Chasing The Shadow of The Funk Machine

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by bluesdogblues, Jan 11, 2015.

  1. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    Last edited: Jan 14, 2015
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  2. OldDirtyBassist


    Mar 13, 2014
    Ok I held out from replying first on this one out of respect for the vetern talkbass Funk/Motown community. My question will they know or not if the bass in question is real? Are there even any pics of the bass close enough to determine a grain pattern in the body? God I hope they didn't mod it.

    Thanks for the news bluesdogblues.
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  3. It was an excellent article. I suppose after finding the Bass of Doom, this one was naturally going to be next on the list. I don't think it's that important, as you could potentially recreate the Jamerson sound with any number of 60's pre CBS Precision basses strung with really old flats and the action being high in the sky like on a double bass combined with his one finger plucking technique.

    But it's a nice piece of history and a great story.
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  4. bluesdogblues


    Nov 13, 2007
    I'm sorry,.. I know you don't say it, but I don't agree if someone says that it's 'less important' than the Bass of Doom, (including to be found).
    And yes, one could potentially recreate the Jamerson sound, just as one could potentially recreate the Jaco sound,.. not one is more or less than the other.
    Because, aside of the physical aspect in producing the sound there's 'the player's soul', feel, etc, that will forever make everyone's sound unique,..especially the people at the level of Jamerson and Pastorius.
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  5. You're quite correct - I neither said nor implied that the Funk Machine was less [or more] important than the Bass of Doom.

    Did you assume that's what I meant..?
  6. unbridled


    May 26, 2005
    Endorsing Artist-Compton Compensated Custom Bridges (for Gretsch 6ers)
    I think I read somewhere that, besides the "Funk" carving, the family had said there were other markings they would recognize.
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  7. Man I'm bored!
    I was just doing a little Funk Machine sleuthing because I'm just so fascinated with this missing bass. There have been speculations elsewhere on the net that the '62 P bass was originally a '63. Also that the 62' Funk Machine was stolen in the sixties, not right before he died in the 80's. And... when he moved to LA, the sunburst P bass he had there was not the funk machine and so on and so on..... Could the Funk machine have gone missing earlier in his career???
    I just dug up 2 pictures of Jamerson. One in the sixties, probably the most famous pic and one in the 80's shortly before his death. Both pictures with him supposedly holding the Funk Machine.

    Now if you look closely at the first picture, the early shot, there is a chip out of the finish on the upper horn of the bass right where his neck tie ends. Also it looks like a piece of the tort guard chipped off down to the white ply on the lower horn.

    Now in the second pic, the bass doesn't have this chip in the upper horn and the pick guard doesn't have the missing piece. Now the pick guard could of been replaced, but do you think Jamerson would of had the bass refinished or the chip repaired. I mean, he stated that the gunk on the neck from his fingers was where the funk was at. Lol!
    So im thinking a small flaw in the finish wouldn't bother him.
    Maybe the original '62 did go missing earlier in his career and the "other" bass in the later pics also was stolen too.
    Sorry if this has been discussed already. What do you think???

    James_Jamerson.jpeg James-Jamerson-01.jpg
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015
  8. Just noticed the tort guard obviously is different by way of the pattern.
    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015
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  9. The sunburst pattern looks different to me.
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  10. I think the first picture is not the bass that became known as the Funk Machine. In the Standing in the Shadows book, Dr. Licks indicates James owned an early 60s sunburst, which was stolen, before he bought the Funk Machine. The pickguard on the first picture is more consistent with a 60 than a 62.

    jsxtal likes this.
  11. silky smoove

    silky smoove

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    It could just be the lower quality of the 60s picture obscuring details that you can actually see in the 80s one. Not saying that definitively, just a thought.
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  12. AH... Looks like Im gonna have to go through the book again. Haven't read it in a while, just reading the music notation :).
    So that famous picture is most likely the '60?
  13. I can't be completely sure, but the bass in the studio picture looks consistent with an early 60s sunburst. In any event, it is noteworthy there at least three stolen Jamerson basses out there: (1) the 57 P Bass known as the Black Beauty, (2) the early 60s sunburst P Bass and (3) the 62 P Bass known as the Funk Machine.
    jsxtal likes this.
  14. This Bass Player article also has some interesting hints about the Funk Machine, indicating that although it was a 62, James did not actually acquire it until 1966. Thus, his early Motown electric work probably would have been played on the 57 Black Beauty P Bass or the early 60s sunburst P Bass (or other unknown and later stolen basses).

    BASSES & STRINGS: Jamerson favored Fender Precision Basses, having a few stolen until in 1966 he found “The Funk Machine,” a stock sunburst ’62 P-Bass with high action, foam under the bridge cover, and LaBella flatwounds gauged .052-.110. According to James Jr., the E and A strings were “killer,” and the Bb on the A string “just exploded from the bass.” Although his father would occasionally polish the body, he would never touch the gunky buildup on the fingerboard, famously noting, “The dirt keeps the funk.” Unfortunately, the instrument, on which Jamerson carved the word “funk” into the neck heel and filled it in with blue ink, remains missing. His Motown German-built upright, however, now resides in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

    Secrets Of The Motown Vault | Bassplayer
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  15. winterburn69


    Jan 27, 2008
    There's also pictures of him with a late '60s/early '70s sunburst/tort P. Bigger (nicer, IMO) TV headstock logo.
  16. That's interesting. I think I've seen every published photo of Jamerson, but I can't recall seeing any pictures of him playing any Precision later than the 62 Precision known as the Funk Machine. If you have a picture of him with a later model, please post it. It's certainly possible he borrowed other basses for gigs, but in the 1979 Dan Forte interview, he confirmed he owned only three Precisions over the course of his career. It's also noteworthy this quote seems to rebut James Jr's statement that he bought the Funk Machine in 1966, as Jamerson says he bought it "new" in 63:

    How many basses do you own?
    Four. I have an old German upright, a Fender 5-string, a Hagstrom 8-string, and the Precision. I've had two Precisions stolen from me, but my present one I bought new in '63. When I got it I immediately took the Fender strings off and put LaBellas on, and I've had the same strings on it ever since. You don't need to change strings all the time; you'll lose the tone. It's like a new car: the older it gets, the better it rides.
  17. mikeswals

    mikeswals Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    The bass in the 2nd picture also has a 65/66 headstock logo.
  18. winterburn69


    Jan 27, 2008
    Agh, I knew I should've posted a picture with him and the bass. Google isn't cooperating with my searches. I'll keep looking. I'm quite sure I've seen the picture I'm talking about here on TB. I'm picky about Fender headstock logos and when I saw that I thought "oh cool, JJ with a TV logo P".
  19. That's a great catch! I think I've looked at that picture a thousand times and never noticed the post 64 transition logo. A 65 or 66 date would actually be consistent with James Jr's statement that James acquired the Funk Machine in 1966, although it would be contrary to James' own statement he bought it new in 1963. Maybe this explains why no one has ever found the Funk Machine -- everyone is looking for a 62 when they should be looking for a post 64. In any event, I can't deny the transition decal on the bass James is holding in the 1979 pictures.


    MYLOWFREQ Supporting Member

    May 13, 2011
    Good luck with finding the bass, I hope they will. I was at Victor Wooten's workshop at Sam Ash, and some Fodera people were there as well. One of them told a story about James breaking his LaBella string (I think it was the A) and sending it back to LaBella asking them to fix it :) So I doubt he fixed any of the chips on his bass, in fact he would get so mad if somebody intended to do so imo.
    jsxtal likes this.