How good were Fenders in '62?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Bass4LifeRS, Aug 3, 2021.

  1. Bass4LifeRS


    Oct 18, 2005
    Considering todays quality of the Mexican lines, and versus the US professional II's and even the Fender Custom Shop basses. If you were to travel back in time to let's say 1962, and get an off the rack Fender precision or Jazz and bring it back to 2021. How would it compare construction wise to the currentFender basses?
    Could I grab a mexican Player series bass and get a superior instrument to those older ones?
    How do you see it?
  2. bucephylus

    bucephylus Supporting Member

    Aug 18, 2002
    Central Ohio

    First, there has ALWAYS been a bandwith in “sweetness” between Fender basses; such that finding and obtaining the really great ones is always a bit of a journey. So, comparing one line to another tends to have a good bit of overlap, at least in terms of playing qualities.

    Second, it is a sad but true fact that better wood was generally more available in 1962 than we have today, especially for production instrument materials. An instrument is the sum of materials in it plus individual production juju; so, the wood stock does make a difference.

    Third, the player matters far more than the instrument, as long as fundamental issues aren’t going on. For example, early MIM Jazz Basses actually had the pickups both wound the same direction, such that the instrument had 60 cycle hum in all settings. That kind of thing is a problem, even for a top pro.

    Here is my ‘62:

    It is an outstanding instrument for sure. Among other things, the neck is more tapered than current production models; producing a pencil thin neck which is still rock solid. There is nothing like it in Fender’s current production, including American production. Things were simply different back then.
  3. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    I'm thinking the authorities would eventually catch up to you, for stealing a bass in '62.

    No statute of limitations, involving time travel.
  4. Bass4LifeRS


    Oct 18, 2005
    That's an amazing looking bass. I love me some matching headstock, even as I ponder on which price category I am going to focus on.
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  5. Bass4LifeRS


    Oct 18, 2005
    I would of course go to the future first to grab a hoverboard :D
    Ronzo, J_Bass, Bleecker and 14 others like this.
  6. Construction methods are more accurate and consistent these days so a modern bass would be as well or better constructed than an early 60s model.

    I’ve played a few vintage basses and guitars and they didn’t strike me as special. Special ones are out there but they aren’t limited to a bygone era.
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  7. Dbassmon


    Oct 2, 2004
    Rutherford, NJ
    There are objective and subject measures on quality of course. Mojo - certainly is difficult to quantify. Let's face it, Leo came up with a great design that remains essentially unchanged in all of the most important areas. Those include tonewood choices, pickup design and placement, and scale. Fender designs produce a readily identifiable audio profile, whether Jazz or Pbass.

    Certainly, the introduction of CNC machines has made a significant difference in instrument quality. Neck pockets all fit tightly, necks are consistently shaped. A typical Mexican Pbass can be in most ways as good as an American version. So there is less variability in the production process. In the '70s, Fender quality was not great. The jigs were worn and neck pockets had huge gaps that allowed the neck to move back and forth. Fender was buying very dense ash which made 11-14 lbs basses very common. Not that they did not sound good, they did, but who wants to wear that for 4hours?

    What I have found is that although there is a premium placed on vintage instruments, that value comes from a perceived thang called mojo. In a rhythm section where everyone is playing ensemble, you may have a great deal of difficulty identifying a 62 Fender, from a 2021, Mexican Fender bass, if the strings and amplification were the same.

    The most important differentiation is not vintage quality vs new, it is the quality of any individual instrument. Each is different, some are better than others and some are unplayable.
  8. tvbop


    Mar 11, 2021
    Sure we have CNC etc etc today but what we dont have so much of is old growth wood which can be hard and light at the same time....Ive heard some 60's P basses that have a definite woody tone which I havent heard in todays or even instruments from the 70's...having said that I had a 71 P bass whaich was heavy and not very good at all.
    Oh and just to say, the neck pocket thing in Fenders is snake oil. The mechanical force and tone migration comes from the bolts not the fit which is purely cosmetic....
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  9. MattZilla


    Jun 26, 2013
    Invoking the ability to time travel, I’d still have to try at least twenty before I got one which despite having had less than five years since it had treeblood flowing through it would be easily judged as not a dud.

    I’d probably have to try a hundred to find one that’d be worth the investment in time travel to then send back to Fender to have the body and headstock painted Oly White and then stuck in a very expensive safety deposit box to age- because why not use the full benefit of time travel? Really the best thing to do would be to bring back a few Dingwalls, Spectors, and Lulls to age them someplace safe.

