First introduced by Fender in 1960 as the Deluxe Model, it was marketed as a stablemate to the upmarket Jazzmaster guitar. It was renamed the Jazz Bass as Fender felt that its redesigned neck – narrower and more rounded than that of the Precision Bass – would appeal more to jazz musicians.
The Jazz Bass has two single coil pickups with two pole pieces per string. As well as having a non-symmetrical and more contoured body shape (known in Fender advertising as the “Offset Waist Contour”), the Jazz Bass neck is noticeably narrower at the nut than that of the Fender Precision Bass. While the Precision Bass was originally styled similarly to the Telecaster guitar, the Jazz Bass’ styling was inspired by the Jazzmaster guitar, with which the J Bass shared its offset body and sculpted edges that differentiate it from other slab-style bass bodies.
The original intention of the instrument was to appeal to upright bass players. The original Jazz Bass had two stacked knob pots with volume and tone control for each pickup. In late 1961 it received three control knobs – two controlling the volume of each pickup and one the overall tone.
Another feature the initial models had were the “Spring Felt Mutes”, which were present on J Basses from 1960 until 1962. The purpose of those mutes was to dampen the overtones and sustain, and were screwed in place between the bridge and aft pickup. The original felt mutes that came new with this bass are present and accounted for.
However, the felt mutes were not a tremendous success, and were later replaced by a cheaper, more simple foam mute glued underneath the bridge cover as was used by the Precision Bass from 1963 onwards. Over the following years as the use of mutes gradually declined both the Precision and Jazz Bass models eventually began to be produced without bridge/tailpiece covers.
This lovely lady has a story, so here we go. The following is from a note written to John from PREMIER GUITARS by the instrument’s original and only owner –
“This Fender Jazz Bass was purchased new in 1962 from Sydney music retailer and distributor J. Stanley Johnston. The price was 210 Aussie pounds. It was only the second Jazz Bass imported into Australia at the time. The first was imported for Duncan McGuire of Doug Parkinson’s band.
The instrument was originally coloured “Fender White”, a slightly mauve tinted white. It was used professionally for over twenty years and survived a six month tour of American bases in Vietnam, and later through south east Asia.
It was refretted and refinished by a luthier in Seaford near Melbourne in 1970, as it had wear marks and had lost its original fine finish.
The original string dampers are supplied, but alas the original black plastic volume and tone knobs were mislaid, so Precision Bass knobs were fitted.”
We think that luthier was likely to be the legendary Merv Cargill of Cargill Custom Guitars. It is a fine refinish in a subtle translucent “light mahogany burst” – see pics. The finish from 1970 is still in excellent condition. The refret is certainly a professional job, and the frets remain in fine condition.
This one’s owner was in a professional touring showband for over twenty years and performed all over Australia and Asia, plus appearances on the many variety shows on Aussie TV at the time. Which is probably why the “guys in the band” may have thought that the roadworn bass needed a spruce up. How things have changed ….
Bottom line is that this is a cracker of a bass. Apart from the refinish, refret and control knobs, this lovely J Bass appears to be in completely original condition. The Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard is dark and luscious looking, and feels fantastic. The original tuners are still doing their proper job. The original bridge and saddles are present, along with its often lost metal cover. Amazingly, the ever more readily lost metal pickup cover is also in place.
Neck is dated February 1962, so it features the very desirable “slab” rosewood fingerboard which is in amazing, unmarked condition. While the potentiometer codes cannot be read by us, the original control pots appear to be in place – they are identical and certainly look to be 60+ years old. The internal wiring appears to be untouched.
Maple neck with a “C” profile,
1 1/2″ wide original nut
Brazilian rosewood fretboard
Clay Dot inlays
Original pickups (reading 8.0 k in the neck & 7.9 k in the bridge)
Original volume and tone controls (replacement knobs)
Weight is 8.9 lbs
At just under 9 lbs, this bass is a delight to play, and this fine old lady sings out everything you could want in terms of classic Fender bass tone. A true veteran, this lovely J Bass has certainly logged some miles, but is absolutely up for another go round the block, or round the world !
We’ll leave this description with some parting words from the owner’s letter to us – “I hope this instrument will give its new owner as much pleasure as it gave me over many years.”
He has included its original swingtag and a 1962 Fender promo postcard in the case, which is a later poly case in OK condition.