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Diary of a 1951 Fender Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by 2saddleslab, May 15, 2019 at 2:29 PM.


  1. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Kentucky
    -Wednesday, November 7th, 1951:
    Future Country Music Songwriter Hall of Fame inductee, Eddie Miller, wood shop employee of Fender Musical Instruments, was instructed to take planks of 14" x 21" x 2" ash and fashion out Leo's newfangled design, an electric bass guitar. Once a body was trimmed to size, routed, and sanded, Eddie marked the neck cavity w/ EM NOV 7 51. These are thought to be the first run of production for the Fender Precision Bass.
    thumb_eddie-miller-leo-fenderlo_1024.
    [Eddie Miller pictured leaning on amp next to Leo Fender]

    -1955:
    A Fender employee [name unknown] grabbed a nonsequential bridge plate w/ serial # 0678 from a box of numbered plates, and attached it to a 1955 Fender Precision Bass.

    November 1955:
    A Fender employee [name unknown] was instructed to take 4" x 33" hard rock maple blanks to create a Fender Precision Bass neck. Once completed the end of the neck was dated 11-55. One particular neck was large with an easy to identify off center 9th fret marker, angled toward the A string.
    P1230806.

    -1989:
    During a visit to the usual vintage guitar haunts, one of which was Hughes Music in Norwood, Ohio, I stumbled upon a refinished [gray crinkle] slab body w/ front & back contours. Btw, this is the same music store Lonnie Mack ordered his Gibson Flying V, serial #0007. Glenn Hughes, the owner, was the one who made the steel work that allowed the installation of the Bigsby tremolo to Lonnie's famous V.

    My recently learned info about early P basses told me the large string ferrules would indicate early to mid 50's. The only original part still attached to the neckless body was the chrome control plate. I bought it for $200.00 [my friend who tagged along said I was nuts]. Took it home, applied some paint stripper, and discovered a beautiful highly checked butterscotch finish.........until I got to the counters and found they were aftermarket and the gray paint seeped well into the grain. Since the contours existed I decided to have a sunburst nitro finish done like the mid 50's P basses.

    -1989:
    While visiting Guitar Emporium in Louisville, Kentucky I stumbled upon a 1955 P Bass neck. The finish and decal were still intact and I couldn't get the $125.00 out of my pocket fast enough. What luck to find both body & neck within months of each other. My dad custom made a solid brass chrome plated bridge, I amassed the remaining parts, and had myself a new vintage bass.
    thumb_equipment_1024.
    [Newly assembled vintage bass on the left, Fender employee, Tadeo Gomez made '52 P bass on the right]
    thumb_recording copy_1024.
    [Pic taken during 1991 recording project, apparently the producer thought tuning was important]

    -1991:
    The nitro sunburst finish was so delicate that a sneeze would create flakes of paint to fall off. So I had a poly clear coat applied.

    -1994:
    Not satisfied with the clear coat results and wanting to bring the vibe closer to original, I asked a friend to remove the sunburst and repaint the body in butterscotch blonde poly, including the tug bar.
    Marilyn _1024.
    [Yes, I went tort before tort was cool]

    For years this was my main bass, playing gigs from Chicago's Buddy Guy's Legends to Beale Street in Memphis.
    dPPOV.

    -2001:
    Yearning to get more original I installed the 1955 bridge plate w/ serial # 0678, added a phenolic pickguard, and a Marilyn centerfold decal on the back.
    P1100360.JPG
    thumb_P1230820 - Version 2_1024.

    -April 2012:
    I contacted TB resident slab body historian, Bflat to discuss what he's been able to discover about these early 50's P basses over the years.

    -2017:
    Purchased Fender Precision Basses 1951-1954, by Detlef Schmidt. Between this amazing book [highly recommended] and ongoing discussions w/ Bflat, my interest in the historical significance of my own bass continued to grow.

    -November 2018:
    Every November I make sure to celebrate this bass by playing it as a birthday tribute. Something always bothered me about this bass. It didn't seem like a slab or a contoured bass. Also, the poly finish had never aged over the years and always looked odd compared to the aged neck. What to do??
    A8wk5eGMQn+vPadJ55+OZQ_thumb_3df7.
    TLN2T8YoQEi0svr8W2CaEg_thumb_3dfa.

    -January 12th, 2019:
    Finally decided to acknowledge this iconic bass's history by embracing the aftermarket contours [ala Jeff Beck style] and adding a proper aged blonde nitro finish. I wanted this to look like it did when I discovered it 30 years ago [after the gray paint was removed]. Who better for that task than MJT?
    IMG_1375.
    Queue the stripper music!
    IMG_1377.
    IMG_1378.

    Mmmmmm........ grainy. Amazing to think I'm inhaling the same wood dust Eddie Miller breathed 67 years earlier.
    IMG_1387.
    IMG_1386.

