Moments in Bass History: Origins of the Iconic Ampeg SVT
Tim Fletcher delves into the origins of the iconic Ampeg SVT; “the biggest, nastiest bass amplifier the world had ever seen”, and how The Rolling Stones accidentally became the first endorsees.
By the last concert of their 1966 US stadium tour, at the Candlestick Park baseball stadium in San Francisco, The Beatles had decided to stop playing live*. Their 100-watt Vox amplifiers, and the house PA system – normally used for announcements rather than projecting the sound of a band – were not powerful enough to be heard over the screaming of the 25,000 crowd members. Without monitors, the band couldn’t hear themselves sing, and Ringo couldn’t hear the rest of the band; he had to rely on watching their ‘wiggling backsides’ to stay in time with them. The band had been unhappy with the quality of their live performances for a while, and after this show, they finally decided to focus purely on studio recording. However, the Beatles had set a precedent, and the move towards stadium gigs had begun.
To accommodate the need for more onstage volume, amplification companies began to build bigger and more powerful guitar amps; by the late 1960s, Fender had raised the output of their Twin model to 100w, and Hiwatt and Marshall had produced 200w heads. Bass amplifiers had also become more powerful; Sunn had developed their 150w Model T, and Acoustic had unveiled their 200w 360 model.
Not wishing to be outdone, over at Ampeg, Bill Hughes and Roger Cox were designing “the biggest, nastiest bass amplifier the world had ever seen”, an all-tube amplifier they named the ‘Super Vacuum Tube’ or SVT for short.
The amp utilized fourteen tubes, and produced a massive (for the time) 300 watts at 8 ohms. It was designed to run through two 8×10 speaker cabinets to get the maximum output, although later speaker enclosures were uprated to enable the head to run through one cabinet. It was so loud that the designers warned users that; “THIS AMP IS CAPABLE OF DELIVERING SOUND PRESSURE LEVELS THAT MAY CAUSE PERMANENT HEARING DAMAGE”. The SVT prototypes were unveiled at the NAMM show in Chicago in late June 1969, but they didn’t go into production immediately.
In October 1969, the Rolling Stones arrived in the US to begin their much-anticipated tour.
After a three-year absence, the band wanted to play to larger audiences and they booked stadium venues such as the LA Forum, Madison Square Gardens, and the Detroit Olympia. They also agreed to play a free outdoor concert in San Francisco (later moved to the Altamont Speedway) before returning to the UK. The Stones began their rehearsals for the tour in Steven Stills’ basement in Laurel Canyon, Los Angeles, but soon moved to a larger sound stage at the Warner Brothers’ studios in Hollywood.
The band had shipped their Fender amplifiers to the US for the tour, but their roadie had forgotten about the voltage difference between the UK and the USA, and very quickly, the amps were fried.
Stones road manager and keyboardist Ian Stewart got in touch with Rich Mandella at the Ampeg office in Hollywood, who quickly gathered five of the SVT prototypes and headed down to the rehearsal. To his surprise, it wasn’t just Stones bass player Bill Wyman who took an SVT; guitarists Keith Richards and Mick Taylor also chose to use them. Richards cranked the amps to the point of meltdown, and Mandella had to keep swapping out the amps to let them cool off. However, the band loved the amps, and Mandella was hired to act as the tour’s backline technician. The SVTs can be seen in many photographs taken on the tour, and also in the Maysles brothers’ film ‘Gimme Shelter’, especially in the footage shot at the infamous Altamont concert.
The SVT went into production in early 1970, and it has been the amplifier of choice for many bass players in the decades since, including Robert Trujillo, Cliff Williams Krist Novoselic and Sting.
The company continues to make SVT models today, including the 1000w SVT-7 pro. The SVT is still seen as the ‘reference amp’ for live rock bass amplification, and former Bass Player editor Scott Malandrone commented that; “The SVT has done for the sound of electric bass what the Marshall Super Lead had done for the electric guitar – it would give the instrument an identity”.
*Interestingly, the last artist to perform at Candlestick Park was Paul McCartney who played there 2014, after which it was demolished.
Above: Richards and Wyman in front of their SVTs at the fateful Altamont concert. Photo Credit: Beth Bagby
Above: Wyman with the Stones on a later tour. Photo Credit: Tony Barnard
History of the Yamaha BB Bass – Workhorses That Became Thoroughbreds
How did the BB become so successful? Tim Fletcher looks at the history of a classic bass.
