Recently Acquired: '75 Jazz... what to do?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by brane, Jul 29, 2005.

  1. First off: hi all! I can't believe it took me so long to find TalkBass... I've basically been reading the forums for the last 3 days straight. :p Kudos on a forum that by all appearances is supportive, insightful, and relaxed. It is indeed a rare thing, particularly when the topic is something of much passion (and thus of varied opinion) to so many people.

    So anyway, I've been playing for about 12-13 years now... always had lower-end gear. My Yamaha RBX 760A, which I adore (not in small part due to the fact that it looks like Myung's bass sans 2 strings, who is the guy who really got me into playing seriously), has lasted me a long time, and most likely will continue to. However, very recently things changed.

    Soon as I knew my way around the bass world with relative familiarity, I knew I wanted a Fender Jazz. The style, the feel, and the sound, were all what I wanted. I never got around to one... the models I could afford just didn't seem to have the same quality as my Yam. Then, a few years ago, I discovered a Jazz buried under a pile of junk in my wife's grandfather's basement (you know the scene in Pulp Fiction where they open the brief case and this glow comes out? Yeah, that was the experience. :p) Silver body, tort pick guard, maple fretboard, the neck p/up is black and the bridge p/up is white (I found that odd), and the headstock is a slightly orange color that I hd never seen before. I pulled it out, tuned it up, and plunked around a bit. The strings seemed to never have been changed, and it sounded so dead, but it just felt right. It was in great condition... neck was as straight as my untrained eye could tell, and the intonation seemed to be right (12th fret harmonic/12th fret note matched). A few dings on the body, but only the kind that add character. I only had about two minutes to spend with it, but I was in love. A few years later I got to fool with it again for a few minutes, and it was still in tune!

    Sadly, the former owner passed away not so long ago. The family, knowing that I had been playing it (indeed, I was the only one who knew what it was) decided eventually that I should have it. Their gracious gift became worth even more when I looked up the serial number and found that it is a 1975... much older than I had thought. Hell, it's a year older than I am!

    So I brought it home, plugged it in, and even with those dead dead strings, it sounded nice. Damn if the pots didn't even crackle a bit at first (it even fought off dust???). But there were all these dead spots all over the fretboard... I thought maybe it had something to do with the ancient strings, so I pulled them off.

    To almost cry.

    Almost every fret had four gouges, right under where each string would pass over it, some to the point where they were almost at the level of the fretboard. When I first found the Jazz, it had at least 100 pounds of junk piled on top of the case (which had become very non-rigid over the years). So, either her grandfather played this thing like a mofo (doubtful, he was more a collector), or the weight of a decade plus of debris pushed the strings into the fretboard (is this possible?) Either way, gonna be a while before I'm in Jazz heaven.

    So I have a few questions... I obviously need a fret job. I have found a shop about an hour from where I live that says they can do it. Will cost me $325 (canadian). It seems to me that it's quite a job, and that can be potentially damaging if not done right. How do I know if I can trust them? The owner sounded very confident and knowledgable when I talked to him over the phone. I guess I'm just a little paranoid.... If it is a potentially sensitive job, is there anyone you suggest I send it to? I'm not above paying shipping and insurance... I just want to play this beauty.

    I've also read that I should insist that the luthier leave the binding on the neck as opposed to taking it off. Does this make a difference (can't they just put the binding back on afterwards?) I'm guessing this means replacing the frets is more work, and thus will cost more?

    Beyond the frets, is there anything else anyone could recommend in restoring this Jazz? I'd considered replacing the tuners, bridge, p/ups and pick guard and putting them all in a sealed box to preserve them. But if I do that and get all modern parts (grovers, dimarzios, badass, etc...) well, excuse my naivete, but is it even still a vintage instrument? I'm also somewhat paranoid that any replacements would alter/damage the body or neck (I've read that the dimarzio model J's, which by all accounts sounds like I would love them, would require some routing of the body cavity, which I would refuse to do at this point.) Or do I just leave it all? It obviously seems to be able to hold its tuning, so while I would need to get comfortable with the lower ratio of the older tuners, they seem to be doing the job. Or is there something else I'm not considering?

    So, I'm excited about this recent acquisition... yet I somewhat have the feeling of being in over my head. :) I've never owned an instrument of this quality... I want to make sure I do right by it. :)

    Thank you in advance for any input. And sorry about the wordiness.

    - Zach
  2. Funky Tune

    Funky Tune

    Apr 28, 2005
    Puerto Rico
    yuo are so lucky man :eek:
  3. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    If it were mine I'd get the refret done and leave everything stock. Except maybe the pots -only if- they are a problem.
  4. Ostinato

    Ostinato Guest

    Feb 7, 2005
    Toronto ON
    That sounds like quite a find! A silver '75 Jazz is a definite rarity, so you might want to check out some other places.

