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NBD - Used Thunderbird

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Fletz, Feb 28, 2014.

  1. Fletz

    Fletz Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2009
    New Jersey
    Hartke artist
    So, as I've rolled into my new band and am super psyched to get going, I've also changed my rig fairly substantially.

    I've decided that there is virtually no need for me to have a 1200 watt head and 2x12 or 4x10 speaker cabs. However, I have fallen madly deeply crazy in love with my Genz Benz equipment. Lucky me, Fender has bought them out and everyone is dumping their gear at sick low prices. So, I am going away from my old seperate head, seperate cab set up and have gone to a Genz Contour combo amp with a 15" speaker in it - found it for a ridiculous low price with free shipping from Brooklyn. To color my tone a little, I have kept my single 12" Mesa cabinet and it fits nicely on top of that. With just the combo it's still 300 watts - with the additional cab it goes up to 500 watts. 300 should be more than enough, but it looks cooler stacked.

    Seen here:
    upload by peterdannenfelser, on Flickr

    So, with the cash I was going to get from selling my 1200 watt head and the 2x12 monstorous Mesa cabinet on Talkbass.com, I kept my eyes open. I walked into local music store - who usually disapoints me dramatically with bass selection. They cater in the bass zone to beginners, so lots of Squiers, cheap Ibanezes, etc. I love the guys who work there though and I always stop in for strings, or to just look around. The store manager is sort of my de facto bass tech. He can set up my basses exactly the way I want them. He's done minor repairs, etc. There's a salesy guy there who is a nice enough guy and always chews my ear off when I am there. I walked in three weeks ago and salesy guy says, "we got something you might want to take a look at." Not what I need to hear, right?

    On the wall was a walnut burst Gibson Thunderbird bass from 1998. I was never really into Thunderbirds, but what the heck, I'd give it a try. They had a price tag of $1,199 on it - which I immediately was not interested in. I took it off the wall and noticed it has been generously loved. Whoever owned it before clearly played it alot. There were scuffs, buckle rash, scrapes, etc on it. From a distance hard to see, but close up I saw them. Not in $1.2K condition to be sure - honestly I didn't know what a good price would be. I plugged it in, and was taken by the tone. It was thunderous compared to a Jazz, but a little more cutting than a beefy Precision bass. If he was fishing, Salesy Guy got a tug on the line.

    He said, "well? what do you think?"

    I said, "I like it, but that price is way outta control."

    He said, "Pete, you are the only guy who buys our bass stuff, so I can take something off the price for you. I can probably go to $999."

    I put it back and said, "nah. Thanks though. Cool bass. Good luck with it!" And left.

    But the Thunderbird was still in my head. I went home and did some research and the first picture that popped up was this:


    I am a huge Entwistle fan. My Dad named me after Pete Townshend (there's a story there). I have a wide array of tones in my arsenal - which is only 3 basses now: The classic American Standard Precision bass, the punchy active and passive 2013 American Delux Jazz bass and a monster Tony Franklin Fretless with P and J pickups. What I didn't have was Gibson. Of course, since I learned to play on a Gibson (alebeit not a Thunderbird), that seemed glaring. What's more, I have a Jazz bass as played by bass idol #1: Geddy Lee, but oddly enough, I had no Ox in my stable (get it? see what I did there? Ox? In the stable?). The reality is though, I've always found Gibsons a little uncomfortable to play - or I at least thought they would be.

    The following weekend I went back in with my daughter. Salesy Guy said, "It's still here." Dammit...

    I played it and found it wasn't terribly uncomfortable. In fact, it was kinda nice. Very thin body, rear bout not in the way like I used to think it might be and a very thin neck. Not P-Bass like at all, but still sorta familar. Salesy guy comes over to me: "What do you think?" I said, "I do like it, but it's still way over priced." He said, sheepishly, "$900?" Then, fortunately, my 4 1/2 year old girl had a melt down and we had to leave.

    The Thunderbird was still on my brain. I visited the new Guitar Center near me that week. They had an Epiphone Thunderbird for $500 new, it felt decent, but the "made in Indonesia" sticker was unswallowable. I went on Talkbass.com and bounced questions off the experts there, what are the watchouts? What's a good price? What's the difference between the Epi and the Gibby? I was becoming a Thunderbird expert.

    This past weekend, my toddler son and I went into the store yet again, and, not surprisingly, the bass was still on the wall. I played it once again. Salesy Guy pulls me over to the counter: "Pete, what is a fair price in your mind?" After doing my research, I found that $800 was a pretty reasonable for a 16 year old, overly loved, American made Gibson Thunderbird bass. So, I said "$750." He said, "Ugh. Best I can do is probably $800." I said, "Your killing me, let me think about it." I left - once again.

