What the heck is this early jazz-era bass???

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by waynobass, Feb 2, 2023.

  1. waynobass


    Feb 27, 2008
    I came across this photo of the Coon-Sanders Novelty Orchestra, c. 1920's. What is that bass instrument?

    Looks like a Gibson-headstock fretted neck attached to a giant acoustic body. And it's resting on a chair!

    Coon-Sanders Novelty Orchestra with weird bass.png
  2. If you look closely, you'll see all manner of banjo and Mando madness. Prior to the Jazz Age, Ragtime was the thing.

    Loar and Gibson leveraged this as their were (like these guys) banjo and mandolin orchestras playing Ragtime.

    Look closely in this picture (aside from the guy in back with the harp guitar) and you see the guy with the tiny banjo strings like a mandolin to the guy on the right end with a mandola, a bigger mandolin.

    So back then, banjos and mandolins were graduated like bowed instruments so you had mandolin, then mandola, then mandocello (each with four paired string sets) and mandobass (four single strings), and banjos in the same four sizes. This is what you see here.

    Looking at the players and their axes, be a wonderful how you find cats that double on mandocello and reeds!
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  3. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    Ah-yup - The Gibson MandoBass. Probably late 19teens or 20s.

    For comparison, here's mine:

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  4. mini-milli


    Aug 6, 2020
    Mandolins still are - mandolas and octave mandolins (tuned GDAE one octave below a regular mandolin) are still common in Irish trad.

    Mandolin orchestras also are still around but are pretty uncommon.
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  5. HaphAsSard


    Dec 1, 2013
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  6. From what I can see in this picture . . .

    Gibson MandoBass, 1914

    In back next to the piano:
    1921 Gibson Style U Harp Guitar


    The guy in front of the harp guitarist, a 1914 Style A Gibson mandolin

    2nd from right end, '27 Gibson H4 Mandola

    1918 K2 Gibson Mandocello

    I've skipped the banjos to protect the innocent.

    I can only imagine what this must have sounded like. Here's Chris Thile playing a Gilchrist mandocello at Carter VIntage.

    Last edited: Feb 2, 2023
  7. The Gibson Bass Mandolin is arguably the first fretted bass instrument. At least in the USA.
    The frets are not accurately placed above the 12th fret, so it was made for first and second position playing. I have seen a couple in person and they are huge instruments, but they were never amplified as far as I know.
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  8. IamGroot


    Jan 18, 2018
    Give me the real bass.

    Edit there is a different version with an older alcohol fuled male vocalist that was amazing, but uts been pulled. The dude had some moves that Mick Jagger could have learned from.
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2023
  9. Jeff Scott

    Jeff Scott Rickenbacker guru..........

    Apr 11, 2006
    Out there!
    I knew a guy for decades that had one. Sadly, I have no idea what happened to it after Barry died many years ago.
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  10. Unfortunately mando basses are not known for their volume. Almost any UB is louder than a mando bass.
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  11. bholder

    bholder Affable Sociopath Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Sep 2, 2001
    Vestal, NY
    Received a gift from Sire* (see sig)
    I've got one. Not in tgat nice shape though.
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  12. A close modern equivalent, perhaps? I don't know if this guy is still in business, this video is over 10 years old.

  13. HaphAsSard


    Dec 1, 2013
    ^ Caveats noted and appreciated.

    This puppy for example, a chitarrone moderno, is a year older (1911) than the Gibson mandobass:
    35.43" scale.
    Here's a pic of what appears to be a bigger specimen by the same manufacturer, Monzino in Milan:
    According to Silvio Ranieri, who wrote about it in the 1910s or '20s, Monzino had introduced the instrument, then called an arcichitarra, way back in 1890:
    What is this? Bass mandolin

    I've found mentions of bass guitar-like instruments dating back to the 1870s in both Portugal (p. 51, 65 of pdf, note 93) and the Balkan area (p. 71-72). No way of knowing if they were fretted, but it is somewhat likely they were: both musical traditions feature fretted acoustic basses, with photographic evidence from at least the mid-20th century, in use to this day (respectively, the viola baixo and the berda/berde/tamburaški bas/begeš).
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2023
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  14. Photo of bizarre stringed instrument posted.

    Correct description & explanation of said instrument posted 5 minutes later.

    More pictures of actual instruments owned by TB members to follow-in minutes.

    One more reason why I love this forum.
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  15. Michedelic

    Michedelic MId-Century Modern

    This bunch, specifically this guy, has been around for 30 years or so, lots of personnel changes, but one bass instrument…
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  16. yodedude2

    yodedude2 Supporting Member

    Nov 19, 2005
    san antonio, texas
    as an aside, i've seen a bass banjo ...
  17. definenredefine

    definenredefine Nobody likes a drummer... Supporting Member

    Mar 11, 2022
    North Carolina
    I wouldn't be surprised to see one of those at a Violent Femmes show.
  18. What a great thread! Thanks everyone.
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  19. GretschWretch

    GretschWretch Supporting Member

    Dec 27, 2013
    East Central Alabama
    In his first post above, @J Wilson pre-empted what I was going to say, so about all I can add is that photographs of these 1920s jazz bands reveal the most unexpected combinations of instruments, not seen in ensembles before or since. Aside from the strings, I have seen pics of bands with mellophones, alto slide trombones, valve trombones, C-melody saxophones, even double-bell euphoniums.
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