Selmer basses redux

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Mike Goodbar, May 28, 2004.

  1. I know we covered Selmer basses about a year and a half ago, but I came upon an opportunity to purchase one at a very good price and I'd like to arm myself with some knowledge.

    The bass in question is fully carved, has a Selmer label, and the seller estimates that it was made in the late 1920s-early 1930s (she's owned the bass since 1934).

    Anyone have any idea who was making basses for Selmer in during this time period? Any luthiers come across any basses similar to the one described?

    I haven't seen the bass yet. Its at the local luthier's -- he's selling it on consignment and says it needs some work: a crack in the top, a couple of open seams, new bridge, but the neck is solid. He believes that it is German made. I'll try to snap some pics when I go to see it next week.

  2. anonymous0726

    anonymous0726 Guest

    Nov 4, 2001
    I haven't heard of these. Definitely put up pix when you get them!
  3. Finally got over and took a couple of quick pics of the Selmer.

    It was in rougher shape than I anticipated: numerous rib cracks, large crack on the table. It had a two piece neck (evidenced by a visible but smooth seam running up the middle, similar to my Christopher), and although the heel and block looked solid, it looked as if the scroll had either been knocked off and repaired, or it might have been manufactured that way see pic). Also, the neck had a very slim profile, reminiscient of a Kay or Englehardt. It had a round but shallow back with no visible cracks.

    I couldn't see a label to find a serial number (I'll bring a light on my next visit), but the engraving on the machine plate clearly indicated "Selmer Kay." What relationship Selmer and Kay had I have no idea. Maybe I'll call Roger Stower and see if he knows.

    As I stated above, the bass is on consigment to a local luthier. He has done some stuff for me in the past, but he is by no means a bass specialist. He is selling the bass for $1500 as is, and $2000 restored. He said the gal selling it had it appraised 15 years ago at the Cincinnati bass shop for $2000.

    The bass, as is, is unplayable, so I'd be buying it "sound- unheard." Bad idea, I suppose, but I don't think the luthier wants to put the work into it unless he has a for-sure buyer.

    HEre are some pics:

    Attached Files:

  4. And a couple more. You can see the weird neck/scroll joint, and it looks like its moving into the fingerboard.

    Attached Files:

  5. Buy It! the price is good. People in LA pay twice that for lesser basses. Have someone that knows what their doing fix the top. I'm sure it will sound at least $1,500 good. I have read that Selmers were made in Germany, and the look of the bass goes along with that. One owner - that's cool. Selmer and Kay probably used the same source for tuners. I remember a school kay I used in middle school with fancy tuners like that.
  6. This thread seems to be for my own amusement. But what the hell, I amuse easily.

    I sent pics and a description to Roger Stowers and he claims unequivocably that the bass was made entirely by Kay in Chicago post-1937. He says that Kay was the only one who made basses for Selmer, and it was common for them to have two- or three-piece necks (explaining the weird joint below the scroll). So, essentially, a Selmer bass is a carved Kay. Hm.

    Aside from the table and rib cracks, the neck thing makes me a little nervous. Who knows what'll happen after putting full tension on the neck after sitting 30 years in the closet? I'll pass on this one, I think, or at least try to convince the luthier to put the work into it before I decide.
  7. I've known one Selmer bass...It belonged to the father of our Symphony Orchestra's Principle player Jim Carrol, his father was Frank Carrol {not sure of the spelling)
    Frank's claim to fame was that he played on one side of Charlie Parkers " Bird With Strings" I dunno which side or which cuts....Some guy name Ray Brown played on the rest of the record.
    Mike, I don't want to complicate this for you, since you say your gonna pass on it....BUT...This was one helluva great sounding bass!
    I remember it clearly, because like most of us, i'd never heard of a Selmer bass. Clear, powerful, even and on the small side making it real easy to play!!
    I think trying to talk the guy into fixing it first is the way to go. Please let us know!!
  8. You had to go and say it didn't you? :mad:

    Well, they don't seem to be knocking down his door to buy the thing, so at least I have time to mull it over. Maybe I can get him to ask the owner to come down some more on the price and then take it to a bass specialist for restoration.