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Rockabilly on a bass guitar?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by hrodbert696, Oct 3, 2016.

  1. hrodbert696

    hrodbert696 Moderator Staff Member Supporting Member

    So I've been asked to join a rockabilly band, I have another thing to look at before definitely saying yes, but will probably go ahead and say yes. Here's the thing; I don't have an upright and, even if I get on a rent-to-buy plan for a student model, will need to time to figure it out before it could start appearing at gigs. So far I've been strictly a bass guitarist.

    I'm trying to visualize how to make it work best, because as soon as I think "rockabilly" I think one guy with a Gretsch hollowbody guitar and another guy with a upright that has pinup girls stenciled on it or something. And the guitarist in this group actually has the orange Gretsch, decked out with a playing card tucked in the bridge and little painted flames streaking from the knobs...

    So... what should I use? I have a Godin fretless ABG, that cops something close to an upright sound but hardly looks the part. I can go the good ole P-bass route. There's a couple of hollowbody basses at the local guitar shop, a Jack Casady and a Fender Coronado, and I could conceivably spring for one. Or some other direction...

    Thoughts? Others playing in similar bands, what are you using? Tone ideas?
    jd56hawk likes this.
  2. MrLenny1


    Jan 17, 2009
    Godin ABG. You get a huge tone & sound out of those.
    Sold mine to a guy who was going to play Bluegrass.
    Skip the looks for now, see how the band progresses.
    Mike A and hrodbert696 like this.
  3. 2saddleslab

    2saddleslab Supporting Member

    May 30, 2003
    A hollow body w/ f holes is a must.
  4. elgranluis


    Feb 14, 2003
    El paso, TX
    I was in your shoes a few years ago. I didnt have an upright and was playing in a rockabilly/psychobylly band with , yes, a guitarist with a gretsch. We had a pinup singer plus an extra pinup dancer.

    Anyway , i used my regular basses and slapped away basically ( trying to emulate the upright bass clicky). We got away with it probably because of the novelty of having a dancer.

    I would suggest to get a cheapo eub and some weed whackers (regular steels will destroy your hands)
    hrodbert696 likes this.
  5. jd56hawk


    Sep 12, 2011
    The Garden State
    If the guitarist has orange you have to answer with something just as loud.
    If I ever walk into Guitar Center and see one...
    The Taxi is here... (warning-lots of pics)
  6. I used to play rock a billy with an upright (no pin up girls alas) and used a magnetic pickup along with a transducer on the neck for the slap sound through an SVT, it sounded just like a big P bass. Upright basses are very solid sounding and so are P basses especially with flatwound strings, that's what i would go with. With flat wounds you can get a clicky sound with no clank from round wounds when you crank the treble which is appropriate for rock a billy. Uprights use flatwounds or gut strings which are also not wound as you probably already know.
    lowdownthump and hrodbert696 like this.
  7. HaphAsSard


    Dec 1, 2013
    Danelectro! Just like NRBQ's Joey Spampinato:

    Dominic DeCosa and hrodbert696 like this.
  8. As usual....can't go wrong with a P-bass. Period appropriate. Those hollowbodies may say "rockabilly" to some people but they say "trying too hard" to me, like you're putting on a costume.
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2016
    SpazzTheBassist, TMARK and bobyoung53 like this.
  9. Yeah, he gets an amazing upright sound by using his thumb and I think muting his strings, no click though. He's a great player. Check out "Hail Hail Rock n Roll", he plays bass on Chuck Berry's 60th birthday concert produced by Kieth Richard, excellent playing all around.
  10. Fully agree. There are many choices out there. I own a vintage Fender Coronado and a couple of Eastwood Classic IV's and have used them in retro country/rockabilly applications.

    I'd love to get into upright, but it takes a while to build up your chops. Very physical.
    2saddleslab and hrodbert696 like this.
  11. bassbully

    bassbully Endorsed by The PHALEX CORN BASS..mmm...corn!

    Sep 7, 2006
    Blimp City USA
    Check out Southern Culture on the skids for ideas.
    GregC, 2saddleslab and hrodbert696 like this.
  12. Check eBay for Gretsch 5440s.
  13. TMARK


    Jan 10, 2012
    Richmond VA
    A P or a Jazz will work fine. Gill T. of the Blasters played both. Never upright. I would suggest not over thinking it.
  14. SpazzTheBassist


    Jun 20, 2006
    Agreed with this^...and this is coming from a person that is basically: Mr. "A P-Bass Isn't All That" :D.....Any bass with a mid-mounted passive pickup, preferably a humbucker like a split pickup, will work...But a Precision, especially the older '51 models, will also have the "look". If you string it with flats or, especially, tapewounds and pluck using URB slap technique at the neck, you can pull off a decent facsimile.......Although URB is preferred, many semi-hollows dont emulate URBs very well and are also usually prone to feedback problems when trying to get a little more azz out of them

    One of the few times here on TB that I'll say "Yes, a P-Bass is the ticket"
    bobyoung53 likes this.
  15. Mastermold

    Mastermold Supporting Member

    Early '50s P-bass.

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