Sunday, March 15, 2009

1953 Kay C-1 #31642

We are getting ready to move onto the next project bass…which we hope isn’t nearly as much of a project as the American Standard bass.

This is a 1953 Kay Bass, the model is a C-1, the serial number is 31642 that we found a year and a half ago from a young man that was moving to Canada. He wanted to sell it, then didn’t want to sell it and then finally did sell it to us just days before he moved. He had the bass since college and had used it to complete a music degree. He was a bass guitar player and only needed the upright for a short time…he never really took a liking to it so we added it to our bass family…we called him Vincent…Vince works too.

The bass was previously a one owner bass, when the original owner, John Johnson, passed away his wife took it to a local music store in Allentown, PA.

It remained there until the young guy bought it and then sold it to us. When I first saw this bass being unloaded from the back of a Honda Civic, I though what a cool original canvas bass bag. It was covered with lovingly hand sewn patches and different colors of fabric. Dolly Parton's “Coat of Many Colors” comes to mind.

We took the canvas cover off and discovered a nice, very original bass in the classic Kay sun burst finish. But then came the real discovery…a vintage original, factory installed “Ampeg” pick up. We had no idea what it was, nor had we ever seen one in person…way cool! We were surprised to find out this was some of the first pick-up systems designed in the early 1950’s. Something like this would normally be found on a more expensive bass…not a plain Jane Kay C-1 model. The pick up system was not complete as it was missing the floor jack and cord, the young man said he lost that part along time ago…dang…it was all in tact at one time…oh well. It is still a very cool piece of the Kay legacy.

The bass is now on the work bench, the pick up has been taken out so we can study it more. We both assume is does not work and we have no way to test it so it serves no useful purpose moving forward.

This bass is set to get the Bass Monkey spa treatment: new end pin, new tail gut, new bridge, new strings, dress the fingerboard (which is maple not rosewood), adjust the nut and saddle and maybe we will replace the missing volute…we shall see. We hope this is a fairly quick and painless project having just finished up a year long project. With festivals an outdoor yard work coming into season there will be little time spent in the work shop the coming months.


  1. Vince enjoys his new home and going to the Doylestown jam. What became of the canvas bag and pick up?

    1. Howdy Rick! Glad all is well. The canvas bag was pretty rotted and really served no protection for the bass. As much as we hated to do it...the bag went to the trash. The Ampeg pick up did not work and was sold for parts.