but then I had to shim the bridge to get the strings to clear the surface-
    mounted pickup.

    And the Violin Supros are wicked long, as they say in Bahston, just like @JIO's Bone Buzzer bass.
    JIO likes this.
  21. Primary

    Primary TB Assistant

    Here are some related products that TB members are talking about. Clicking on a product will take you to TB’s partner, Primary, where you can find links to TB discussions about these products.

    Apr 19, 2021

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