pre-war Kay

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by WillBuckingham, Sep 3, 2005.

  1. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    So I'm renting a bass from my instructor, Sean Smith. He says that all he knows about it is that its a pre-WWII Kay. Anyway playing this thing is just absolutely mind-blowing. Never had a feeling like this playing upright bass before. It feels like the thing is playing me. Absolutely gorgeous, full tone. I love the feel of the fingerboard and the whole instrument is just phenomenal.

    Anyway, he assures me that he's doing this as a favor and that he has no interest in selling the instrument to me. So I'm wondering how many of these old Kays are still around, and how they compare to later (1950's, '60's) Kays and other laminate basses. Any advice from someone who's had experience with a bass like this would be really appreciated.

    Also, any idea how much this bass is probably worth? He says that the laminate is coming apart inside the top and back, and that it buzzes, but I haven't heard any of that yet.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Peter Ferretti

    Peter Ferretti Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2005
    I have only played one pre-war kay, and it is head and shoulders over every other ply I have played, although everyone says the new standards are mighty fine. I think the early kay's are pretty rare. People are paying insanely high prices for kays these days, IMO. I think that you should pursuade your teacher to sell it too you....heh.

    BTW, How are you all doing down there...I assume because your posting that you are safe?
  3. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Thanks for the input. I am doing fine (physically, very disturbed by what's going on in NO, however). I'm in New York now, staying with my parents. My bass, however, is in New Orleans, possibly underwater, hence my renting this bass.

    Yeah I'm gonna really work my ass off while I'm renting this thing and try to prove to him that I would be a worthy owner of this instrument. No idea on what a reasonable price might be? What about renting a bass? I know people don't normally rent pre-war instruments, but we have yet to work out how I'm going to reimburse him.
  4. Peter Ferretti

    Peter Ferretti Supporting Member

    Jun 7, 2005
    I think anything over 4500 for a pre-war kay would be a bit extreme. Or for a ply in general, acctualy. While your in NY, it would probably be a good idea to just wander around and try some basses to compare to the Kay, then you might be able to decide how much its worth to you. I don't know of people who rent instruments of that nature. I know for sure that they dont pop up very often. Most of the kay's I have seen are 50's 60's. Glad to hear that your alright.
  5. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    I had a 62 Kay C1 for about 20 years and then wound up with a 37 Kay Maestro (Alvin Hawes model). No contest. I really did like the 62, but it's gone.
    I've seen old Kays in excellent condition fetch upwards of $3K, but they don't always. It depends on the local market. You can check the serial # here to find out the age of the bass.
  6. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Cool, where is the serial # located? I haven't found any markings on the bass. Also, do you guys know what a reasonable/standard price might be for renting a bass like this? Thanks a lot.

  7. buffalobillh


    Jul 20, 2005
    Endorsing Artist: Samuel Shen Basses, NS Design, D'Addario Strings
    My buddy and I bought our uprights at the same time. I went to check out some Kays. I played (a 1963 Maestro) and the other (a 39). The 63 outplayed the 39 at every turn. The 63 put out twice the sound. Both had been through setup. I bought the 63. It wasn't in as good shape as the 39, but who cares. My buddy bought the 39 the next day. He loves it, but rarely plays it. Mostly slab. I don't know if the 39 is a dog (I wouldn't say so), or if my 63 is exceptional (I wouldn't say that either), but there is a difference, and it is the opposite of what I would have believed.

  8. arnoldschnitzer

    arnoldschnitzer AES Fine Instruments

    Feb 16, 2002
    Brewster, NY, USA
    Will, I'm familiar with Sean's bass. It has a beautiful tone, and yes, it has some delamination problems. Earlier Kays, prior to steel strings becoming popular, had thinner tops and lighter blocks. They were more resonant as a result, but the early ones sometimes have trouble standing up to the additional pressure of steel strings. The main problem you find is top sinkage around the G foot, and top delamination. I find the later ones can sound as good, especially if the neck is brought forward to raise the bridge. BTW, Sean is one heck of a fine player!
  9. Yeah Sean's Kay is a great bass. I offered to buy it too and he really doesn't want to sell it. I remember when he got his new bass and he was pretty happy about having the Kay as a back up. I know he's had a couple of cracks in the new bass since he's owned it and had to use his Kay.

    Will where in NYC do you live? Are you attending school here?
  10. Craig Garfinkel

    Craig Garfinkel

    Aug 25, 2000
    Hartford, CT
    Endorsing Artist: Sadowsky Guitars glad you're safe man! Please check out this thread, and don't be shy about letting us know, by PM or by posting in the thread your situation regarding your ability to afford a replacement bass. We're trying to start a grass roots effort to help NO bassists in need. If you feel like you'll be able to help yourself, perhaps you can steer us towards another NO cat in an even more desperate situation than yourself?
  11. ctxbass

    ctxbass Supporting Member

    Nov 6, 2003
    Central Texas
    Usually a label inside the E side f-hole and stamped or hand written on the wood there as well.
  12. dvmweb


    Apr 20, 2002
    Atlanta MI 49709
    My friend just found a Kay Bass. The serial number is stenciled inside the Bass F hole and also printed on a label. It is a '60 model, by serial number. It also has some modest delamination problems. It sounds pretty good. Needs some work and new strings. She got it for $900.

    Walt MI/US
  13. WillBuckingham


    Mar 30, 2005
    Thanks for the input. I agree, Sean is a great player and a really insightful teacher.

    Mike, I'm staying with my folks for the time-being in Westchester, and I'm studying at SUNY Purchase this semester. PM me if you play any bar/club gigs, I'm tryin' to get out of the house as much as possible.

    Craig, can't tell you how much everyone's concern here at TB has meant to me. Thanks a lot. If I hear of anyone who you guys might be able to help I'll let you know. Its sounding like my neighborhood didn't get flooded heavily, and I think my bass will be ok.
  14. Weren't the real pre-war Kays the real skinny ribbed ones?
  15. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    Nope, they made fat ribbed ones in the pre-war period too. I had one of the skinny ribbed ones. They were called the "Slim Line" models. Mine was a '39 Selmer-Kay. I have no idea what the affiliation with Selmer was all about. The Selmer-Kay name was engraved on the tuner plates.
  16. leejohn01

    leejohn01 Guest

    Aug 26, 2001
    I own two pre-war models. A '37 Gretsch made by Kay and a '39 Kay Orchestra Model. I've had several Kays through years, but this '37 blow them all away, tone and volume.