Anyone ever purchased from FMI in CA.

Discussion in 'Rockabilly [DB]' started by Roadking, Mar 7, 2009.

  1. Has anyone ever purchased from this place in CA.
    FMI has some interesting Uprights, and they do complete set up's, I want to purchase my first upright, Not sure what to get or what I want, Or if I will stick with it after a few weeks / months, I have Played Electric Bass for the last 25+ years, I love Rockabilly and needed a new challenge instead of a new Bass Guitar
    I would really like to stay in the $1000 range, On Long Island Trying to get a Luthier that's not going to take you to the bank is next to impossible or sell you what he has a connection to get, So far one Luthier said Engelhardt was junk, He had a solid carved top with a repaired crack by the sound post a $5000 Bass for $1500
    A guitar shop said he has a Romanian Thin Bodied Bass and will have his guitar tech set it up for $1400 with a pick up

    So confused Please Help this 47 year old Newbie out!

  2. Frank,

    Check out either or I've dealt with both of them and they are great. Bob Gollihur is not that far from you and Jerry Fretwell is in VA. Both are nice guys and willing to help a new upright bass player with advice.

    Good luck!

  3. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    FMI sells mostly crap online. An Englehardt would be far far better than the junk sold by FMI. Agreed though, their basses look good.

    Keep looking, be patient, maybe you can find a used Englehardt or some other plywood bass for less than $1000. It would be a total waste of money to buy a piece of crap bass in my opinion.
  4. Thanks, I called Gullihur Music and spoke to a real nice gentelmen, and no one answered at Fretwell, I like the Idea of the Bass being set up before I get it! Like I said the couple of Luthier I spoke to out here did not sound to friendly and quoted some crazy prices. Fretwell will carry me more into the $1500 range or more,
    And the Biggest problem I am facing out here is that there is no place to try them out! So I kind of have to base my choice on reviews only

    Thank you
  5. Fretwell's shop may be closed for some reason. I know they are closed on Mondays. Call Tuesday. I also know that Jerry performs a setup on every bass he sells, and I think (but you'll need to confirm this) that the setup is built into the cost. Good luck.
  6. salcott

    salcott Supporting Member

    Aug 22, 2007
    NYC, Inwood.
    The "crazy" prices from a bass shop normally include a full setup for maximum ease of playing, not to mention a bass that isn't a piece of junk that will give you nothing but grief. Gollihur will take good care of your needs and get you the best for what you can afford. I'd wait and save up another grand if you can. It'll put you in a much better position qualitywise. IMHO, of course.
  7. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I've discussed this (on other threads) because Tom, at FMI, is a friend of mine. His low end Cremona/Milano basses are pretty low quality - and he admits it himself, but they serve some market - especially when they're painted blue or black and "played" by guys who stand on them during their shows!But then again, any new bass under $1000 is going to be... well... disappointing.

    His Eastman and Christopher basses come direct from the factory to him, he does a very basic, but serviceable set-up and then ships the bass out in the same carton he gets them. That, plus the fact that his business is almost completely on line, are most of the reason for his low prices. I think he sells the Christopher 100 & 200 series basses for around $1500 - and they are, IMO, better than Englehardts.

    Tom is obviously not in the same league as Lemur, Lisa Gass, Gary Stein, Jon at World of Strings etc or any of the other "big league" luthiers or dealers in SoCal - but he doesn't pretend to be.

    I've bought several basses, cellos, violins and violas from him for various schools - and the instruments have held up well under student abuse. In all of my dealings with him, he's been fair and honest and any problems were quickly resolved.

    That's about all I have to say. Good luck.

    ChuckCorbis likes this.
  8. Bass


    Nov 10, 2003
    Tom from FMI made five posts on in spring of 2006, you can read them right here.
  9. T Kerr

    T Kerr Commercial User

    May 24, 2007
    Pasadena, California
    Bass Luthier Bass Shop Owner
    Tom here, owner of FMI Upright Bass specialty shop. LouisF is the only one on this thread that I know has done business with our bass shop. Louis first met me when he bought a Christopher DB403 3/4 bass from me back in March 2003. We have remained friends and done business numerous times since then. Great guy - classical bassist, actor, playwright, teacher - google Louis Fantasia to find out more about him. He's of course humble but his resume is far from humble.

