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Jamerson bass identifiers

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by nohhyuk, Sep 18, 2008.

  1. nohhyuk


    Sep 11, 2008
    Hello all,
    I'm new here. I was wondering if there were any ways to identify the Funk Machine other than "funk" on the neck heel. Does anyone know what the serial number is?

    Seems like anyone can scribble "funk" on a sunburst '62 P-bass and call it his.
  2. nixdad


    Aug 15, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Concerning the Funk Machine...

    This is an e-mail I sent to Bill Leigh at Bass Player Magazine a few months ago. Instead of editing, I have pasted the entire e-mail. I know it's long, but read on as I think you will find it interesting...

    I was the manager of The Bass Centre in Los Angeles from when we opened in 1986 until I left in 1993. This was truly an amazing time, as this is the period when the bass scene truly exploded – bass players were receiving notoriety like never before, the range of bass gear was unbelievable, and the bass community had truly come together for the first time. We were very fortunate to be the hub of activity between players, bass and bass amplifier manufacturers and bass happenings in general. Tops amongst our many events included hosting the public launch in 1989 for Alan Slutsky's "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," which many have dubbed the "Bass Player's Bible" upon its release. We were instrumental in putting Alan Slutsky in touch with many of the bass players that were featured in the book, most notably Phil Chen whom is the biggest "Godfather of Groove" fan on the planet, and who can also be seen several times in the background of the concert footage in the Standing in the Shadows movie.

    *In 1990, we came up with the idea to offer our customers as accurate a replica of James Jamerson's "Funk Machine," & Jaco Pastorius's "Bass of Doom." This was also done with the intention to benefit each family, with a portion of each sale being paid to the Jamerson Family or to Jaco's Estate. These were to be limited to 100 units each, and built with impeccable attention to detail, right down to the proper gauge La Bella Flatwounds or Rotosounds that were used (in hindsight, I believe less than 50 of each were actually built.) This was several years before the Fender Custom Shop offered the accurate distressed finishes that are offered today. Ads for these 2 basses were featured in several issues of Bass Player in 1991.

    I first contacted John Page of the Fender Customer Shop to find out details if recreating these instruments could be accomplished. John and his crew were fantastic! Once we had developed a strategy, worked out production details & preliminary costs, James Jamerson, Jr., (whom we had worked closely with during the "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" launch) was contacted, and Jim Roberts of BP put us in touch with the attorney's handling Jaco Pastorious's Estate. We worked closely with James, Jr., on the James Jamerson Tribute Bass, and with Kevin Kaufman on the Jaco Pastorius Signature Bass, who we flew out from Florida for several days and was incredibly gracious and a great resource during the entire process. I remember Kevin telling us about his experiences with Jaco, and having to rebuild the "Bass of Doom" as described in the April article. Seeing the photos of this bass last month truly brought the experience full circle, as well as many fond memories.

    In 1993, I had a booth at a Vintage Guitar Show at the Fairplex in Pomona, California. Besides some of my own vintage gear that I was selling at the time, I had brought with me Serial #001 of both the Jamerson & Jaco Basses from The Bass Centre. On the 2nd day of the show, a guy in his early 20's came by and noticed the Jamerson bass. He said "hey, you want to see somethin'?," and proceeded to pull a mid-60's sunburst P-Bass from a newer plastic Fender case. He tells me that this is the "Funk Machine." I checked the bass out for a moment, and immediately looked at the heel expecting to see the word "Funk" carved into the heel, and filled with blue ink. A word was carved in the heel and filled with blue ink, but it was not "Funk" (I no longer recall the actual word.) At this point I just assumed this guy was pulling my leg, so I did not take him too seriously. He then pointed out the wear marks on the "bell," which was the pickup cover that Jamerson had always kept on his bass. He stated that the marks perfectly matched the photos of Jamerson's bass in the Standing in the Shadows of Motown book. Unfortunately, I did not have the book with me that weekend for reference, and although I was very familiar with the book, I did not recall seeing the wear marks that he had mentioned in the photos. This was well before cell phones (with instant picture taking capability,) and I did not have a camera with me. After a few minutes, he packed up the bass and went on his way. I did not think much of it at the time.

    When I returned home from the show, I immediately scoured my copy of "SITSOM" and noticed the photos on page 75 & 96. They both clearly showed the unusual rusty wear marks on the bell that were very similar to what I had seen the day before…my heart sank. If I had the book with me at the show, I could have easily compared the dings, wear marks on the bell, as well as the pattern of the tortoise shell pick guard which are different on every instrument. Having the book with me would have decided the validity of this claim on the spot.

    Was it the Funk Machine? Maybe! There's a chance this was the real deal.
    I have no doubt the Funk Machine still exists, and look forward to reading about it being found in a future issue of BP.

