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Old American basses

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by simps, Jan 17, 2004.

  1. I'm familiar with Kays, owned a couple of Kings, but am wondering about the Epiphones that sometimes show up. What did a good one sound like compared to the aforementioned brands? Can they be tweaked into present-day playability?
  2. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    There is a link in the Newbies section in this forum to a thread discussing Epiphone double basses.

    Overall, they can be very nice if they have survived the tests of time. Like any other old bass, you just need someone who knows what they are doing to go throw it and see what you have.

    There is no reason that they can't be made made playable by today's standards, whatever that means.
  3. Thanks Chasarms. I had indeed missed that Epiphone bass thread you referred to. Yeah, I guess my "today's standards" remark was a little vague. I just meant that issues such as long sustain are more important to me today than in a lot of the music being played in clubs and on records when those basses were made. By the way, I owned a '57 Epiphone Triumph Regent single cutaway archface rhythm guitar that was a beauty. Just never encountered the basses.
  4. I played an Epiphone at the Violin Shop in Nashville a few weeks ago. It sounded as good or better than any Kay I've heard or played. Of course, the playing position is not really the best listening position.
  5. Interesting--thanks. I get to Nashville from time to time. Did they want a ton of money for it?
  6. Chasarms

    Chasarms Casual Observer

    May 24, 2001
    Bettendorf, IA USA
    I would think that bass would bring top dollar in Nashville.

    Epiphones are good quality and are somewhat rare compared to some of the other old plywoods. The bring good money.

    IIRC, one of the luthiers here at TB announced not too long ago that he was offering a nice example of an Epiphone for sale in his shop. I think the asking price was around $4,000 or so. You may find the string with a search.

    I have only seen one other Epiphone for sale. It was locally. I did not play the bass, but is was being tauted as a "player." It was pretty beat up but there was no serious repair work done on it. They where asking $2,500.

  7. FidgetStone


    Jun 30, 2002
    Allen, TX
    There is a luthier in Alrlington, TX (David Graham) that might still have an Epiphone bass that was owned by the bass player for the original Light Crust Doe Boys. David was selling it for the guy's widow and I think that the price was $2500 - $3000.

    David is a super guy. I am picking up a new Christopher hybrid from him THIS WEEK!

    You can find is phone and e-mail at the following link.


    Cheers . . .
  8. I'll check with David Graham. Funny, I just came back to Austin after a couple of days in Dallas area, where I looked at a couple of Wilfers and Christophers. Should have thought to call David. I'm flying back to Utah in the morning. Mark Rubin (Violins Etc, Austin) is selling a fine-sounding Chrissie Busetto model 500 series with a satin finish. It's got minimal nicks and scratches from having been his gigging bass for awhile....I still think it would be fun to own an old bass with stories to tell. Thanks for the help, guys.
  9. Actually about a ton and a half. The asking price was around $3,000. You can access their web page and email or call Fred Carpenter. Fred is a super guy and will take all the time necessary to answer your questions.

  10. Thanks SteveK. I'll talk with Fred Carpenter. It's easy to get frustrated. I keep missing chances at these good old basses by a day or a week. And the prices--whew! It makes FidgetStone's solution of a carefully chosen new or almost new Christopher, Eastman, or Shen with a good setup and a fair price seem more and more the way to go. By the way, FidgetStone, you were right, David Graham's Epiphone bass had a history. I didn't exactly grasp what you were trying to tell me, but the bass had been owned by the original bass player of the Light Crust Dough Boys (the band that spawned Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys). Missed it by a day--went to a collector. Well, they say getting there can be as much fun as the actual destination...Thanks for all the tips and the great conversation, guys. Would be fun to hear what y'all are playing. Seems like the collectors are outbidding the players for a lot of the coolest old American basses.
  11. Since you mentioned you were also considering an
    Eastman, there is a carved one at Gruhn's Guitars in Nashville as well. I plucked it the same day I was at Fred's and it sounded GGOOOODD. Price was about the same as the old Epiphone.
  12. Will check into it.
  13. Simps:

    No properly set up Epiphone or Kay will sound as good as a King Mortone in my experience. I have played and owned examples of all three. Its generally accepted that the HN White King Mortone (and the American Standard-same factory in Cleveland) are the best sounding plywoods out there for pizz. Barry Kolstein has said the same thing over on the 2xbass list. I would never get rid of my King for another plywood bass.
    Arnold Schnitzer has a re-issue version of the American-Standard that looks awfully tempting though!

    Martin Chapman.
  14. FidgetStone


    Jun 30, 2002
    Allen, TX
    I saw the Epiphone at David Grahams when I went to pick up my new Christopher. It looked pretty good for a player of that age. It had the giant gut strings on it and had a nice big sound. I thought it sounded great.

    David said that he still had to do a few adjustments to make before the "collector" picked it up. The same guy has bought seven basses from David in the past couple of years. Must be nice . . .
  15. rbury


    Dec 22, 2004
    i'm currently looking at an old king from the 30's. no reference to the 'moretone' though. was that a particular style of king bass and if so does anyone know during what period of time it was made? i spoke with a local bass luthier who said the kings don't sound as nice as the older kays or a well set up engelhardt for that matter and sell for 25 to 35% less? opinions?
  16. Ike Harris

    Ike Harris

    May 16, 2001
    Nashville TN
    I heard from a friend who plays only Epi archtops that Gibson acquired the co. expressly to get the Epiphone bass. Apparently, some disgruntled former employees then went in to the factory and destroyed the molds for the Epi basses. I don't know if anyone else had heard this. I've seen and played three of the few Gibson plywood basses. I'm not sure if they came out at that point or what. They seemed to be well made but rather lightweight and not very resonant.

    However, George Divuvier played a prototype carved Gibson that was reported to be very loud. A former bandleader of mine once produced a record in NY w/George on bass and was experimenting with an overhead ambient mike on a small orchestra. He said the only thing you could hear was that bass.

  17. rbury:

    I don't know how familiar your luthier is about the Kings, Kays, Englehardts etc but I think if you checked around you would soon find that his views are at odds with most people in the know. I have never seen a King being sold for less than a Kay.
    As an owner of two Kays before the King I can tell you that the two are worlds apart in sound...even for plywoods. And they were all set up well. The King has much more of a full, resonant and focussed sound. It is also built much better than a Kay or Englehardt.
    I have heard and played several other Kings in addition to mine and reached the same conclusion about them long before I bought mine.
    I'd like to hear other opinions on this.