Zorko Bass

Discussion in 'Electric Upright Basses (EUB's) [DB]' started by Zorko064, Dec 4, 2005.

  1. Zorko064


    Dec 4, 2005

    I just picked up a Zorko baby bass. It's serial number is 064.
    I've searched the internet and found little other than Ampeg
    bought the rights to reproduce it and made modifications in the early 1960's.

    Does anyone know its value? I can't find any information about one being sold. It is mint except for some paint that is chipping off the front. Also the volume switch is not original. Does anyone know what it looked like? I am also looking for a stand.

    Any information will be appreciated.


  2. i would take it to your local shop, usually they have a 'blue book' that they can look up the information in
  3. Zorko064


    Dec 4, 2005

    Thanks for the help but it is really a rare instrument. It is not listed in the standard blue books or bass history books. I have read some descriptions of the instrument but only in the context of its relationship to Ampeg. It has a strange double
    bridge set up.

    If someone has a bluebook with some information please let me know.


  4. bongomania

    bongomania Supporting Member Commercial User

    Oct 17, 2005
    PDX, OR
    owner, OVNIFX and OVNILabs
    Have you tried http://www.xstrange.com ? Bruce is a serious expert on early Ampeg basses, and probably knows at least _something_ about the Zorko. Also, one of the engineers of the early Ampeg flip-top amps can regularly be found on Ebay selling refurbished Ampeg tube amps. He is not associated with the basses per se, but he may know somebody who can help out. Sorry I can't remember his name right now.
  5. FunkSlap89


    Apr 26, 2005
    Albany, NY
    Two of my good friends' last name is Zorko (they're brothers). How odd... i know there's a review on harmony central for an amp, but i've never heard of their basses.
  6. embellisher

    embellisher Holy Ghost filled Bass Player Supporting Member

    I think this might do better on the DB side of the board. Moved.

    Good luck!
  7. MarkRubin

    MarkRubin F L T

    Mar 14, 2005
    Austin TX

    They evidently built quite a few of these babys before they sold the patent to Ampeg. I've encountered 2 here in Texas where I guess they must have been popular with western swing and C&W players. Both the ones I've seen are essentially identical to the later Ampeg basses, only black.

    From Marty Clevinger's great website (www.clevinger.com) on the evolution of the EUB, here's his story:

    "Efforts to modernize the double bass continued through the '50's and by the late 1950's, Rudy and Ed Dopera (of National and Dobro fame) introduced the Zorko Bass. It featured a hollow fiberglass body, a slightly scaled-down head and fingerboard. "First electric nylon or gut string bass fiddle", trumpeted the 1958 Zorko sales brochure. The use of gut strings was made possible by a mechanically coupled bridge pickup system. A unique double bridge pickup system used one bridge to reduce downbearing force on a second bridge that included a magnet. A stationary coil placed next to the magnet, picked up vibration of the magnet when the strings were played. The Zorko fiberglass hollow body, with its bolt-on maple neck was later modified and became the Ampeg Baby Bass.

    The Ampeg Baby Bass was widely marketed in the USA during the '60's. It featured an improved aluminum bridge pickup system compatible with non-ferrous or traditional gut strings. Like the Zorko pickup system, the Ampeg used a bridge inductively coupled to magnetic pickup devices. The Ampeg bridge feet rested upon two spring steel diaphragms that acted like magnet assemblies. The vibration of each diaphragm generated signals in the coils. Though weak, and plagued by phase distortion problems, the Ampeg pickup was a considerable improvement over the Zorko pickup. The Ampeg's heavier body was made of a thermo-plastic called UVEX. This plastic is unstable as its melting temperature is very low. The Ampegs give off a somewhat foul odor due to continual out-gassing by the UVEX material. Many Ampeg basses show warping of the body due to exposure to heat inside parked cars on hot days.

    Both the Ampeg and the Zorko instruments produced a percussive tonal
    quality with little sustain and minimal overtones. However, the hollow fiberglass body of the Zorko produced more overtones than the filled and dampened Ampeg. The Ampeg bass is still heard today in Afro-Cuban music where a percussive drum-like tone is preferred. Hundreds of Ampegs were produced in the '60's. Steve Azola is now producing a bass called the Azola baby bass. This bass draws on the Ampeg and Zorko tradition and is somewhere in between the two in construction. It features up-to-date pickups and electronics. Azola makes a reissue of the Ampeg Baby Bass for the St. Louis Music Company."

    Everybody clear? :)

    I'd say depending on it's condition, it's worth the going rate for a vintage Ampeg Baby Bass + 10-15% for rareness. Ultimately, it's only worth as much as someone will give you for it. Most likely a Baby Bass collector. (Shutter to think such exisits but I collected Peavey T-40's for a while, so anything's possible.)
    Ductapeman likes this.
  8. Uncletoad


    May 6, 2003
    Columbus Ohio
    Proprietor Fifth Avenue Fret Shop. Technical Editor Bass Gear Magazine
    A quick glance at Google gives this from Clevinger.com:

    Whoops...beat me to it didn't ya.

    I saw a Zorko in decent shape sell on Ebay earlier this year for around $1500. I saw another needing work late last year that got no bids with an opening bid of $500.

    Generally the Baby Basses from the '60's sell from $1500 to $2500, most landing around $2000. I believe the Zorko is not as well received in part because it has a slightly different sound than the Baby Bass. It has not had as much acceptance in the Latin markets where the Baby Bass has it's only devotees. I don't doubt they sound similar to the Baby Bass, I'm sure they will appreciate in value.

    Their usefulness as electric uprights might improve with the use of a wooden bridge and bridge mounted pickups like the BassMax. One would have to have one custom made for that instrument. Perhaps Azola could modify his wood bridge to work on the Zorko.

