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Recently acquired bass. Seeking information.

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Jmooncraft, Nov 9, 2012.

  1. Jmooncraft


    Nov 9, 2012
    Hi all,

    I had been shopping for an upright bass for a while. A good bass player friend of mine sent me a craigslist add. There wasn't much info. I was very skeptical and almost passed it up.

    The add read:
    Acoustic Bass - 5 string - carved hollow wood body 1920's?
    In good vintage condition had been serviced by John Chapin in San Francisco unique green color.

    It was a crazy green color. Like I have never seen. See pictures below.

    I had been looking for an old plywood Kay. This looked like everything I didn't want. I want plywood because I use a pick-up and play loud. Plus I was skeptical that it was actually from the 1920's.

    My friend convinced me to go check it out. Couldn't hurt.

    It was love at first pluck! It plays so nice and sounds incredible.

    The person who owned it didn't know much about it. Where it came from. What brand it was. It's origin.

    I have a blue LED light that I used to look inside to see if I could find a label or anything. There was a sticker inside that had a logo and read:
    Oakland Quality Amps
    885 Athens Avenue Oakland California 94607-3427

    That didn't tell me much except that I was even more skeptical about the age of the instrument.

    I figured at that price she was offering the only thing that mattered is that it plays well and sounds good. So I bought it.

    I went home and tried some Googling with Oakland Quality Amps and with John Chapin the man she said serviced it. No luck.

    I looked again inside with my blue light to see if I could find anymore information. This time I saw something that looked like faint handwriting. So I grabbed a flashlight to see if I could get a better look at it.

    There was handwritten information all over the label that I couldn't see before because my blue light was making the blue ink disappear.

    Above the logo the writing says:
    52 Patches - August 1944 - John Chapin -Bass Bar JC 1944
    Neck Attachment and Dovetailing 5 string conversion unknown.

    To the right of the Oakland Amp Company it's handwritten:
    Origin Unknown

    Below the logo it says:
    18 Patches - Summer 1997 - Jay Qureshi
    Neck Splint - Jay Qureshi 1997 - New soundpost and bridge.
    Signiture discovered under tailstock, under a layer of black paint.
    Under protective layer of tape (Visible by detection mirror)

    They replicated the signiture. The first two initials I think are H.J. I cant make out the last name. Looks to be 4 or 5 letters long. First letter might be M.

    There is also another sticker that looks much older and very faded. The top part says:
    Serviced By John Chapin. (printed) Aug 1944 (hand written).

    I cant read the printing on the bottom of the old sticker.

    I'm looking to find any information I can about this bass. I'm hoping someone knows about the luthiers who worked on the bass. It would be really amazing if someone recognized the signature.

  2. Possibly a Kay. Or started its life as a Kay.

    The body and tail-piece look Kay-ish, and the shape of the scroll and pegbox looks a lot like an early Kay.

    More photos of the pegbox, sides, back and neck joint will help us make a positive ID.
  3. jtlownds


    Oct 3, 2004
    LaBelle, FL
    Definitely not a Kay. Old German shop bass.
  4. How did you determine this?
  5. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    How does it sound?
  6. Kay ff-holes are much wider, and the scroll is all wrong for a Kay. Not crude enough by far.
  7. Kays from the '40s onward have cruder scrolls, but the 1930s scrolls look a lot like this one.
  8. But I agree--this is not a Kay. The ff-holes are wrong, like Kungfu said.

    Also, the scroll appears too fat for even the more "refined" early ones...
  9. Jmooncraft


    Nov 9, 2012
    Also, I could be wrong but aren't Kay's are all laminated? This one is carved.

    mjac28. Sounds like a dream. Super deep but a little on the quiet side. Which is good for me using a pickup.

    I will still take pics of the pegbox, sides, back, and neck joint when I have time.
  10. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    I've always wanted an upright bass they look and sound so good congrats on a nice find
  11. Yes, all Kays are laminated. It's not clear from the photos if this one is carved, though it sort of looks like purfling under that thick paint, which would probably mean it's a solid top.
  12. Hi.

    Congrats, what an incredible find.

    And what a friend as well, I sure couldn't have done what he/she did.

    The scroll and the peg-box does bear some resemblance to the ones in my unidentified (eastern-) European ply. To my untrained and inexperienced eyes anyway ;).



  13. Jmooncraft


    Nov 9, 2012





  14. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    Looks like a laminate to me.
  15. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    I don't think so. Look at the beaded edges of the back around the button - you can't do that with plywood laminates.
  16. Herbie 80's

    Herbie 80's

    Dec 15, 2008
    Yeah, that's what I was thinking too, but the pics of the edge make it seem laminate. It's hard to tell, for sure (but obviously the beaded sides are a big point to it being carved).
  17. Purfling. Not laminated.

    FYI: Henry Grimes has a bass this color called "Olive Oil."
  18. Whatever it is I think it's awesome. I would love to rock that thing on stage. Congratz,
  19. Jmooncraft


    Nov 9, 2012
    She survived her first road test last weekend.

    It was a perfect test too for playing though an amp. Small wooden stage that carried all the low frequencies. The logistics of the situation required me to be about 2 feet directly in front of the amp. By all accounts it should have been a feedback nightmare.

    No problems at all. I was able to get it plenty loud staying well under the feedback threshold. It sounded amazing.

    I couldn't be happier.

    I still would love to know where she comes from and who built her. But it's cool having the mystery too.
  20. Congrats on the gig- moreso on the find. LOVE that color. Has me wondering how invasive and/or irreparable a decent 5-string mod job has to be...