Sunday, January 26, 2014

Frixo, the 1940 Epiphone B3 #218

Well, here we are the last Sunday of January…whew.  What a month of cold, cold weather.  We have not had a winter like this one for quite some time.  Keeping the snow and ice at bay, keeping the cars warm and running, keeping the heat on have all been a challenge…and Spring is weeks away.

The last update in the workshop was Frixo, the 1940 Epiphone B3.  I have been playing this bass regularly since Lonnie finished it a month or so ago.  What a great bass with a warm complex tone.  This bass is so well preserved; in such great condition, everyone is amazed that it is a 1940.  I can absolutely say the bass is waking up and the volume and tone is getting stronger with every jam. 

I had some one asked if the bass was carved, it has that big of a sound to it…nope…it is a plywood bass.  A very well built plywood bass.  The neck is solid and more meaty then some of my other Epi’s.  The original rosewood fingerboard feels thick like it had never been scraped or dressed.  I really do think this bass sat unplayed for decades for it to be in this great of surviving condition.

The set up on this bass is lower then my normal, aggressive, dig in bluegrass playing style but I have certainly adapted to it.  It takes very little efforts to play and a great bass to walk and throw in good passing notes. This bass is destine to end up in the hands of a jazz player, someone who can really appreciate great tone and great low set up.

As soon as the weather breaks and we can get a full slide show completed I’ll post the finished pictures.  I am on the fence about keeping this one in the Epiphone collection because of its rarity or passing it along to a great player that can make some awesome music with him.  He is the lowest Epiphone production B3 model on record and by far the best example I have seen for excellent surviving condition.  There is not a finer B3 in the Epiphone database then this bass.

Stay warm and let’s hope spring makes and early arrival!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Happy New Years Yawl, welcome to 2014!

Wow, five years of the Bass Monkey Workshop blog…time has passed so quickly.  Though we have accomplished much, there is so much more work to do.  When I look back at the first day the blog was created in January 1st, 2009 until now, we could have never dreamed of the wonderful people we have met, the basses that we have been so fortunate to own and restore, but most important is the music that has brought so much joy to our life.

If you have read through the blogs, I have posted about everything from bass restorations to Lonnie’s passion for his beloved first car, his Mustang.  I have also posted about his work on banjos and my multiple comments about the weather (a favorite hobby of mine).  My favorite posts are about the wonderful people we have met along our journey and the joyous opportunities to make music with some of the finest musicians. 

We are very fortunate to live in a region that is rich with bluegrass music.  Any given night with a 100 mile drive we can play bluegrass music.  We are now jamming up to three times a week.  These local jams give me an opportunity to test drive all our basses in a live setting.  We get to hear the volume and tone of our basses against the other instruments.  Some of our jams get quite large and pretty “snappy” as our one friend likes to say, and my bass always gets the job done.

While I love all our basses some I favor more then others, mostly because of sentimental reasons.  Of course my number one bass is my Gunner, the 1941 Epiphone B-1.  He is my first Epi and the Epiphone that started the research project and the journey to study the Epiphone upright bass history project.  This bass will never leave our collection; he will be with me until my last day on earth.  He looks like he was drug behind a truck and has never had one cosmetic touch up.  The patina and wear on this bass is just perfect, I would not change a thing if we could.  He is perfect just the way he is…repaired neck, chipped edges, ghastly green brown finish…just the way a 1941 bass with a deep history and thousands of gigs should look and sound. 

One of my other favorite basses is my 1937 Kay M-4 named Polly Pretty Polly.  She too has a special place in my heart as my second Kay bass I ever owned.  Her flowered engraved tuners have always been a soft spot for me.  She is a beautiful dark honey blonde and her finish has aged with a nice cracked patina.  She too is a bass that has an awesome tone and is a joy to play.  I have been playing her exclusively the last few weeks and am being reminded why Kay was the Father of the plywood basses…she has such great tone and playability.  She is a sweet ole gal.

Then there is my 1937 American Standard with the humped shoulders named Elliot, he too was my very first American Standard bass.  He unlike Gunner or Polly has gone through a complete Bass Monkey restoration with a new finish and wears a full set of Gamut gut strings. He is a gorgeous, big, bad, bass that has that classic American Standard low end boom.  I don’t play this bass nearly enough as it is so beautiful I don’t want to get it banged up in public jams.  He tends to stay home and gets good “woodshed” time.  It also takes a few songs for me to get acclimated to the 43” string length verses the 42” string length of the Kay or Epi.  He too has a special spot in my heart as my first American Standard.

From that core of three basses are several other favorites like my pristine 1941 Gibson B-135 bass named Mother Maybelle to the 1941 Epiphone B5 named Big Daddy.  Both of these basses are in a time warp.  They have barely aged from the day they were made.  Both basses are completely original with no damage and no repairs.  Just stunning examples of two great basses from that golden pre-war era.  I could go on and on why each of our basses has a special connection for both of us.  Either by how we acquired it or the history and stories behind each bass.  They are all special to us in some unique way.  We hope once the holidays pass that we can get back to bass restoration projects.  Lonnie has been working on the Mustang this winter so the Bass Monkey workshop has been pretty quiet.

We are fortunate to have many visitors (and many international visitors) to the website and the workshop blog everyday.  We hope you have enjoyed reading our stories and share in our joy of American-made plywood upright basses.  We can only wonder and imagine what the next five years will bring.  

Our New Years wish for you is a life filled with good health, great music and the joy that you can bring to others by sharing a song, a smile and a kind word.

Happy New Year!!!