    This is a perfect opportunity for some forensics. Could this be original pencil marks from Eddie Miller?
    IMG_1411.
    IMG_1412.

    Most of these slab bodies were 2 piece, with some rare one pieces seen. Mine is 4 piece, which is really rare.
    IMG_1414.

    The early input cups were friction fit and wonder if this repair was done at the fender factory?
    IMG_1416.

    -January 22nd, 2019:
    Ship the bass, pg, tug bar, and parts to MJT.

    -May 9th, 2019:
    Delivery of bass from MJT.

    -May 10th, 2019:
    Assembly of the bass. You'll see the results in part 2.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2019 at 3:57 PM
  2. Holy cow
     
  3. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Kentucky
    Part 2

    Here she is!
    p9foLyklSZOrB%Q9sfVVxA_thumb_1167f.
    kexOLDBpSTiIlkUrmg1h6Q_thumb_11683.
    KAgwdAsRTcu0mYWNDvXEMQ_thumb_11684.
    QFS23NMkS1ClZa0l%9FZ5Q_thumb_1167a.
    OyqvqILtSkO2MDI4KUPJ8w_thumb_11686.
    u6l+2qKgRymoQuT3G6CFyg_thumb_1168e.
    A7omLfZcT5+jz+hNFhDo9A_thumb_11687.
    zbzPvGufSFueQwTW52l%Xw_thumb_11688.

    I think Leo would have been happy knowing his creation, even though it's been altered and changed, still survives and continues to create music almost 7 decades later. Hoping for years of diary entries to come.
     
    TDR1138, oldfretless, Axstar and 61 others like this.
  4. agent19

    agent19 Commercial User

    Nov 24, 2010
    AUSTIN, TX
    Super cool.. thanks for sharing this journey.
     
  5. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Kentucky
    Btw, there are 3 TB owners with EM NOV 7 51 bodies, the other 2 are Bflat and Rescue Me.
    B8VRnvA+Tp6ciRL4k1rNpQ_thumb_1166d.
    IMG_1875.
     
  6. Incredible piece, not just for it's looks, but for it's history, too. I can only imagine how right that neck feels to you, after all these years!
     
    kobass and 2saddleslab like this.
  7. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Kentucky
    Thank you, sir! The neck is the biggest baseball bat I've ever played. And I've handled a few early slabs. Your hand feels right at home.
     
  8. bassdude51

    bassdude51 "You never even called me by my name." Supporting Member

    Nov 1, 2008
    Central Ohio
    This thread from 2saddleslab strongly expresses the love of a serious bassist for the first solid body bass guitar! The King of basses. The Fender 51 to early 54 slab body basses!

    He is to be commended for salvaging and keeping alive one of the very first slab bodies ever made!

    May I bow before him in honor!
     
    Bflat, StevieMac, bobyoung53 and 3 others like this.
  9. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Kentucky
    Thanks for the kind words, my friend! Believe me, the pleasure has been mine.:D
     
    bassdude51 likes this.
  10. Awesome! Simply awesome! Thank you for sharing!
    Best wishes,
    Brent
     
    2saddleslab likes this.
  11. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    Kentucky
    Thank you, sir!
     
    BrentSimons likes this.
  12. nilorius

    nilorius

    Oct 27, 2016
    Riga - Latvia
    Interesting.............thanks !
     
    2saddleslab likes this.
  13. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    i dig that off-the-shoulder contour look.
     
    2saddleslab likes this.
  14. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it

    Fender bass! Without a doubt
     
    Lownotes75 and 2saddleslab like this.
  15. Wowsers! Cherish it.
     
    2saddleslab likes this.
  16. OptimalOptimus

    OptimalOptimus

    Jan 4, 2019
    Canada
    I feel like I'm reading some illuminaty stuff.

    It is just a bass. No need to worship it.
     
  17. Low84

    Low84 Supporting Member

    Mar 30, 2014
    Super-cool story! What a fun read!

    MJT Finishes is a fantastic company to work with. Love those folks!
     
    Lammchop93 and 2saddleslab like this.
  18. Thank you for a fun read!
    I didn’t get the “embrace the contours” bit until I saw the final pictures. Yep, that’s certainly celebrating them!!
    Best wishes!
     
    2saddleslab likes this.
  19. 1bassplayinfool

    1bassplayinfool -Nowhere Man- Supporting Member

    Great story, Thanks for sharing :thumbsup:
     
    2saddleslab likes this.
  20. I love the story, still don't get the "embrace the contours" concept. Looks to me like the contours were made with a belt sander.

    But I respect the bass reconstruction, the research, the excellent history, and its longevity with the owner.
     
    Lammchop93, Amano and 2saddleslab like this.

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