    Anyhow, our bass shop sells entry priced chinese basses and more expensive ones, Eastmans, Christophers, Engelhardts, Kays, King Moretone when we can get one, German basses when we find a great buy on a vintage one, etc.

    TO answer the original post directly, we CAN deliver a pro quality setup/playing action bass for under $1000 and often do, WITH a new set of Helicore Hybrid strings on it! We get consistent praise of our work and the smooth playability of the basses. We do a thorough fingerboard reshaping so it can play with low action without buzzing/rattling.

    Some experienced bassists just don't seem to get it that economics plays a HUGE part in how nice a bass someone can get. Of COURSE lots of players, newbies included would spend $2000 or more to get higher quality if price wasn't a consideration.

    BUT since it is, we push them to get our pro setup with fingerboard reshaping on the bass price of their choice, THEN they have a useful bass with low smooth playing action. Put a Realist, Underwood or Fishman pickup on it and many gigging pros are playing such cheap chinese basses successfully. FACT.

    Our customers have not had nightmare problems with the cheap basses we sell. Perhaps we were fortunate in finding better bass manufacturers than some sellers.
    We paid for replacing the fingerboard on one bass when it was found it had a hidden knot in it that caused warping, we paid for a couple basses to have seams reglued. Endpin blocks popped loose years ago on a few until we got the factory to do them better, then NO MORE trouble with them.
    This is about it in 8 years of selling these entry priced basses.

    Our Christopher and Eastman basses we've sold have gotten RAVE reviews consistently too from buyers and teachers. Like LouisF said they push the price up to $1500 pretty quickly, but they are quite nice laminated basses with quality ebony fingerboards and stable dry woods used throughout. AND big strong sound good for pizz and arco play.

    We love to talk bass with callers so CALL us, we're easy to find on the internet and easy to reach by phone. NO ONE beats our friendly personalized service.

    Best, Tom
    LeftyStrings and ChuckCorbis like this.
  10. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I'm going to stay out of the middle of this, except to say:

    1) Some of the used and consignment basses Tom has in his shop are as good a bass as you'll find anywhere in L A in their price ranges ($1.5 -3.5K)

    2) The Swanson bass I got from Wayne Holmes (see other thread) was shipped to Tom's shop. He uncrated it (and another bass Wayne sent), set them up, changed the strings on the Swanson and made some minor adjustments on the bass for me. Totally fine work.

    3) I've gone over the on-line stuff above. Enough said.

    4) I'm glad Tom's joined the forum.

    LeftyStrings likes this.
  11. Jay Corwin

    Jay Corwin Supporting Member

    Jan 29, 2008
    Sanborn, NY
    That was an interesting read.
  12. PaulKing


    Apr 17, 2004
    London, UK
    That King Moretone he had listed was SCCHWEEEET...
  13. rusag2


    Oct 22, 2009
    Los Angeles
    I'm in much the same boat as you. There are several places in the LA area where you can rent a bass for a couple months, to see. Granted, most of the rentals are crap basses, but you can get your hands on an instrument for only about $175 (see Blue Ridge Pickin Parlor in Chattsworth, or McCabe's Guitar Shop in Santa Monica). After you've played a couple months, maybe you'll have a better idea of what you want and can be more informed about making a purchase decision. At least that was my approach. Now, I'm playing a rental P.O.S. and eyeing a new Upton.
  14. gamma6


    Feb 25, 2010
    i bought a cheapo bass from tom (FMI) it plays fine to me..i did all the work myself on it ex: dropping the action on it (sanding the grooves in the nutt and bridge) and it sounds ok to me, tunes great etc.....the sound post hasn't fallen, they were easy to work with over the phone. didn't care for the religious pamplets but they went into the trash anyways..

