BURNS BASSES: any thoughts.....

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Rockin John, Jan 10, 2002.

  1. With this famous old British maker back on the scene, are there any comments or thoughts on their basses?

  2. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Rockin' - When I used to go to lessons at Mel Bay Music as 12-year old, I'd always made it a point to see a black Baldwin bass that I think was just the Yank version of a Burns Bison. It even said, "Bison" and the pickup covers had "Burns of London" printed on them. I thought it made all the Fenders in the store look like wallflowers. What really got me hot for it was a setting on it they called, "Wild Dog." (Dammit, I never got to hear what the "Dog" did because kids didn't dare ask to try out expensive basses in those days).

    After that, I always wanted one but they were few and far between, (at least in the city of St. Louis). The only other one I saw was a bright red-orange Burns/Baldwin that was visibly smaller than the long-necked Bison. What made that situation worse is that ANYTHING British was drooled over at the time - Vox, Orange, Plush, Carlsboro, you name it.

    Later, I learned Burns had already pioneered the use of active electronics in a bass years before I discovered them.

    I just saw a couple of Burns on the online used market last night. One was going for $1000US, so I guess the mystique of the legend lives on.

    What is Burns putting out now??? I know I'm not the only one who would like to see the name become prominent in the US again.

    Now if Rootes Group would only make Triumph TR's again. :rolleyes:
  3. Hi Rick.

    Yes. I too was weened on Burns' guitars. Back in the mid/late 60s when I was just starting out with music, they held me spellbound. The looks of these things as an impressionable young man is something I'll never ever forget.....:cool: I remember buying a used, red Nu-Sonic bass for £35: that would probably be in about '70. If only I still had it now...

    Anyway, they've quite a decent web site:


    There's also a museum page which shows all the Burns products from Day 1, as it were. It seems there's been a number of attempts to revive the original company by Jim Burns. Currently, a guy called Barry Gibson is in charge. Over here their current range of instruments has enjoyed great press.

    I wondered if anyone on TB was playing a new model Burns, and what anyone thought about Burns.

    BTW, Rick, you've said to me before about British gear being prized, Stateside: why is that? Us Brits tend to look to the US for the pukka stuff. Strange, eh?

    :D :D

  4. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    Really doesn't strike me as "strange", John because I was a kid during the "British Invasion" thing. Basically, I think the infatuation was many due to two things;

    1. "The grass is greener on the other side...." sydrome. British instruments and amps just sounded so different, in a good way, from the Fender/Gibson/Epiphone/Kay/Japanese gear we had been force-fed. The world wasn't so small then and "imported from England" was a very big whoop.

    British makers took no shortcuts. Everything was done "the hard way."
    It just plainly "sounded good." But he British amps got a rep for being unreliable. I think that is mainly due to Marshalls being played continuously with full volume. Heat disappation tech wasn't very good then.

    2. Secondly, it was "The British Invasion" thing, when great bands such as the Beach Boys, the Byrds, and Buffalo Springfield were getting less play than the Kinks, the Stones, the Animals, the Yardbirds, and of course, the Fab 4.
    Bassists didn't go ape over a Fender Precis as used by their favorite US group had. Hofner was a big deal.

    On the other side of the pond, I think you all have never taken Leo Fender for granted as we have. When you grow up with something, it doesn't seem so special.
  5. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    months ago i had the chance to try a Burns shadow bass. it was an old model, equipped with the burns pickups (trisonic if i'm correct). the bass was white with the scroll headstock and it sounded marvellos. it was a unique sound, not fenderish. something that i can describe like a rickenbacker but less ringing and more punchy. i really like to try one of those reissue made in korea they are doing now. i played a korean made electric guitar called marquee and it is a really good guitar. i didn't buy it and decided for a classic stratocaster only because i hate that scroll headstock.

    i'd like to try one of those, but in black...

    i higly recommend to try one. not modern sounding, but full of mojo!
  6. pilotjones

    pilotjones Supporting Member

    Nov 8, 2001
    never seen one, never heard one, but... I remember a Baldwin catalog from when I was a kid. I did not know anything about them being made by Burns. (In fact, this is the first I've heard of Burns.)

    The guitars looked gorgeous! I remember one bass, it was black with a greenish marble pickguard, and some sort of steel rails over the pickups. I wanted it, and I didn't even play guitar or bass at the time.

    I think my Dad still has the catalog (he was bought a banjo from it, I think). It's full of psychodelic paisleys and girls in plastic miniskirts. I'll have to ask him to digit up!
  7. Paul A

    Paul A

    Dec 13, 1999
    Hertfordshire U.K!
    These got great reviews in most of the U.K. guitar mags.
    I tried one in London (can't remember the shop name - I think it was in/near Denmark St).
    I was great,lovely sound,great balance - a lot of bass for not a lot of money.
    Incidentally, have you seen that Burns are making an exact replica of Brian May's "Red Special" guitar.
    Brian demoed it on the Guitarist cover c.d. - you couldn't tell it from the original!
  8. I've only played a vintage Nu-Sonic bass myself...a really nice bass, similar sounding to a Ric (nice midrange bite and hell treble), but really didn't offer anything else, apart from the fact that it was a Burns and odd. Decent bridge though, rollers an' all...

    The Wild Dog pickup is pretty stupid, IMO...sounds like a guitar, literally. It would be OK if it could be blended with any of the other pickup settings (and they are quite varied) but alas no.

    How about Wilson (English "copies" of Burns) and Simpson (New Zealand "copies" of the same) basses?
  9. rickbass

    rickbass Supporting Member

    nil - Is that what "Wild Dog" was, a pickup??? I just remember seeing the big chrome knob and one of the selections where you could click the knob was "Wild Dog."

    I imagined it might be some kind of mojo tone circuit.
  10. The Nu-Sonic had a pickup selector for (heck, now i'm gonna forget and get it wrong) 2 normal pickups, plus the Wild Dog pickup. (or was it 3 + the WD? been a long time)

    The WD was mounted almost under the bridge cover (hence the treble nature).

    So, with the WD engaged and through distortion, you could actually play guitar-like tones. It would've kicked arse if it was blendable...

    I think the bass in question is probably still for sale here in NZ, somewhere around the $1300NZD mark...
  11. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    for what i know and remember thae wild dog is not a pickup, it's the name of one of the settings of the 'tone' knob selector.
  12. Sorry Marco, the Wild Dog is a pickup, that was indeed selected by the Wild Dog setting on the pickup switch.

    You could think of it almost like those "hidden" pickups in the bridge of Ampeg scroll basses.
  13. barroso


    Aug 16, 2000
    oh, no problem nil. thank you for let me know that! i was bad informed, nothing easier. i have had the chance to try a burns only one time and it was a couple of years ago. it's never to late to learn new things!;)
  14. sweet as... :D

    Along with pretty much every other bass that's been made, i'd like a Burns of my own!