The Yamaha BB Bass – Workhorses That Became Thoroughbreds.
Originally designed as a basic model, the Yamaha BB bass has been championed by many great bass players, from session greats like Abe Laboriel, Pino Palladino and Nathan East; New Wave players such as Tony Kanal (No Doubt), Peter Hook (Joy Division and New Order), Andy Rourke (The Smiths); and rockers such as Jack Gibson (Exodus, Testament), and Michael Anthony (Van Halen, Chickenfoot).
Japanese instrument makers Yamaha were quite late to the world of bass guitars – their first model, the SB-2 came out in April 1966.
This was largely modeled on the Fender’s designs – the body shape was loosely based on the Precision, but it had two single-coil pickups like the Jazz. The main deviation from the Fender shape was a more radical headstock which wouldn’t have looked out of place on the 1980s ‘Superstrat’ guitar. By 1968 the SB series became a more radical design, with an almost ‘tear-drop’ shape to the body, and in the 1970s, further iterations of the SB bass included designs reminiscent of Gibson’s Les Paul and SG shapes. By 1976, the now Fender Jazz-like SB had been joined by the PB, a near-direct copy of the Fender Precision. None of these instruments found success outside of the far east – a new approach was required.
In the mid-seventies, Yamaha spent some time developing what was to become the cornerstone of their bass range.
Yamaha wanted their new bass to appeal to players in the main market – the USA – and encouraged West-Coast session players to try out their prototypes and give feedback on them. The new BB (short for Broad Bass) model first appeared in 1977, alongside a redesigned SB bass, and the PB. There were three BB models – the bolt-on necked BB800 and BB1000, and the through-neck BB1200. All had a single-coil split pick-up like the Fender Precision.
Yamaha basses were well-made, but relatively cheap compared to their competitors, and they appealed to bassists in up-and-coming bands.
One early fan was Peter Hook of Joy Division who used his BB1200 on their classic song ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’.
Although he used other basses onstage, he has continued to use a Yamaha 1200s in the studio. In an interview with GuitarGuitar in 2020, he revealed that “Every single track that I’ve ever recorded, up to the last one I did which was the Gorillaz about a month ago, was on a Yamaha BB1200S! Peter Hook’s loyalty to the BB was recently rewarded with a new signature model based on his BB734A, but including elements of his beloved 1200S.
Yamaha continued to develop their BB designs, which was now the most successful bass in their range.
In 1978, they brought out the BB2000, which had a ‘PJ’ pickup configuration, adding to the tonal range of the instrument. Four years later the BB3000 was debuted, with a deeper lower cutaway and a change to the pickup configuration – the ‘precision’ split coil was reversed. 1984 saw the release of the first commercially available five-string bass, the BB5000, and it became popular with many players looking for an extended range instrument, but didn’t wish to pay for a custom-built instrument. These included Pino Palladino and Nathan East who played them on many session tracks for major artists in the mid-80s.
By 1986 the BB range had been extended, and now included seven models from the basic BB550 to the BB5000.
The old PB and SB instruments were dropped, and the more radical RBX, BX, and MB designs took their place. However, even with more modern looking instruments appearing in the catalogue, the decade-old BB models still attracted younger players. Tony Kanal, who was to gain fame as the bassist in No Doubt remembers how he found his first Yamaha BB: “As luck would have it, Gwen’s [Stefani] father worked for Yamaha at the time and he was able to get me a discount on a brand new bass. That’s this BB1600 [that he still plays today]. I remember looking at a pricing list and going “this one sounds cool!” I really had no idea. It was just the one that I could afford and the natural wood description sounded cool. I borrowed the money from my dad and that was the start of me playing the Yamaha BB series.”
By the mid-1980s, Yamaha was now more known for its basses than its six-string models, and the bass range was further expanded to include the more aspirational TRB series which included the company’s first six-string bass, and the ‘Attitude’ which was co-designed with bass virtuoso Billy Sheehan.
By the end of the decade, Yamaha began to include active circuitry to the BB range, and the 1100, 1200, 3000, and 5000 all had active options.
In 1994, Yamaha brought out the BB-NE model – a departure from the BB shape that was designed in conjunction with session bass legend Nathan East. But by the end of the 1990s, the original BB basses were starting to seem dated, and the range was reduced to three models. By 2000 they disappeared from the catalogue completely, apart from the BB3000 and BB3000MA (Michael Anthony) models, and a custom order version.
