Totally unexpected new bass day! '54 King Mortone!

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by Bert Slide, Jun 30, 2013.

  1. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide Guest

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    OK so last Friday I walk into the local Music-go-Round. I had no intention of buying a bass at all, I'm very happy with my SB180. They always have one or two DB's there but I'd only seen overpriced junk basses there previously that weren't worth what it would take to get them in top playing condition. So I see this King and my jaw drops. I pick it up and start playing it and WOW! It plays great even with some crappy skinny steels and a poor bridge and setup and has a booming voice and sustain for days for a ply. I'm just blown away and apart from the setup it feels like it was just made for me. I don't need another bass but I have a small vintage guitar collection and I have always lusted for a vintage ply.

    So I give it a close inspection and it is definitely used but seems to be really solid. I can't find evidence of any neck repairs or crack repairs in top or sides. It has the usual chipping of edges and has been reglued on the top edge of lower bouts but looks like good job to my untrained eye. Top isn't sunk, sound post in place, inside looks good, no sign of water damage or anything, keys/gears work beautifully. I'm pretty sure it's been refinished as you wil see in the pics. On close look you can see brush strokes and a few drips and they also finished the neck too. Not really too bad a job and the grain on the side and back look incredible. The bridge slots look to be just a generic halfmoon cut and are all way to big for the steels.

    So I've got a gig in three hours but I just couldn't let this this slip out of my hands so I rushed home and loaded up a few guitars and a BG from my collection that I have been thinking about selling and went back to the store to play lets make a deal! They had the bass overpriced and of course really tried to lowball me on my trade ins but eventually we made what I consider a good fair deal for me. I am without one BG and one guitar I never play anymore but I may have found a new friend for life. Here's the pics:






    marcox likes this.
  2. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Congratulations on your lucky find - that looks very nice! ;)
  3. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide Guest

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    Thanks Jake but your use of the winky combined with your credentials is making me nervous. Is there sarcasm in that wink? Do you see something in the pics I should know about?
  4. Great find! I miss my old '39 King. The neck joints can be iffy, so bring it by your luthier's shop for a quick once-over to be sure she's healthy and happy.
  5. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide Guest

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    I plan to as soon as I can. It will probably mean going to Cinci or Nashville. I've been back in Louisville a few years and done a lot of inquiring and can't seem to find a real bass specific luthier here. If any of you know someone in Louisville please let me know.

    First thing I want to do in the meantime is put guts on it and work on the bridge slots and sand that damn clearcoat off the neck. The string height is pretty good for me and with a wrapped A and E I think I can make the current setup more playable. Eventually I will want a new adjustable bridge but I'm curious to hear it with gut and I've been playing it nonstop and I can't stop.

    The only issue is some buzzing on the E and particularly on the A. I'm hoping the string change and slot work will take care of it. I hope it's not the bass bar or some other internal issue but it could be. Regardless when I can get to a good luthier they can tell me. I'm pretty poor right now but I'm going to find the money for a new bridge and setup, and whatever else it needs within reason. If it cost me another grand to get it in great shape I will still be be doing OK for what I have in it.
  6. SirMjac28

    SirMjac28 Patiently Waiting For The Next British Invasion

    Aug 25, 2010
    The Great Midwest
    Nice congrats
  7. That bass will be a monster with gut on it. I recommend Pirastro Chordas Carlos Henriquez.

    Couple of years ago another member bought a '30s Kay from a Music-Go-Round near Boston that needed the attention of a bass luthier. The store staff worked with him to defray the cost. Hopefully that was corporate policy and not whim.
  8. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide Guest

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    More pics:

    Worst edge wear and has been repaired here:





    Ding in side upper bout.

  9. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide Guest

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    I talked them down quite a bit by pointing out all the flaws and cost involved rehabbing and they came down pretty good on their price. I do a lot of business with these guys and I'm sure if there are any extremely pricey repairs needed they will work with me.

    I'd love to try Chordas but I'm on a budget. If anyone has a used set or any other quality used gut set please let me know. I thought I might just order the Lenzers from Golihur so I could get something on quick that won't break the bank.
  10. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    And they say that emoticons can help transmit inflection on the Interwebs...

    No sarcasm intended whatsoever - nice bass, Bert.
  11. Are the plys separating on that area of the lower bout that you pictured? If they are, some hide glue and a few clamps will fix that.

    Peer through the ff-holes at that puncture. Is the inner laminate damaged? Even if it is, it shouldn't be a big deal.