    over all i was satisfied with em
  15. T Kerr

    T Kerr Commercial User

    May 24, 2007
    Pasadena, California
    Bass Luthier Bass Shop Owner
    Hi, Tom at FMI here bringing this post up to date. Shen are our basses of choice now and used for our Rockabilly and Bluegrass setups often. We do all setups here from Slap to Jazz with any kind of strings. Some of you bassists have gotten Shens from us, please speak up here to say what you think of them, and answer this original question here of -Anyone ever purchased from FMI in CA-
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  16. bssist


    Jun 23, 2007
    St. Louis, MO USA
    It seems I have discovered something about my bass today. I bought a bass about 7 years ago on ebay for about $400. It was my first db purchase (and only one to date). I grew up playing my father's Rogeri. I had some idea of what to expect and some understanding of how a db is assembled. I was not sure if I would want to play db all that much but needed one for a few projects at the time.

    I looked around for a while and talked to a friend at the local university who told me he had good luck on ebay. Since I didn't need a 16th century carved bass to play church and jazz gigs I took a shot. I bought a 1/2 size ccb from some guy named Tom. I spoke to him on the phone before I ordered it. He was extremely helpful and informative.

    When I got the bass I was glad to find it playable right out of the box. Some experienced players around town told me that it sounded really good, especially for a ccb. I was not happy with the sound so I started the process of upgrades. I installed an ebony tailpiece, new bridge, adjusters, Gage Realist, sanded down the neck, sweated as much as possible all over it and after about five years I started to like the way it sounded.

    I recently replaced the end pin, had the board planed and put spirocore mitels on it. It has seen its share of gigs and environmental changes. I recently did an outdoor session at sunset as the fog rolled in. This thing has held up incredibly well. Until today when I started reading the ccb threads I did not even know it came from FMI. I compared the phone number still in my notes from when I bought it to the number on the referenced FMI website.

    I have heard some of the horror stories and warnings about ccbs. I have felt extremely lucky to have done so well. I would not have thought that a $400 bass would last this long or sound this good. I have put more $$ into upgrades than I originally spent on the bass but it has done well for me. My experience with Tom was a good one.

    The luthier who just did the board for me commented, "Really? It plays and sounds great! It would have been a bargain at over twice that price!"
  17. Shadaddy73


    Mar 27, 2012
    Late to the party I know, I met Tom a few months ago, since I was in LA I thought I'd take the oppurtunity to hit a couple of shops where I could tryout several basses at one time. I know I will be in the market for one this summer as I don't want to keep dragging my KDB around town. Tom was very helpful in allowing me to try many basses in many price ranges and explained to me the differences of the basses, I never felt rushed or not welcomed even though I made it clear walking in the door that I wasn't buying that day. Because I love KDB so much I'm going to see about a Cult Blast first honestly, but think with these economic times the way they are That I'm probably going to go with a Shin from Tom when it is time to pull the trigger for my next bass.
  18. jpf9


    Mar 5, 2011
    i bought a nice German shop French bow from Tom and he was totally cool about letting me do lay away and always lets me play all his basses..
    LeftyStrings likes this.
  19. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    I'm happy to see Tom getting positive recognition here - he works hard at what he does and has always been fair to deal with. Two recent examples: I needed a 5-string bass for a couple of concerts and Tom has loaned me the Shen hybrid he had in the shop to use.

    Also, some public school students, who are in the LA Jr Philharmonic were playing with those crap plastic school bows. I had a couple of student German bows I wasn't using, but these kids played French. I asked Tom if her would swap me a French bow for German and he was kind enough to do... And the kids were ecstatic to have decent wood bows.

    I'm happy to recommend him (He also has Denisa Hanna, formerly of Stein on Vine, doing bow rehairs and some repairs -- a big asset)

  20. PunxPimp


    Mar 8, 2012
    I dont know much about the quality of their basses but one thing i can say about FMI is that they ship super fast! I've ordered a pick up and a few different sets of crap weedwhackers all on seperate occasions and I got the stuff in the mail like 2 days later. And I live in Mi. I highly recomend Jerry Fretwell from . He's totally hepfull and a nice guy, i got my first upright from him and i didnt know anything about how to set it up so he set it up and explained alot over the phone.
    LeftyStrings likes this.