Although it seemed that the BB’s days were numbered, Yamaha revived the design in 2002, as it looked like a sister instrument to its phenomenally successful Pacifica guitar series.
The first new models were the bolt-on neck, budget-oriented 404 and 405 instruments, but Yamaha also attached the BB initials to some new designs: the 405, 605, 2004, and 2005 models. These were joined in 2005 by the 414/5 and active 614/5 active versions. A revamp of the range in 2010 included a five-piece neck on the 424/5 versions, and a through stringing option on the 1024/5 and 2024/5 models. A further facelift in 2011 brought in pickguard options.
In 2017, on the 40th anniversary of its introduction, the BB series received a major restyling.
Yamaha hired award-winning designer Piotr Stolarski to create a new design for this now-classic bass. The body was re-shaped to include a more comfortable contour design that also shaved some weight from the body, and the pickup shapes were changed to enable owners to change them for standard pickups. The neck now has a six-bolt mitre neck joint for enhanced stability.
The range includes both budget, mid-price, and more expensive models, and it has become the bass most associated with the manufacturer. Its now-classic design, playability, and sound have endeared it to many generations of bassists and with a modern version on the market, it is likely to be the dominant bass in Yamaha’s catalogue for the foreseeable future.
History of Class D Amplifiers and Smaller Speakers
Moments in Bass History… Class D Amplifiers and Smaller Speakers – the Rise of Smaller, More Lightweight Bass Gear.
Bass amplification is heavy. To get a decent sound we need to use powerful amplifiers and huge speaker systems….or do we? Tim Fletcher looks into the rise of smaller, more lightweight bass gear.
The first time I saw a Class D amplifier was about a decade ago, in a shop managed by one of my former students. It was by Yamaha, and I asked him if it was just a headphone amp: “No, it’s a proper amp – it’s just really small. It’s a Class D amp, and these are the future!” I was sceptical – how this could possibly compete with a big, powerful amplifier. He was right though… Fast forward to the present day, and these amplifiers have gradually become commonplace in the bass community, and manufacturers such as Mark Bass, Demeter and Quilter have developed high quality products that match, and sometimes surpass the quality and power of their more traditional predecessors.
Although we may think of Class D amplifiers as being something new, they have been around for over sixty years.
The originator of the concept was Alec Reeves, a brilliant British scientist whose work included helping set up the first transatlantic phone cable, developing digital delay lines and condenser microphones. He also designed the first PCM (Pulse Code Modulation) system, and during WW2 he helped develop electronic counter-measures and radio navigation aids for British Royal Air Force. He later led a team that produced the first fibre-optic cables. During the 1950s he developed the first Class D amplifier by dispensing with the heavy toroidal transformer (and therefore also meaning that the heat sink and fan used in traditional amplifiers was not needed) by using pairs of transistors as switches rather than as linear amplifiers.
Reeves’ new amplifier concept first found a commercial use in 1964, when Sinclair Radionics’ produced the X-10 amp, a home-build kit system that produced a whopping 2.5 watts.
This was followed by the more powerful X-20 in 1966, but the quality of the transistors on these early models made them very unreliable, and a commercial failure. However, this wasn’t the end of the Class D amplifier, and the development of the more advanced MOSFET transistors eventually enabled a more reliable product to be made. The first of these was the Sony TA-N88 studio power amp that was first produced in 1978, and the first commercially available bass amplifier using Class D technology was made by Peavey in 1984. These amplifiers was still quite bulky, but in 1996 the electronics component manufacture Tripath developed the Class D on a much smaller integrated circuit board. This allowed the size of bass amplifiers to shrink from the standard 19” rack mount size to around the size of a book.
The bass world is generally quite conservative, and it was relatively slow to respond to the new technology.
The early Class D amps were very light and portable but lacked the ‘oomph’ of traditional tube amps (and even the older transistor amplifiers) and bass players were reluctant to let go of their big heavy gear. Gradually, the development of better-sounding and more sophisticated Class D amps in the last few years by newer manufacturers such as TC Electronic and MarkBass has encouraged more players to invest in the new technology (myself included), and this success has prompted the major brands to produce their own versions. Now almost all have at least one Class D model in their range, and some seem to be competing to make the smallest possible amplifier, with TC Electronics’ BAM 200 (920g) and Trace Elliot’s tiny Elf (730g) leading the field.
