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King Moretone info request

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by DavidRavenMoon, Apr 7, 2006.


  1. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    Hello all, about 15 years ago I bought a used old URB in a music store for about $350. They had a sign on it saying it was a Kay, but the label inside says it's a King Moretone. It's in good condition, but needs a little work. It needs a new bridge... when I got it the bridge was way too high, and someone cut inch deep groves for the strings to make them lower! I reshaped it, but I'm not an expert on uprights... I build electric basses. Also the seams on the top have unglued on the bottom end of the bass. I understand this is normal to prevent cracks from forming? And I haven't changed the strings. It's been sitting in a corner of my living room looking pretty. ;)

    I'm an mainly an electric player, but have been wanting to get this bass fixed up so I can use it.

    I'd like to know more about this bass, and I figure this is the place to ask! Is this the same King bass company that makes the new basses? It seems like a nicely made bass, and even with the ill fitted bridge, old strings, and open seams, it has a real nice tone.

    Is there any way to find out how old these are? What's everyone's opinion on them?

    I'll post some pictures this weekend.

    I know... so many questions!

    Thanks in advance,

    David :)
     
  2. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
    Kip Martin recently established a welcome website on vintage American Standard basses and their close cousin, the King Moretones. (GOOGLE: "American Standard Basses") The HN WHITE CO of Cleveland also maintains a historical website containing info on these instruments.

    The Kings started coming out in 1934, and the website provides a serial number - date of manufacture list that will enable you to figure out how old your bass is. In my opinion, the King Moretone is one of the best sounding plywood basses ever made. If properly set up you will get a decidely punchy and very loud sound, and you can use the bass in any setting, from folk/bluegrass to jazz. Maybe even in a classical milieu? They are finished much better than a Kay, with hand-carved scrolls, violin corners and ebony fittings. I have owned a Kay as well, for about 30 years, but my King is far superior in every sense. In fact, the finish on my 1961 Kay started "checking" only a few years after I got it in 1969, whereas last year I obtained a 60-year old King Moretone with a finish showing some age and patina, but no checking or other distress. Not all basses are created equal, however my King has action and tonal quality almost equal to my fine old carved Czech bass. I just love playing it. Drawbacks on my King-- its got a 43 inch mensure, whereas my two carved basses are 41.5 and 42 inches respectively, so one has to adjust for that. Another drawback for me but which may not bother another player is the relatively narrow width of the King's fingerboard. It measure only 3 1/2 inches at its widest, whereas both of my carved basses' fingerboards measure 4 inches at the widest point. I paid less than $1000 for my King, then invested $1000 into it to have a new bridge cut / fitted, the neck re-set, the fingerboard dressed and a new soundpost installed. I was lucky to have Luthier John Lemoine of Washington D.C. perform this work for me. He achieved remarkable results in restoring my King Moretone to professional-level performance capability and most importantly, all of the work he performed was done in the spirit of the original design. No shortcuts, no cheap parts, no vandalism.....
     
  3. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    Thanks for the info! When I go home tonight I'm going to check out the serial numbers. :)
     
  4. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
    ..ummmm, oh yeah, I should have also mentioned that there is a previous discussion thread on King Moretone basses contained right here in the DB Forum....go to Newbie Links/Basses/King. Silly me.
     
  5. I owned a King Moretone as a backup for a couple years and have played a couple others, and I concur with Strongbow's assessment. They're well built instruments that compare favorably with Kays of the same vintange. Mine was a beater--had been stored in an attic without a case for a number of years before the guy I bought if from got around to selling it, and the saddle had a big rusty lag bolt fastening it to the body--but it was seriously loud and even-sounding, with excellent growl for a plywood bass.

    I wish I hadn't sold it, in restrospect.
     
  6. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    I read through that.. seems to be talking about the new King Basses.
     
  7. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
    really? apologies...I'm glad you found the site and checked it out, though.
     
  8. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
    By the way, Kip's website is: www.americanstandardbass.com. for research and dating both American Standard and King Moretone double basses.
     
  9. armybass

    armybass Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2001
    A King Moretone was my first bass I bought from my first Teacher, Mr Everett Link in New Orleans. He was the bass player in the Dukes of Dixieland and the bass was older than dirt. Mine said made by the White Co. in Cleavland OH. I also believe it had 43 inch scale....maybe?

    It was a great bass but had been beat up and down several times over:crying:
     
  10. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    That's quite alright! You gave my quite a bit of info!

    So I checked out my serial number... it's 1465. Looking at the database it seems to have been made somewhere around 1938-39! I had no idea this bass was this old. How exciting! I always figured it was made somewhere in the 50’s.

    Here's are some photos...
     
