Autumn is in the air, the days are getting shorter and the nights are cool and refreshing.
Lonnie’s ready to get into the workshop for the next project bass. This 1941 Epiphone B-5 #623, we have owned for a few years, it has finally been moved to the front of the line. You know there is always a back-story with our basses and this one does not disappoint. This Epiphone journeyed across the
in a lost flight case from a Greyhound bus shipping nightmare. The
gentleman who owned it did not know much about the bass and found us in an
internet search for Epiphone upright basses. He was an Antique dealer not
a bass player. I think the bass came to him through a couple of
“interceptions” by other antique dealers. The name of his business was
“Sanford & Son”; his name was Nate Wright (remember that name, more to come
on that later). Nate and I had conversation back and forth about the
bass. I was able to provide him with the Epiphone history, a positive ID,
along with the year of manufacture and model. The bass was not in
playable condition, I loved the patina of the wood and the over all character
of the bass. After some back and forth negotiations he agreed to sell us
the bass if I took care of all the packing and shipping arrangements, which of
course I did. California
|The bass as it was received|
|Nicely flamed wood.|
When the bass arrived…WOW…it threw off an immediate vintage vibe. This bass was a workhorse, a real pack mule, like a pure bred
horse. I have never seen a bass with grooves so deeply worn in the
fingerboard from playing. Not destructive wear, but genuine hard playing
wear. The back of the neck has ripples in it from the soft grain of the
wood being worn more deeply then the hard grain of the wood. Patina and
honest wear like this can only come from thousands of hours of playing
gigs. A real bass player’s bass…I love these kinds of basses, the history
and stories they have with in them are meant to be savored and appreciated.
|The grain in the back of the neck has high and low spots from playing the bass so much|
|Hard to see in this pictures but the name is Charles Smith|
|The grooves in the fingerboard that remain AFTER all the scraping. |
More work needs done to flatten the fingerboard and then get the right amount of scoop.
|The previous player must have hung on that G & D strings...a lot!|
The first thing Lonnie did was vacuum out the HUGE dust bunnies and trash inside the bass. He said there was the Mother of all dust bunnies inside the bass. He began to remove the taped edges, trying to get it off and clean the surface…that will take some patience so he will work on it a little at a time. The original rosewood fingerboard, it has a lot of scoop and deep grooves in it. It will take some heavy scraping to level the board and make it smooth again. I love all the little curled shavings that come during this process. That old Brazilian rosewood is priceless by today’s standards. As silly as it seems Lonnie saves the shaving, who knows why, but he appreciates the value of this priceless exotic wood. Maybe he will make a pressed laminated rosewood fingerboard some day from all the collected scraps.
|Brush them into a plastic bag and save them?|
I am thinking this bass will wear gut strings to keep the vintage mojo alive. I am certain gut strings are the only string this bass has every worn. I have some special strings in the reserved for a bass like this…Golden Spirals. The Kaplan strings have not been made for many years, I happen to snag a new old stock G&D that were paired with a vintage Spiro A&E. All the strings are brand new still sealed in the package. A classified ad find a few years ago…the Internet is a beautiful thing in many ways!
I’ll post updates as this project progresses. This is one cool old bass. I can’t wait to make it swing once again.
Oh! Just one more thing…Nate Wright, the nice guy that sold us the bass. He is a retired professional football player. He earned All-Pro honors at defensive back in 1974 and 1976. His career consisted mostly of time as a defensive back with the great Minnesota Vikings teams of the 1970s. He totaled 34 interceptions and three fumble recoveries in 156 professional games. He was the defensive player who was covering Drew Pearson during the 1975 NFC Playoffs on the infamous Hail Mary pass in the 1975 NFC Divisional Playoff Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, played on December 28, 1975. Some observers and Viking players believed that Pearson pushed off on Wright, causing him to fall down and thus allowing Pearson to catch the pass from Roger Staubach and score the winning touchdown.
Small world…isn’t it!?!