As amplifier technology improved in the last decade, so did speaker technology – the paper in the cones has been replaced with more advanced materials such as Kevlar and carbon fibre, other components are stiffer and more able to cope with higher sound levels more efficiently, and voice coils are more effective in dissipating heat. Advancements in enclosure design have also made for more effective replication of the frequency range, especially the low end. All these advances mean that lower frequencies are produced effectively by smaller speakers, and the huge rigs of old are no longer needed – I used to use a rig that was taller than me, but now I use two 210 cabinets, and it’s probably about as loud.
Are the days of huge bass rigs over?
Probably not, as they still have a specific sound that bass players still like, and they look cool onstage…
One of the Most Radical Instruments Ever Made, the Steinberger L2
With a few exceptions, most bass guitars look very similar to Leo Fender’s Precision, Jazz, or Music Man designs. When the first Steinberger headless (and nearly bodyless) designs appeared in 1979, they were very definitely a departure from the norm. Tim Fletcher investigates the birth of one of the most radical instruments ever made…
Birth of One of the Most Radical Instruments Ever Made, the Steinberger L2
Steinberger L2… Ned Steinberger was originally a furniture maker, training at the prestigious Cooper Hewitt museum in New York.
After he graduated, he joined the Brooklyn Woodworkers Co-Operative where he met guitar maker Stuart Spector. Steinberger liked Spector’s ideas, and in 1977, he offered to design a bass using the ‘form follows function’ concept that he had learned at Cooper Hewitt. The result was the NS-1, a through-neck bass with smooth flowing curves that fitted around the player. This bass became quite popular with the bass playing community, and enthused by its success, Steinberger started a company – Steinberger Sound – to produce his own instruments.
Having little experience as a musician, and coming from a background where practicalities were more important than tradition, he wondered why bass players put up with an instrument that was cumbersome and awkward to play.
He recalled that “getting the instrument to be comfortable was a top priority for me. And no matter what, I couldn’t get the bass to balance right with a headstock. It was always neck heavy…the big breakthrough moment for me was when I realized that you didn’t have to put the tuning machines [on the headstock]. You could put the tuning machines on the body.”
Having dispensed with the headstock, Steinberger then went to work on the neck and the body.
During the development process for the Spector NS-1, he had met boatbuilder and carbon fibre expert Bob Young, and was intrigued by the possibilities of using the material in a bass guitar design. Wood, being a natural substance, is not a consistent material, and even seemingly identical wooden instruments have small differences in sound and playability. In addition, wooden bass necks tend to have a ‘dead spot’ around the fifth fret on the G string. It is suggested that most wooden bass necks vibrate naturally around this pitch (C), and the two vibrations (the neck and the string) cancel each other to some extent. Steinberger realised that using a composite man-made material instead of wood could potentially eliminate these issues. Steinberger also considered the traditional large body and bolt-on neck of most basses to be unnecessary, and he developed a much smaller, lighter one-piece design.
The new bass, named the Steinberger L-2, was headless, with a very small body, and made of a synthetic composite of graphite and carbon fibre.
It was premiered at the 1980 NAMM show, but the more traditionally minded bassists were extremely sceptical. Ned Steinberger recalls: “we had made a half dozen basses and pretty much everybody felt we were a joke. Headless instruments made out of plastic?” They were described as ‘cricket bats’ and ‘egg-boxes’ but they did get some support from Andy West of The Dixie Dregs, and by the end of the event, the Steinberger stand was beginning to get some more positive attention.
The new basses had a very even response and were much lighter than traditional designs, but some players found their sound ‘artificial’ or ‘synthetic’.
However, the new design soon found favour with a number of high profile players, including Geddy Lee, Sting, Tina Weymouth, Tony Levin, and Bill Wyman, and this helped to make the instruments more accepted by the wider bass playing community. Steinberger considers that his bass design came out just at the right moment: “People in the 80s were much more into innovation then. And the idea of hi-tech—people were attracted to that. In the late 80s, it shifted back again to a vintage mentality.”
The development of carbon graphite composite as a bass-making material was taken up by a few other manufacturers, including Status, a UK manufacturer that blended the headless design with more traditional body styles.
Steinberger sold his company to Gibson in 1987 and has since focused his new company NS Design, on developing electric upright instruments such as double basses and cellos.
History of the Six-String Electric Bass
Moments in Bass History… the Six-String Electric Bass
Today, six-string electric basses are commonplace, with virtuosos like Oteil Burbridge, Steve Bailey and John Myung all-embracing the extra range and tonal possibilities that they allow. But which company took the first steps into this brave new world, and how did players respond to the new instrument?