    Friends of mine have had problems with Lenzers...the knots coming undone early in a gig, etc.

    The endpin is too small, and it looks kinda cheesy. You may want to replace it.

    Overall, though, I really think you scored. Kings are great basses, and I think you may have found the lifelong companion you mentioned earlier. If you have a history with the store guys, you're in an excellent position to come out sitting pretty.
  12. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide Guest

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    HAHA I thought you were serious but I'm still paranoid I may have made a big $$ mistake acting so impulsively. I'm no luthier but it just felt right and seems solid and I was afraid if I didn't snatch it up it would be gone. The money saved having it fall in my lap rather than having to chase it down and maybe travel multiple times for considerable mileage and time cost is a big bonus. It just oozes mojo and classic tone. It's either gonna be magic karma or a curse. Time will tell. :D
  13. geoffbassist

    geoffbassist UK Double Bassist Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jul 17, 2006
    Founder - Discover Double Bass
    What a great find! Congratulations, thats a bass with TONS of mojo!
  14. BluegrassMomma


    Jul 1, 2013
    Don't know what you paid for the King Bass, but I say if it sounds as GREAT as it looks. . . I can see why you bought it. Love to know the price range.
  15. JTL


    Feb 21, 2011
    What shop in Louisville did you get it from? I'll private message you the name of a luthier that does all my bass work in Louisville.
  16. eh_train

    eh_train Supporting Member Commercial User

    Jan 12, 2004
    Owner, Stand Up Guy Basses (Repair/Sell/Buy upright basses)
    Very nice! The delamination doesn't look too severe at all.

    Not sure what you the slab bass and guitar were that you traded for it, but I'll bet either would be easier to find and/or replace than your new upright.

    I'm still hoping to find one of these at a decent price someday...


  17. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide Guest

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    Thanks to JTL for the luthier recommendation. I called him and he took a look at the bass this afternoon. Great guy. He spent two hours with me and not only diagnosed the patient but also showed me how to do some DIY on the bridge myself to save some money initially. He gave me wood shims to raise the feet and showed me a technique for sanding them to the curve of the top. He even gave me the sandpaper and made me a paper jig to use to cut the top of the bridge down to proper shape. Then he gave me an adjustable bridge he had taken off another bass(he's not a fan and recommends a solid bridge) and said here you can have this to play around with shaping too and see which works best for you. He also told me how to strip the finish off the neck rather than sand it to avoid losing any mass. He gave me a world of info on how the old plys were constructed and common issues requiring repair and how the repairs are done.

    So here's the diagnosis.

    NO INTERNAL ISSUES!!!!!!!!!:hyper::hyper::hyper:

    There are several delams in topsheet as you see in pics and several spots where topsheet is seperating from sides that my eye never saw but he found right away. The delams aren't that bad but need to be addressed. The seperations are what's causing the buzz on E and A. Also he thinks the tailpiece is a 4/4 and too large and too far up. The endpin is too small and cheezy and needs to go too. A new fingerboard will be needed eventually as it's too thin to do much shaping on.

    So Phase One is going to be taking care of structural and basic playability issues and he's going to take it next week for 5 days to do the following:

    1. Fix delams and seperations.
    2. Rebuild top edges where worn out.
    3. New tailpiece(I'm going to look for an original if possible) and endpin.
    4. Reset soundpost
    5. (optional) He recommends installing 4 wooden bumpers on laydown side for future protection. I'm not thrilled about this cosmetically but it makes sense.

    Phase Two will be a new fingerboard and bridge. I may have to wait a while on this. Meantime I'm going to see what I can do with the two bridges I have to work with. I have guts on the way, Lenzner(had to do it Kung Fu Sherrif! Need a whole set and not much in classifieds and can't afford new chordas!). I plan to begin buying used strings one by one to see what I like and switch them out and keep the Lenzners for backups.

    So overall I'm really pleased. No big surprises and it will eventually cost me about what I thought to make this an incredible bass.
  18. Wow great find. I've never scored anything that good at the Louisville music-go-round. I did get a great on a Warren May dulcimer though.
  19. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide Guest

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    You will see KM's advertised(when you can find them, they only made 5000 from the 30's-60's) in the 1K-5K range depending on year, condition, etc.
  20. Bert Slide

    Bert Slide Guest

    May 16, 2012
    Louisville KY
    Precisely! Neither the slab nor guitar were anything rare though they were nice instruments. The shop will have no problem turning them which I pointed out to them as a plus for the trade.