Identifying a vintage Burns bass

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Sesh, Jul 31, 2020.

  1. Sesh


    Jul 1, 2020
    Hi bassists!

    I've been looking for a Burns Bison bass because I'm obsessed with the bass sound on Serge Gainsbourg's Melody Nelson album... and because I'm a vintage gearslut in general (I've just bought a Selmer Treble & Bass for a vintage toob bass amp sound!)

    A Burns bass has been for sale locally for a while. The seller himself has identified it as a Burns Marquee from 59-61, but looking at the body shape, I've personally identified it as a Burns Vista Sonic that, as far as I can tell, came later as an attempt to make something less oddball than the pretty unique (and acquired taste) Bison, and

    Here's the odd thing: It has what looks like a brass pickguard, plus it has odd "dial"-style knobs that differ from the standard. (see picture) It seems quite legit, though, and the oddness has piqued my interest even more - perhaps it's a rare version? He's asking 670 euros, might be able to squeeze him a bit.

    Anyway, it should have the same tri sonic pickups as the BIson, so I assume it can get me in exactly the same territory? View attachment 3926305

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
  2. Bass V

    Bass V

    Dec 11, 2008
    Honolulu, Hawaii
    the pg looks homemade but good, what did the original pg look like? fragile?
    for a batwinged spud that is pretty cool!
    Sesh likes this.
  3. Sesh


    Jul 1, 2020
    Yeah, that seems plausible. And agree, it looks awesome!

    I do not know if the original pickguard is fragile. Perhaps it's just a case of someone wanting customization, could explain the different knobs as well. That's my theory.

    Great to hear it can get that sound. I might just buy it...
  4. cdef


    Jul 18, 2003
    So did the seller state the bass is defretted? That fact will make a decisive difference in sound. As an instance of customization it's a careful one, with the engraved brand name and all. Even the options for the rotary selector (Wild Dog/Treble/Bass/Contra Bass) seem to be in place, if faint. The bridge cover is not original either; it may be from a Precision-style bass.

    Here, for comparison, is a pristine Vista-Sonic:

    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
    ac100X likes this.
  5. Sesh


    Jul 1, 2020
    Nope.. The guy stubbornly claims that it's an early 1958-1959 version, allegedly before the pickguards were made of PVC, which, according to him, explain the differences, why the pickguard is steel.
  6. M.R. Ogle

    M.R. Ogle Supporting Member Commercial User

    Nov 5, 2004
    Mount Vernon, Illinois
    Backstage Guitar Lab owner
    I did a quick Google image search, looking for a metal pickguard version. Nothing showed up. I doubt it.
    cdef likes this.
  7. Sesh


    Jul 1, 2020
    Right. I don't believe it either. In 1958-1959 that he claims it's from, Burns wasnt even Burns, he xreated a couple of guitars as Burns Weill. The first guitar was called Artist in late 1959 and looked nothing like this and did not have this sort of steel pickguard. In fact, I have gathered that the pickguards used a rare cellulose material.

    I mean, vintage Burns guitars and basses commands huge sums intact, so I guess 670 euros isnt that much. I just hate being manipulated.
    cdef likes this.
  8. Killing Floor

    Killing Floor Supporting Member

    Feb 7, 2020
    Austin, TX
    So what's the skinny on the new relaunch of Burns?
  9. cdef


    Jul 18, 2003
    Likewise, I can find nothing whatsoever to support this claim. The Vista Sonic became available only in 1962, AFAIK. Conclusion: he doesn't know what he's talking about, or is making things up. Probably both.
    M.R. Ogle, JIO and Sesh like this.
  10. Sesh


    Jul 1, 2020
    Supposedly pretty good. They have instruments for several price tiers - cheap(ish) Chinese and Korean guitars that are still well-made, with good materials and custom shop made in UK. The models are a mixture of 1:1 reissues and modernized versions. Made true to spirit of the originals, from what I can gather.

    I've contemplated buying a far east Bison reissue because it's my favorite bass design in the world, but I thought if I could snatch this real vintage Burns locally for cheap, I'd rather have that
  11. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    Nope - early '60s. I have a '63 Vista Sonic that I just renovated - learned a lot about Burns in the process. The scratch-plates were made of engraving material, like engraved plaques are made of. That metal one on that bass is most likely home-made. That's a P-bass bridge cover (not original) and knobs aren't original either. Plus, someone pulled the frets and likely the electronics aren't original either. Looks to be missing the clear plastic hs badge also. Without seeing the bridge, possible that's been changed also.

    upload_2020-7-31_14-3-33.jpeg upload_2020-7-31_14-12-19.jpeg
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
    bassobrutto and cdef like this.
  12. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    As far as I know, the last (Danish) company to revive Burns has recently pulled the plug. Burns has seen a lot of stops and re-starts over many decades so who knows if and when it will be continued. All of this info is from the Burns guitars and amplifiers Facebook page which is mostly inhabited by UK members. Worth checking out if you want more info on Burns past & present.
  13. sonojono

    sonojono Supporting Member

    Feb 13, 2013
    Are you sure it’s not Boo-Urns?!
  14. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    If it is otherwise in decent shape, and the electronics are original, buy it. You will save a lot and can put some into getting a reproduction pick guard made.
  15. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    There are some parts available, but finding others are in the "good luck" category. Bill Lovegrove at the Burns Guitars and Amplifiers Facebook page is a source for some parts including a repo bridge cover and engraved neck plate if it's missing. I just had a reproduction Watkins (a non-related UK maker who used the same material for their scratch-lates) scratch-plate made (from the UK) and know that some Burns guitar and bass scratch-plates are available but haven't needed to look into it. I tried to find the engraving material in the same thickness as Burns and Watkins and came up short. (only a thinner version was available in my search)
    Considering it's not all original and has been de-fretted (and the fret gaps not filled - hack job), it would depend on how cheap 'cheap' is.
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2020
  16. I believe he stated the asking price is 670 euros.
  17. JIO

    JIO Connery... Sean Connery Gold Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jun 30, 2010
    The Mission SF/CA
    musician/artist/owner - Gildaxe
    Yes, in his initial post - my bad... FTR, I have seen 100% original ones go for close to that amount.
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2020
  18. packhowitzer

    packhowitzer 155mm of pure destruction

    Apr 20, 2011
    I was saying Boo-urns.
    Wood and Wire likes this.
  19. Volker Kirstein

    Volker Kirstein Blippy the Wonder Slug Supporting Member

    An Albino Bison just showed up in the local want ads with a €3.5K asking price, if you're still looking....
    BURNS BISON BASS ALBINO 1962 ! 58 Jahre alt und Top in Schuß !

    Not my bass. Not affiliated with seller.

    Attached Files:

  20. Springything


    May 3, 2021
    Hi sesh or anyone out there , I have a friend who has a 60s burns baldwin black bison bass and he's looking to sell it, it's in mint condition if you or anyone is interested let me know he's looking for around £2.500 ono with hard case and that's around £800 to £1.000 better than its true value.

    Attached Files:

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