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Aluminum URB?

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by azflyman, May 2, 2004.

  1. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    I checked out three basses today.

    One was a 1940's Kay that had been around the horn a few times. Played well but very worn, edges beat, small bits of plywood missing along the edges, sounded very tight.

    Another was a Chinese hybrid with a superb setup, strings sounds were uneven. The open "E" string had much less volume. It had a very shiney finish, not my preference.

    The third was an WWII (so I was told) vintage aluminum bodied bass. It had fingerboard issues but played fairly well and sounded very, very good considering it was made of aluminum. It did have a bass board rivited to the top and a sound post. There was wood inside in the corners if the bass. The neck has held on with screws at the top of the body. It had an ugly dark brown paint on the body and looked as if it had been painted with a lighter brown paint in the past. The shop said these basses were issued for USO shows and the like. It was really wierd, it even had a swelled back. Does anyone know anything about these basses? Like I said, it sounded prety good, I was suprised! So if any of you sage bass historians out there know anything about this bass please let me know. I am seriously thinking about buying this beast.


  2. It's your money.
  3. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Gee, for the $1400, I'd go with the laminated URB from Upton that you were considering but, yes, it is YOUR $$$$.

  4. Bob Gollihur

    Bob Gollihur GollihurMusic.com

    Mar 22, 2000
    New Joisey Shore
    Big Cheese Emeritus: Gollihur Music
    There is a small article on aluminum basses in my LINKS page, URL below. Little seems to be known about them, and I've seen photos of variations, so I suspect more than one maker made them, or that their construction evolved over the time they were made.

    I learned URB on one, chipped away brown paint and "USN" painted at the top of the back. Rattle-rattle-buzz-buzz in that case, but I know of some that have been restored, polished, and finished with clear. Can make a striking appearance. Could maybe even sound sorta good-ok-maybe, for certain situations? ;)

    I don't think I'd own one as my only bass unless rockabilly was your only style and its durability and uniqueness spoke to you.
  5. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR

    Don H - You are right, it is my money. I really did not get anything from you post. Do you have something to contribute concerning the aluminum bodied bass? Have you played one?

    DRURB - Did I mention that this bass was $1,400, no I don't think I did. The price was not $1,400. I am still communicating with Mr. Upton and will probably go that direction. I considered your posts concerning the Upton basses very helpful.


    Bob G - Thanks for the info. This bass actually sounded much better than the 1943 Kay that was in the shop I visited. This one did not rattle or buzz. It did have a dent in the lower side of the body :eek: that looks like it would come out fairly easily. I played all three basses side by side. As much as I wanted to dislike this bass it really did sound fairly good. I agree with your advise that this would not be good as an only bass. I think it is just the GAS taking over.

    The hybrid sounded better but as I stated before, the string volume was very uneven. Is there a way to fix this? Is it just the resonant nature of the bass? The setup was excellent, it has been the best bass setup I have played. It was set up by one of the luthiers in your list, Tom Bielejec, fine work.


  6. Trevorus


    Oct 18, 2002
    Urbana, IL
    I am sure new strings would help that uneven sound, but the only way to find out is to try it. If you get the aluminum one, I would love to see pictures. Good luck!
  7. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    The net is a wonderful place. Look long enough, and hard enough, and you can find anything. This is exactly like the bass I found; wood neck/fingerboard and all. Here is a quote I found on another group:

    Date: Thu, 04 Nov 1999 10:50:44 -0700
    Subject: Aluminum Basses

    Waaaaaay back in 1945 when I started learning bass ( using Bob Haggart's great book ) I played on the aluminum bass belonging to my high school.
    It had a conventional maple neck and ebony fingerboard. Several years
    later, it turned up in the hands of a private student here in the Denver
    area and once again about five years ago.at "The Ode Town Pickin'
    Parlor" ( a really great music store with a huge inventory of fine
    guitars etc ) here in Arvada, CO I don't know where it went from
    there but it was a "canon"---loud as all H.... !!! These aluminum basses
    rank right up there with the True Temper ( remember True Temper steel fishing rods ? ) steel violin bows---and they weren't half bad. Not too heavy and very resilient with conventional mortises for the hair and an ebony frog .
    Enough nostalgia---I'm outta here.

    Bob Xxxxxx
  8. drurb

    drurb Oracle, Ancient Order of Rass Hattur; Mem. #1, EPC

    Apr 17, 2004
    Indeed, you did mention the price of the Upton laminated bass in your other thread. Take a look. Indeed, it "goes" for $1400 but if that is not what you're paying, I can only assume you're paying less, not more! That would make it a spectacular deal. Of course, there is shipping...

    In any case, I suspect you'll be quite happy with it.

    Just trying to help-- really.

  9. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA

    This guy has been playing this one for a while. I don't know about the flames, but I am pretty sure the headlights are not stock.

    Try a search under DB basses for "aluminum." I know they have been discussed more than once here at TB.
  10. Are you sure that you aren't talking abou the Heddon steel shafted violin bows? I've repaired and rehaired several of those over the years, but I've not ever seen one from True Temper. The Heddons were not bad at all except for the fact that if something happened to bend or dent them, that was the end of their usefulness since the walls of the "stick" were very thin steel.
  11. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    Looks like the same bass but the one I know of is painted brown. Not fake woodgrain brown, nothing that nice, just dark brown with a wood neck, fingerboard, and tailpiece. I will do a search as suggested. Thanks for the response.

  12. I don't play one, but I know someone who does. He plays pizz only with nylon strings and the beast rocks! I will forward your email to him and maybe he will reply.
  13. on the hybrid string volume the strings are probably dead, first the E loses volume and punch then A, etc. I would say a new set of strings would straighten that out, go with the hybrid. If the problem is strings then it will sound even better than it does now, strings actually make a lot of difference.
  14. Yes I have played one.
    I think they stink.
    I think they're a lousy investment, but you're entitled.
    Clear enough?
  15. azflyman


    Apr 24, 2004
    Astoria, OR
    Now THAT is what I needed. Thank you for constructive input.


  16. DITTO!
  17. Marcus Johnson

    Marcus Johnson

    Nov 28, 2001
    Double ditto. Save yer $$$.