Six-string guitars have been played since the 1200s, double basses with five strings had been used since the late 1700s, but there was no middle ground between the two until Paul Tutmarc’s early attempts in the 1930s (see part 3 of this series). Leo Fender’s 1951 Precision bass, however, began the widespread acceptance of the bass guitar as the main bass sound in popular music. From this point, the development of the instrument happened very quickly, with manufacturers soon adding more strings and extending the range of the electric bass.
The first development came from Danelectro, a New Jersey company founded in 1946 by Nathan Daniel.
The new company initially built amplifiers, but by 1954 they began to make electric guitars – the single pickup U-1 and the double pickup U-2.
In 1956, Danelectro produced its first electric bass, but this was, surprisingly, a six-string model.
At this point, the Fender Precision hadn’t yet fully established its popularity, and Danelectro aimed to make a bass instrument that was potentially more appealing to guitarists. The UB-2 model had a scale length of 30” (shorter than the Precision’s 34”) and like a guitar, it was tuned EADGBE, but an octave below standard guitar tuning. Advertising copy for the UB-2 emphasized that it was “a brand new instrument that combines the best qualities of the Spanish guitar and the big string bass.”
Nathan Daniel later explained the thinking behind the UB-2:
“We simply made the neck a bit longer [than the guitar]. We started with a six-string bass because it’s hardly any more trouble than a four-string and it gave the player something more for the same money. It took time for that to catch on, but if the player was capable, he had more stuff to play with.”
The sound of the UB-2 was very distinctive, with a more guitar-like twang and punch than the longer scale Precision, and producers found a use for its tone alongside the more traditional double bass.
The technique of doubling the finger-style double bass track with a UB-2 played with a pick was known as ‘Tic-Tac’. It was used on Nashville recordings by artists such as Patsy Cline, Elvis Presley, and Roy Orbison, and it had also been used on Duane Eddy’s 1958 album ‘Rebel Rouser’.
By 1959, Danelectro had redesigned their electric models and bought out the Longhorn range, which included their first four-string models, but also a six-string bass guitar. This distinctive instrument caught the attention of Duane Eddy, who found one in a Hollywood music store, and he used it on every song on his next album ‘The Twang’s The Thang’. Despite Duane Eddy’s endorsement, the six-string model didn’t sell well, and Danelectro began to focus more on its guitars and four-string basses.
Gibson produced a rival instrument in 1960, the semi-acoustic EB-6, which looked similar to their 335 guitar model.
This was soon replaced with a solid-body instrument based on the SG guitar, but these instruments were not very popular – Gibson only sold around 130 six-string basses before they ceased manufacture in 1965.
Fender, not wishing to be outdone by their main rival, brought out their Bass VI model in 1961, again tuned to an octave below a standard guitar. It was used by The Beatles on their ‘White Album’ and later by John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin, but like the Danelectro it found limited popularity outside the studio, perhaps due to the narrow string spacing. Fender discontinued the Bass VI in 1975, but it returned to the catalogue in 2006.
In 1965, Fender produced the Bass V – the first commercially available five-string bass guitar.
It had a standard 34” scale, and the extra string was a high C, rather than the low B of later five-string basses. However, it only had fifteen frets, giving it roughly the same range as a four-string bass. It was another commercial failure, and by 1970 Fender had pulled it from their range.
These early attempts at extending the range of the bass guitar by adding more strings were not very successful, but by the mid-seventies, high-end luthiers were beginning to make multi-string basses as we know them today. Carl Thompson made a six-string (BEADGC) for bass player Anthony Jackson, and Overwater, Alembic, Ken Smith, and Tobias all made one-off five-string instruments. The first commercially available production five-string bass with a low B string is thought to have been the Yamaha BB5000 in 1984, and this was quickly followed by basses by MusicMan, Ibanez, Peavey. Oddly, Fender didn’t produce a commercially available BEADG tuned five-string bass until the late 1980s, but now they are a staple of their catalogue.
It could be argued that Danelectro, Gibson and Fender had produced six-string ‘bass guitars’ (electric guitars that played low notes) rather than six-string electric basses, but this is an argument about semantics rather than instruments.
When Leo Fender brought out his Precision model in 1951, there was no certainty that it would become a successful instrument and was certainly viewed with some skepticism at the time. The attempts to build electric instruments with wider ranges were to some degree experiments, but then, so was the Fender Precision.
