Building the P-Bass-Man PART TWO
Clarence Leonidas "Leo" Fender released the electric bass guitar in 1951 through the Fender Musical Instruments Corporation. It was the first of it's kind! The first stringed bass instrument with frets, which allowed it's player to play more precisely, hence the name: Precision Bass.
Without Leo Fender's invention of the P-Bass (along with the Jazz Bass and the Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars) rock 'n' roll would be a different animal. That alone is impressive, but Fender went on to MusicMan and developed the Sting Ray bass—a new sounding bass for a new musical era. For my purposes, I had bits of a Sting Ray and pieces of a P-Bass… wheels turning, ideas happening.
In 1965 Leo Fender sold The Fender Musical Instrument Corporation to CBS. He was told that he hadn't long to live. After selling the company he sought a second opinion (concerning his health) and was treated and recovered from his illness. I expect he was kicking himself at this point.
In the early 1970s the Tri-Sonix Company was developing which would later become MusicMan. By 1975 Fender was the company's president and in 1976 the Sting Ray bass was born. The Sting Ray bass looked very similar to the P-Bass with the exception of a different headstock and pickguard. However, the defining characteristic of the Sting Ray was it's high-output bridge humbucker pickup fed into active electronics. Active electronics being another first. Here was Leo Fender again at another major milestone in bass history.
Fender himself was not a bass (or guitar) player and in fact had hearing damage, making high frequencies difficult for him to hear. Sterling Ball (of Ernie Ball which now owns MusicMan) has a fun anecdote about Leo Fender: Fender in his shop holding a screw driver to his ear so he could feel the string vibrate—full story here. "Popular music was shaped because Leo Fender couldn't hear the high end," says Sterling Ball and now millions of rock fans can enjoy the same hearing loss! ha!
Like I said, I was reading about violin making and makers. This very quickly takes you to Antonio Stradivari, who went by Antonius Stradivarius since it was fashionable to Latin-ize your name at that time. I have a Stradivarius, however it's of the Selmer variety. I can't help but draw some comparisons between these two instrument makers, although Leo Fender probably has more in common with Henry Ford than Stradivari.
I picture Antoni Stradivari as William Shakespeare—suppose that's odd since Shakespeare was an Englishman (not Italian). However, I more or less picture Shakespeare like Roberto Benigni with a moustache. After reading this bit about all the cool kids Latinizing their names, then reading that "Leo" was short for Leonidas and not Leonard, I had arrived at a name for this bass, which up until this point I've called "Jim's Bass."
I think instruments made with care and consideration carry something unknown with them. As a player you either connect with that or not. I was never able to name my trumpet and I think that was because I never felt a strong connection with it. With bass guitars, I like that you can take them apart, mess with their guts, make them your own. I don't know if I have the right bass yet—the one that thumps and howls just the way I would like it to, but I'll keep trying and Leonidas is a step in that direction.
More on the build to follow…