    Tuesday I sold my 1200 watt head, yesterday I traded and got cash for my cabinet - grand total: $800. I called them up yesterday and said, "If you can set it up and throw some brand new Rotosounds on it free of charge, I'll pick it up tonight." They did, and I got it:

    Thunderbird by peterdannenfelser, on Flickr

    Thunderbird by peterdannenfelser, on Flickr

    Thunderbird by peterdannenfelser, on Flickr

    With the Rotosounds thrown in for free, I figure I got it for about $770. So, she'll make her debut tonight. I am starting a new band with a whole new bass set up. I'll be using new amplification and leading with a new (used) very different bass. My steady, old reliable 08 American Standard P-bass will be there too but now I have two basses that have seen a lot of gigs and are top notch/quality, and have enough bumps, scrapes, bruises and mojo that I can play them without fear in the dive bars and still look "hip" at any fancy places we may play.

    This picture of the Ox with his son didn't hurt my decision either:

    There is something cool about the Thunderbird. It puts you in a different headspace. You can either wear it very high, like Entwistle (http://www.thewho.net/whotabs/images/equipment/bass/jae_tbird.jpg) or, very low, like Niki Sixx (http://images.starpulse.com/pictures/2008/04/16/previews/Nikki Sixx-MMA-000104.jpg). I've opted for low. It's more comfortable and it just has a little attitude to it. Like your carrying around a piece of artilery.

    Hope you enjoyed the story.
    Tbone76 likes this.
  2. Gaolee

    Gaolee It's all about the polyester

    Congratulations! That's a great bass. Once you figure out how they hang, you will find they don't neck dive, and they are very comfortable. I have several bass guitars, but the 'Bird is the one that's most comfortable to play. I prefer a beefier neck, but somehow, Gibson got the proportions right in a way Fender doesn't, at least for my hands.
  3. offhand35

    offhand35 Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2012
    Western Connecticut
    I enjoyed your narrative. The bass essentially found you, yet you were able to leave it until the price was in reach. Something that I have a real hard time doing when a bass or amp interests me is holding to my own price limits.
  4. RSBBass


    Jun 11, 2011
    That is a nice story. You did well. The store did well. Also, I find when I change things around I get more passionate about my music and thus I get better.
  5. Fletz

    Fletz Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2009
    New Jersey
    Hartke artist
    Thanks, guys. I figure another "NBD" with just a picture was not optimal.
  6. DiabolusInMusic

    DiabolusInMusic Functionless Art is Merely Tolerated Vandalism Supporting Member

    Nice score. You making it a Fender-Bird like Entwistle then?
  7. Fletz

    Fletz Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2009
    New Jersey
    Hartke artist

    Not this one. But it's could be on the horizon.
  8. TBird1958

    TBird1958 As a matter of fact....I am your Queen! Staff Member

    Mar 13, 2008
    Seattle Washington
    Endorsing Artist Mike Lull T Bass pickups
    Great story!
    Obviously, as a Thunderbird person I enjoy it that you tried one with an open mind and found it to your liking :)
    Try some Ken Smith Rockmasters or, if you like a bit clank DR Stainless in place of the Roto's.
  9. Wow! Great story! Congrats on the new rig and bass! You'll love the tbird. Your description was bang on about how t makes you feel. Love it.
  10. audreycashin

    audreycashin Supporting Member

    Mar 14, 2010
    long island, ny
    +1 what he said :meh:
  11. gaffster787


    Aug 22, 2009
    I have been playing mostly a 2007 zebrawood t-bird
    with tape-wounds for a few years.
    A few weeks ago I brought my 95 fender jazz to practice, and it sounds ok, cuts through ok, but just seems a bit thin to me. I'm ruined. Welcome to the club !
  12. Eatapeach1965


    Nov 29, 2013
    ^ sweeeeet Bass...
  13. Eatapeach1965


    Nov 29, 2013

    Very nice
  14. Fletz

    Fletz Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2009
    New Jersey
    Hartke artist
    NoNoise likes this.
  15. pudgychef

    pudgychef Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2005
    Chongqing, China
    Great NBD/NAD thread and neat story.

    Loved my '01 T-bird (natural) was my main gigging instrument for a year or so in a heavy gig time in my life (I would kill to be 1/10th as busy these days). One of the basses I got the most compliments on (tone as much as appearance) - Great compliment to your other (very nice) basses imho

    Congrats - will look forward to your thoughts on the Contour as well
  16. A-Step-Towards

    A-Step-Towards Supporting Member

    Nov 16, 2009
    Los Angeles California
    $800? you stole that , out of 5 gibby 'birds I paid $825-$900. It was funny when you stated at $800 you walked away to "think about it?" lord, you are better about gas then me, I would have quick drawn my debit card so fast I could have beat Dirty Harry.
  17. Basshappi


    Feb 12, 2007
    Great story!
    You two were meant to be together.
    Wear it proud, play it loud! :D


    Jan 21, 2011
    Oak View, CA
    Great story. That's the "favorite" bass, of my favorite bassie, Sir Horace Gentleman (The Specials).
  19. pudgychef

    pudgychef Supporting Member

    Jan 22, 2005
    Chongqing, China
    btw - which Rotos did you put on it?
  20. Fletz

    Fletz Supporting Member

    Jan 16, 2009
    New Jersey
    Hartke artist
    Swing bass 66s