Fretless Bass History
Who Was the First Person to Make a Fretless Bass?
Great players like Jaco Pastorius, Pino Palladino, Tony Franklin, Les Claypool and Mick Karn all found their creative voices on fretless bass, but who was the first person to make one?
Moments in Bass History… the Fretless Bass.
When Paul Tutmarc, and later Leo Fender designed their first electric basses, they were meant to replace the old, cumbersome and rather soft-voiced double bass. Their new instruments were smaller, lighter, and louder, and like their six-string cousins, they had frets. These factors helped to make the new instrument popular, and by the early 1960s, the bass guitar had become the dominant bass sound in popular music. So why would anybody want to make it more difficult to play? As with many sudden leaps forward in technology, the story has its roots in accidental expediency – the need to fix something broken, and inadvertently creating something new.
William (Bill) Perks was born in London in 1936.
His ambitions to become a professional musician were awoken at aged ten, when his aunt took him to a dance, and he was amazed at the skill of the players. In his early teenage years, he studied piano, but he didn’t stick at it. In 1955 he was called up for his National Service (at the time, all young men in the UK were expected to serve in the armed forces for 18 months), and was posted to Germany where he bought a cheap acoustic guitar and began to learn the basics of chords. While he was there he caught the emerging sounds of rock-n-roll on American Forces Network, and returning to England, he played in a ‘Skiffle’ band with Brian Cassar – later to form Casey Jones and the Engineers, one of the bands that competed with The Beatles for gigs in Liverpool.
When he was released from the Royal Air Force, Bill worked as a clerk and used his wages to buy a Burns electric guitar.
He soon joined The Cliftons as ‘bass guitarist’ – using down-tuned strings, and later actual bass strings. The sound wasn’t great, and after attending a gig by The Barron Knights and hearing the huge sound of bass player Barron Anthony’s electric bass, he was determined to acquire one himself. He heard that a friend of The Cliftons drummer Tony Chapman was selling a Dallas Tuxedo bass, so he quickly bought it, but it was a disappointment:
“I was glad to finally have a ‘real’ bass. Unfortunately, it was bloody horrible!… it rattled with every note because the frets were so worn”.
Perks decided that the best option was to remove the frets all together, and replace them when he could afford to.
But without the frets, the bass had a special sound, and he later filled the slots with wood putty. Bill recalled that:
“When I pulled ’em out, it suddenly sounded really good! So I never put [the] frets back in”.
Around this time Bill Perks decided that ‘Bill Wyman’ was a better name for a professional musician…
In June 1962, Tony Chapman auditioned for The Rolling Stones – a new Rhythm ‘n’ Blues band that was being formed by Mick Jagger, Ian Stewart and Brian Jones.
Chapman was successful, but the rest of the band were really waiting for Charlie Watts to become available. The band soon became dissatisfied with Chapman’s playing, and Mick Avory (later of The Kinks) and Carlo Little (on loan from Screaming Lord Such) also had stints behind the kit, but they couldn’t commit to the band. By the end of the year, Wyman joined his former bandmate as bass player as a replacement for Dick Taylor. In early 1963, Chapman left to form ‘The Preachers’ and the Stones finally managed to hire Charlie Watts as his replacement. The classic Stones rhythm section was at last complete. Embed from Getty Images
The fretless bass Wyman had created was used on many well-known Rolling Stones songs such as ‘Paint it Black’ and ‘Mother’s Little Helper’, and he played it on all their albums until 1975.
By pulling the frets off his cheap electric bass, Wyman had managed to steal a march on the main bass manufacturers. The first commercially available fretless bass was Ampeg’s AUB-1 which arrived in 1966, and Fender followed suit with their fretless Precision bass in 1970, but neither sold in huge quantities. It took a virtuoso to make the bass community consider the fretless bass as an instrument that was not just a novelty.
In 1972, Jaco Pastorius was to take a similar route to Wyman when he created a fretless bass by taking the frets off his ’62 Jazz.
Jaco’s revolutionary 1976 debut album ‘Jaco Pastorius’, and his later collaborations with Weather Report and Joni Mitchell helped cement his reputation as a virtuoso, and his innovative playing extended the possibilities of the fretless electric bass guitar as a solo voice. This expanded the popularity of fretless basses and influenced the next generation of players such as Pino Palladino, Steve Bailey, Michael Manring, Gary Willis and Steve Swallow.
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