    On my Baby Bass I use spirocore solo strings tuned to orchestra pitch and turn the tone knob all the way off. I usually preamp it with some outboard preamp to give it some girth, either a Bartolini NTBT or my Raven Labs MPB II. It gives the classic Tumbao tone. I'd try those on the Zorko and see what you get.
  9. mikjans


    Dec 17, 2003
    Uppsala, Sweden
    The Zorko bass was endorsed by Red Mitchell, no less! Red appeared in ads for the Zorko in Downbeat magazine in 1962. I doubt he ever appeared with one onstage... Red Callender appears in early Zorko promo literature as another endorser...
  10. mpm


    May 10, 2001
    Los Angeles
    I have a Zorko amp head that says the company was located in So. El Monte, CA. No idea on the date of manufacture, but it was beat up in 1966 when I got it...
  11. mikjans


    Dec 17, 2003
    Uppsala, Sweden
    Zorko basses and amps came in 1958. They also advertised a nylon string guitar and a violin, but I have yet to see either of those. The Dopera Bros sold the bass to Ampeg in 1962. The line of amps was discontinued.
  12. Steve Azola

    Steve Azola Azola Basses

    Jan 23, 2002
    San Diego, CA
    Hi everyone,

    Thought we'd add some more arcane Zorko details to the info you've already gathered.

    We actually have custody of a prototype Zorko Bass in our "evolution of the Baby Bass" family here, along with a later production model. We've owned quite a few of these basses through the years, and had more than you'd expect pass through our shop. The highest serial # we've seen was in the low 200s, so we figure there really weren't too many made. The serial # is stamped into the top of the headstock. By comparison, We have calculated Ampeg made only about 100 or so a year, during their 10 year production of the Baby Bass.

    Maybe we've experienced more than our share because we're in southern California, and El Monte isn't too far away. We also have a couple of the old Zorko "El Basso" amps here for posterity. We've heard that back in the late 70s, there was a Zorko bass hanging as a sign outside a music store in the next town over from us, Escondido, CA. The store was then owned by one of the Dopera brothers. The Dopera brothers are best known for the Dobro (Do-Bro).

    Zorko means something like "bright star" in their native tongue. There were two different production versions of the Zorko. The first had the Volume control in the "belly button" location. The next generation had an aluminum plate with Volume and Tone controls mounted. The pickup system incorporated a different type magnetic coil than the Ampeg system developed by Jess Oliver.

    When Zorko sold the Baby Bass to Ampeg, there were 25 or 30 of the hollow fiberglass bodies remaining. So Ampeg equipped them with Jess Oliver's pickup system and sold them as Ampegs. These basses also had the Zorko necks, with serial # in the 200's, but with Ampeg logos. We've seen a few of these "hybrids" come through the shop. Once the fiberglass bodies were used up, Ampeg began using the foam-filled Uvex body design.

    The Zorko basses aren't as sought after as the Ampeg Babies, despite their rarity. The Ampeg is overall a more usable instrument. There are a couple of Latin players who still use their Zorkos for certain types of work. We know several players (not collectors) who have a Zorko, an Ampeg, and even an Azola or two ... among other axes ... in their bag of tricks.

    - Jill Azola
  13. According to Ruben Rodriguez (a fellow TBer), the great Bobby Rodriguez (Tito Puente, Machito, and everyone else) prefered his Zorko to the later foam filled Baby Bass. He did have the electronics updated by Ampeg, and when the bass was stolen in the late 60's, he switched to bass guitar for most of his work (also due to portability). So, if it was good enough for Bobby, it is certainly good....
  14. NOTE:
    I have moved Ken's last post in the DB Classifieds For Sale forum.
  15. bajocallao

    bajocallao Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2006
    Woodside, New York
    Endorsing Artist: D'addario Strings, Aguilar Amplifiers
    Just to add to Jill's comment
    I have a modded Zorko (ampeg pickup), An Ampeg and an Azola Bug Bass (for travel purpose and to not put my older baby basses in jeopardy)
    All have there own sound and all have nice punch for latin music
    here I am with the Queen of Salsa Celia
    Elias_Mohr likes this.
  16. A question for the baby bass experts out there ...
    I have a baby bass and in the pocket of the gig bag I found a little yellow tag that says:
    DATE: 5/8/68
    A. R.S
    DATE: 5/9/68
    On the other side of the "Ampeg Co, inc." tag it says...
    Model No. <blank>
    Serial No. 002698

    Is that the the BB-4 serial #? I'm not certain, as it's owner probably bought an Ampeg SB-12 Portaflex amp at the same time.


    I posted the BB-4 here with some pictures
  17. maverick5.0


    Feb 20, 2009
    thats a cool pic bajocallao !!!! do you remember the song at the moment of the photo that Celia Cruz(R.I.P.) was singing (interpretando)????thank you for the pic...
  18. rbolanos


    Apr 13, 2006
    Congrats Bajocallao!
    what an honour that must have been. were you his regular bass player for those years?
    that's Isidro Infante on Keyboards btw, and of course La Reina, que in paz descanse Celia
    Very cool man!
  19. bajocallao

    bajocallao Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2006
    Woodside, New York
    Endorsing Artist: D'addario Strings, Aguilar Amplifiers
    Not sure which song

    but the concert won her a latin grammy for best performance that year
    Ductapeman likes this.
  20. bajocallao

    bajocallao Supporting Member

    Jul 13, 2006
    Woodside, New York
    Endorsing Artist: D'addario Strings, Aguilar Amplifiers
    Hey rbolanos

    it was an honour. I was Isidro's regular bass player then
    That is one of my favorite basses
    Zorko has a great sound
    Ductapeman likes this.