  11. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
    yup, looks like you have a pre-War classic on your hands! be sure to send the pics and serial no. to the website so you can register it. one more thing: it looks like your bridge is so badly warped that it could fly up and out any minute ...when they go they usually go with a bang! and thhis could scratch or mar the finish if it strikes the top-- not to mention strike you, or something in the house. save yourself some grief and lower the tension on the strings until you can get the bridge replaced...
     
  12. Bobby King

    Bobby King Supporting Member

    May 3, 2005
    Nashville, TN
    I own and play a 1930's era blonde King bass. It's a great instrument and it's my feeling that Kings and American Standards are superior to Kays. They both have "D" necks and a 43+ " scale which can take some getting used to. The Kings have a smaller body than the Standards and I believe that they employ more bracing. As a result, they don't always produce the huge bottom that Standards are known for, but they have their own fine qualities. I live in Nashville and these basses are coveted by western swing, bluegrass and country players. They sound great with gut strings and the longer scale helps keep a little more tension on the gut. They are, in the end, plywood basses and don't have the resonance of a carved bass, but a good King or Standard can sound excellent nevertheless.
     
  13. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
    QUOTE=Bobby King]I own and play a 1930's era blonde King bass. It's a great instrument and it's my feeling that Kings and American Standards are superior to Kays. They both have "D" necks and a 43+ " scale which can take some getting used to. The Kings have a smaller body than the Standards and I believe that they employ more bracing. As a result, they don't always produce the huge bottom that Standards are known for, but they have their own fine qualities. I live in Nashville and these basses are coveted by western swing, bluegrass and country players. They sound great with gut strings and the longer scale helps keep a little more tension on the gut. They are, in the end, plywood basses and don't have the resonance of a carved bass, but a good King or Standard can sound excellent nevertheless.[/QUOTE]

    I love the bottom in my King and suppose guts would sound georgeous. I'm using gut-surrogates: LaBella 7710s for low-tension but quicker response. No doubt about it, these Kings and Standards are tough basses. Bassist/guitarist/singer Tom Morgan (Buzz Busby & The Bayou Boys, The Country Gentlemen and Red Allen, Frank Wakefield & The Kentuckians) -- and a respected luthier in his own right-- told me recently that the neck was completely knocked off of his American Standard no less than 3 times!!!! The last he'd checked, it was still in service up in West Tennessee somewhere!
     
  14. DavidRavenMoon

    DavidRavenMoon Banned

    Oct 20, 2004
    Yeah, that bridge is warped... been that way for a long time now. You should have seen it when I bought the bass.. it was a mile too high, and someone cut deep slots for the strings!

    Time to loosen the strings...

    I already sent the serial and some photos.
     
  15. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    What is "vandalism"?
     
  16. armybass

    armybass Gold Supporting Member

    Jul 19, 2001
    A repair or upgrade that defaces or devalues an instrument by not staying true to the "spirit of the original design". Like routing out a 54 P Bass to put a HB pickup in it...ect.
     
  17. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005

    Oh, I'd say like removing the flat back off a fine old master instrument and replacing it with a piece of plywood in an effort to increase the volume.....that's perhaps the most extreme and egregious example, but I would also include replacing original tuning gears with something else that doesn't fit either the age or the style intended by the maker...
     
  18. mje

    mje

    Aug 1, 2002
    Southeast Michigan
    Vandalism: Anything irreversible, or anything involving the destruction of a part of the instrument.

    Although with stringed instruments it's a fuzzy area. By most definitions, every great 17th century instrument playing modern music has been vandalized to adapt it to modern strings and technique- completely new neck, new bassbar, etc.
     
  19. STRONGBOW

    STRONGBOW

    Aug 26, 2005
    Certainly-- of course. But I'd say there is a difference between doing what HAS to be done to restore an antique bass to playing condition, and what is done that is not necessary or because the repair guy thinks is more aurally or astheically pleasing to him. Plenty of master luthiers know how to select an aged piece of wood that is in character (age, grain) with the instrument and integrate that into a restoration project. But for example, I've seen so-called "respected luthiers" do absolutely unneccessary (and terrible) things to basses. I know one butcher who always-- always-- insists that, no matter what sort of repair you take the bass in for, that you allow him to dress a fingerboard. This same kill-floor mechanic also resorts to paints, stains and sandpaper to lend an "antiqued finish" to cheap instruments. That's the sort of stuff I do when I am repairing tobacco pipes (to make 'em look more expensive or pleasing to my eye with fancy stems, and silver bands) -- but its got no place in a bass shop. I think the rule should be that a luthier take whatever minimal steps are required to effect the repair, and stick to the original maker's script as much as possible.
     

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