    I would definitely give the guys at FBass a call...they WON'T steer you wrong. The clinic specializes in vintage repair and restoration. Enjoy. :cool:

    Guitar Clinic (FBass)
    16 McKinstry Street,
    Hamilton, ON L8L 6C1
  5. Thanks a ton, Ostinato.

    In fact, I'm going to be in Hamilton tomorrow, I'll stop in.

    Quoting one of my favorite SNL skits in your sig certainly gives you more credential in my eyes! LOL

    - Zach
  6. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    My sentiments exactly.
  7. So... you wonna know what to do with your 75 jazz, eh.

    Here's what you can do.... you can play it!
    lucky b@stard!
  8. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    BTW, we'd love pics. :)
  9. pyrohr


    Aug 28, 2001
    Pakistani compound
    Yeah we forgot to tell you that without pics the bass doesn't exist to us here on TB. :)
  10. EricTheEZ1


    Nov 23, 2004
    Clawson, MI
    Here's what I'd do. Get it professionally refretted. Then sell it on Ebay for a HUGE premium. Then buy a decent modern Jazz.

    IMO, the vintage Jazzes aren't really that great for slap or any high-end work.

  11. Pics will be forthcoming... I kinda noticed how much you guys like them in the many many "Show me your..." threads. :) I was gonna wait until I had it all nice and fixed/cleaned up, but I guess a before and after would be fun.

    As for selling it... happen not gonna. :)

    On a purely min/max level, yes, getting a load of cash and then buying a modern bass would be optimal... I just couldn't do it. I had actually planned on picking up a modern Jazz to accompany this one for some more modern sounding stuff.

    And, of course, if by some chance my wife and her family found out I had sold it, I would be in for a world of hurt (I have a comfy couch, but that would be stretching it).

    - Zach
  12. Yeah, mate. How low would it be to be given a lovely vintage Jazz as an inheritance and then sell it on. I'm with you, the deceaseds family were kind enough to think of you, and that bass is a definite keeper. ;)
  13. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    Congratulations! It sounds like a great player.

    I bring up the notion that you've got a 75 neck on a Jazz-parts bass. That color isn't stock to the year, and while white pickup covers did show up on some of the late 70's and early 80's Fender basses, I've never seen them mixed. It would explain the body being in good shape but the frets being worn.

    I don't think having stuff piled on the bass did the fret damage, as the neck would be worse off than it seems to be currently.

    Check and see if you can get a fret job that will work (I've been surprised at how low they can get and be brought back). If not that, then get it a good re-fret. And hold on to's a fun bass and I'll assume a cool looking Jazz.
  14. OK, well, this is the best I could get... I'm not much of a photog, and it was shot using a web-cam that can double as a digital cam.

    As for the dating, yeah, I guess that it being a mishmash of parts is possible. You guys would know better. According to the family, he bought it new at somewhere in the southern States... but no one could give me any specifics.

    Anyway, here she be, sans strings:


    - Zach
  15. BurningSkies

    BurningSkies CRAZY BALDHEAD

    Feb 20, 2005
    Seweracuse, NY
    That my friend is a very cool looking mongrel.

    The rear pickup looks like it could be a DiMarzio? They made some off white looking covers I believe.

    The Knobs look to be off of a Fender Amp.

    The bridge is either later than 75 by say, 5 years or so or a replacement. And that body...the closest I can find on the Fender color chart I have is 82-83...called pewter.

    A cool mystery for you to unravel.
  16. Yeah, that bridge isn't a '75 IIRC, and the knobs are wrong.

    Still, love those block inlays!
  17. BassikLee

    BassikLee Supporting Member Commercial User

    Feb 13, 2004
    Deltona, FL
    Owner: Brevard Sound Systems
    Looks like a refin to me. I had an old J like that, and sprayed it that color! Mine had been "doodoo brown" with a black pickguard. Looked nice silver. Stole the idea from the 25th aniv strat.

    Nice bass. Play it well
  18. Philbiker

    Philbiker Pat's the best!

    Dec 28, 2000
    Northern Virginia, USA
    The bridge pickup looks like a DiMarzio model J from the late 70s/early 80s to me. Does it have adjustments using allen keys for the pole pieces? That would be a dead giveaway. Very common then. When you get it refretted, have them change out the pickup cover so it looks consistent. And replace those knobs with standard Jazz Bass knobs as soon as you can. And for god's sake get a good case or gig bag!
  19. Steve Clark

    Steve Clark Supporting Member

    Jan 9, 2004
    London ON
  20. Mark Wilson

    Mark Wilson Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    Jan 12, 2005
    Toronto, Ontario
    Endorsing Artist: Elixir® Strings
    Man! So am I! I'll send you a PM with a few places! Maybe we can meet up and talk bass! (No pun intended)