    Comparing new-in-62’s to current MIM’s is probably apt regarding what you’re likely to pull off of the rack.

    To get something truly “superior” to the cream of the crop of new-in-62 Fenders made today you’re talking about researching all of the different recipes in wood roasting, CF reinforcement, and your personal preference in the type of finish on the back of the neck.

    Adjusted for inflation, Lulls and EBMMs cost about the same as Fenders did in ‘62, and they’re definitely selling a product which the worst of it is superior to the typical new-in-62 Fender.


    But But But

    Of the 60s Fenders that were made:

    -how many made their way through several owners, several pawn shops, unloved due to non-resonant necks, twisted necks, ski-jump necks, lack of talent/persistence among all of the owners, or all of the above eventually getting tossed into a dumpster sometime between 1972 and 2006? There are lots of stories of Dumpster Finds and few of them don’t include major neck surgery.

    - how many were just okay basses (compared to a Spector, A-C, or Lull) that got fully used up and thrown away after being completely soaked in malnutritioned+druggy+boozey sweat nearly every day for eight to fifteen years?

    -How many great ones burned up in studio & apartment fires?

    -What percentage of those produced when The Radio Repair Guy was in charge are left for us to have had the last 20 years to speculate on how they were back then?
  10. Spidey2112


    Aug 3, 2016
    I'm kicking myself for putting vintage hardware from the '60s up for auction.

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  11. I suspect that, like songs, instruments are subject to the "good old days filter". We forget and discard the lousy ones, then hallucinate that they were all great back then based on the few great ones that survived.
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  12. The comments about Mojo are apt. That is more of a spiritual thing. I'd like to hear more about people throwing away a '60s or '70s Fender or Gibson. I can't believe that happened too often.

    These are collectables because there are only so many and of those out there, many are in the hands of collectors and probably never see the light of a stage or even a practice room. Investments. Also, how many old attics and garages have a forgotten old instrument stored away forgotten? Even when these rare things are found, people these days do not generally get rid of them not knowing they are valuable. The old garage sales stories are more mythic than reality based.

    How good were they?? They were what you had if you could afford much better than a Sears catalogue instrument. Gibsons, Ricks, Fenders, even Hofners were probably not held to the high standards of playability and exactness to specs that we have today. I am sure that players, played through most defects.
  13. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Mascoutah, IL
    One thing that is different is people are much larger today and it’s often overlooked when it comes to dimensional sizes, what is acceptable and what isn’t.

    But, having been around in that day, not a bassist in 1962 but having played more than a few early 60’s Fender basses, all things considered, I wouldn’t trade my 1999 MIA PJ for one.

    I do agree with the statement there is a sorting process that you need to go through to find “the one” that transcends the year of manufacture. For certain there are a lot more Fender basses made today than in the 60’s. Through this sorting process over the decades only the good ones are left, mostly held by collectors.

    Occasionally, a marginal type attic find, one that nobody was overly impressed in the first place, which spent most of it’s 60 years in a case will pop up on the market and people will pay big bucks for it. Not here.
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  14. BarfanyShart


    Sep 19, 2019
    DC Metro
    They were fine in '62, but really old now. :)
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  15. commonplayer

    commonplayer Supporting Member

    Mar 7, 2006
    I have a hard time thinking that an actual '63 could be as well made as my AVRI ‘63. Better tooling, technology etc.

  16. I like that bass! I agree with your comments, but will it be as revered and sought after in 2080 as an actual 1963 bass is today in 2021? I kind've doubt it.
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  17. dbsfgyd1


    Jun 11, 2012
    Mascoutah, IL
    Watch it, I was fine in 62…just saying! Ya don’t want to offending some of us. You know we’re so sensitive these day. LOL!!!
  18. commonplayer

    commonplayer Supporting Member

    Mar 7, 2006
    Oh it certainly won't hold as much resale or collector value as a true vintage instrument from the early 60s, even on a relative basis. I was more speaking to the quality of construction given modern methods since that was what the OP was asking about.
    Basslice likes this.
  19. tvbop


    Mar 11, 2021
    That is real peachy! But, as I said earlier I doubt the wood is old growth and thats the difference in tone..
  20. bon viesta

    bon viesta

    Dec 10, 2020
    my reason for liking vintage instruments: they look cooler, i would look cooler using them, and all of my idols and inspirations used them. are they objectively better instruments than current day models? probably not. do i still like them? yes.
    mikeswals likes this.