    A last note of interest…
    I am no expert, but I believe there are 2 different Funk Machines. Although "the" Funk Machine has always been touted to be a '62 Fender P-Bass as is clearly shown on the last page of "Standing in the Shadows of Motown" (the same color photo was featured on the cover of Bass Player a few years ago,) the bass that Jamerson is pictured with on page 75, 96 & 193, is a different sunburst P-Bass, possibly from around 1965. A closer look at the headstock on page 193 appears it could possibly feature the mid-60's Fender logo, and not the "wet noodle" logo that Fender used on the earlier P-Basses. If you compare the photos as well, the ding pattern on the upper cutaway is different, & the tortoise shell pick guards are clearly different (notice the broken piece on the lower front cutaway of the '62 pick guard.)

    I am by no means the first person to notice these differences, but have never read about this being discussed previously. If there is a '62 Funk Machine & '65ish Funk Machine yet to be located, so be it!

    2008 is also the 20 year Anniversary of Bass Player Magazine (Happy Anniversary later this year!)

    I also hope you have something planned for the 20th Anniversary of the release of Standing in the Shadows of Motown in 2009. Another good reason for a party!
  3. I guess the one thing that bothers me about anyone having that instrument and knowing what it is is that it was more than likely stolen by a low life jerk that only knew that it was a "Fender guitar," probably for booze money. My understanding is that James was not living in a palatial estate- and was not living in the nicest of neighborhoods at the time of the theft and his death. Until the late 80s, James was pretty much unknown as "James Jamerson- the Motown bass player" so the idea that the theft was an attempt to steal an iconic bass from a bass legend doesn't sit right with me.

    It would make more sense to me that that bass went to a pawn shop, where the thief got $100 for it and blew the cash on Strohs and the bass got sold for $200 to some kid who promptly thrashed the hell out of it and tossed it.

    I'm not doubting what you were told or what you believe you saw- just relating what I would believe to be the most probable scenario regarding that instrument.
  4. i am inclined to agree with Golden Boy...if only it hadnt of been stolen, it could be living happily in someone's collection. Seeing as how it was stolen, there's just no telling where its gotten to, or how many pieces it may or may not be in. If you infact did see the Funk Machine up close, then heck, if it ever is found and identified, you can say you saw it up close! lol of course, there is always a chance that it could have been pawned or sold as Golden Boy speculates, and just so happened the person that got ahold of it next was a serious player, and someone's taking good care of it right now, never thinking to stop and compare the wear marks.

    who really knows?
  5. nohhyuk


    Sep 11, 2008
    How about this one from Dave's guitar?

    Attached Files:

  6. nohhyuk


    Sep 11, 2008
    Thank you, nixdad. That's an interesting story! I was hoping that there are some pictures detailing the markings on the bass or a serial number. Is there anything like that?
  7. Here's the issue with the "serious player" scenario...

    In 81 that would have just been another old bass. With all the stories you hear about how nasty and bowed his neck was- the action an inch and a half off the fretboard... a "serious player" would probably skip that one over...
  8. nixdad


    Aug 15, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    The photos I am referring to can be found in the book "Standing in the Shadows of Motown," which is a must have.

    Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me the day I saw what may have been the Funk Machine.

    I still beat my self up for not having the book with me at that show. That would have proved or disproved the mystery right then and there.
  9. mongo2


    Feb 17, 2008
    Da Shaw
    I wouldn't feel too bad about it. I doubt if you were the only one he would have shown it to and the bass hasn't surfaced as a possible "Funk Machine" since you saw it at the show 15 years ago, so I doubt it was anything worth worrying about.
  10. david fitch

    david fitch

    Feb 20, 2007
    I was told by members of The Funk Brothers Jamersons Bass,the 1962 Fender Precision "The Funk Machine" was stolen in Detroit and did not come out to California with him.
  11. mikeswals

    mikeswals Supporting Member

    Nov 18, 2002
    Seattle / Tacoma
    Absolutely I've noticed the different pictured basses in the SITSOM book, and in the last Funk Machine discussion, I replied that I see two different ones in his later years.
    Not to mention early on, the stolen black '57, and the burst '60 or '61 he replaced the '57 with that got stolen too.
  12. nixdad


    Aug 15, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    It would not surprise me at all to find out the '62 was stolen back in Detroit. That would also explain the mid-60's P-Bass that Jamerson is pictured with in the book much later in his life.
  13. nixdad


    Aug 15, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
  14. FranF

    FranF Supporting Member

    Jul 25, 2004
    Northeastern PA
    Nixdad, just pm-ed ya, or 'started a conversation', whatever the hell it is now.... lol !!!

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