Leo Fender revolutionised the music industry in 1951 when his company released the Precision Bass. It was solid, not hollow. It had frets. It was 45” long rather than 80” high, you could play it sitting down, and you could fit it into a car or ride with it on the bus. And you plug it in and play at your own desired volume, and more than keep up with those loud horn guys. And no-one had ever heard anything like it in the recording studio.
The Fender P Bass was the first electric bass to earn widespread attention and use, remaining among the best-selling and most-imitated electric basses of all time, with considerable effect on the sound of popular music ever since.
They don’t make ‘em like this any more. That is – a hand carved neck by Tadeo Gomez, paired with a one piece maple body crafted by Eddie Miller, created at the Fender facility in Fullerton USA in 1951 and 1952.
And this one was owned by a significant identity from the very early days of Aussie rock. Tony Cahill was the drummer in the legendary Purple Hearts, a blues based psychedelic outfit that originated in Brisbane in 1963 and featured an incendiary guitarist in Barry Lyde, who later became known as Lobby Loyde.
The Purple Hearts were a tough, arrogant and pioneering outfit. And Lyde, as Lobby Loyde, is acknowledged as Australia’s first true rock guitar hero – busy blowing up speaker boxes long before high volume and feedback chaos became standard rock behaviour. Tony Cahill became the Purple Hearts’ drummer when they signed to Sydney’s Sunshine Records in 1965.
In mid 1967 after extensive auditions in London, Tony Cahill replaced Snowy Fleet as drummer in pioneering Aussie band The Easybeats after Snowy had had enough of touring. Tony remained with The Easybeats until he later joined another Aussie outfit Python Lee Jackson as their bassist in the UK.
Tony moved to USA in 1972 and joined King Harvest, recording an album titled Train Slide. We do not know whether Tony acquired the P Bass while he was in London, or when he went to USA.
However, following a detailed analysis of this fabulous instrument, what we do know is this –
Neck date is signed TG 11-19-51. Tadeo Gomez was the legendary original neck shaper from the very early days of Fender. He worked closely every day with Leo Fender, hand carving solid maple necks to Leo’s ever changing requirements.
Here’s a link to some interesting info on Tadeo Gomez – http://www.guitarhq.com/tad.html.
Original finish stripped back & refinished natural – a long time ago.
Body is dated 9/4/52 and signed by Eddie Miller. At this time it was essentially a bass counterpart to the six-string Telecaster and shared several of its design features — the main difference being its then radical double cutaway body. This one features the original slab style body before the Precision Bass received contoured edges in 1953.
Pickguard is a later replacement. It is bakelite, but is definitely not the original guard.
Bridge & saddles appear to be old, if not original. The serial number on the bridge indicates a build date of 1954.
There has been a different bridge installed at some point and the screw holes for that still show, but the original early 50s P Bass bridge is back in place.
The Bakelite bridge saddles have curved and sunken in the middle with age – see pics. A subsequent owner would likely source vintage replacement saddles for this bridge, and retire the sunken saddles.
Fender logo is very faint and faded, but appears to be original.
The tuners appear to be original, and are working well. There is overspray on the tuners, possibly done when the body was refinished in natural.
There is a later, non original replacement string guide on the front of the headstock.
There is a hole on the back of the headstock, likely for a strap button. This was not a feature of P Basses until 1960, so may have been added later.
The nut may have been replaced a long time ago.
The original pickup cover, bridge cover and finger rest are long gone and missing in action.
Frets appear to be original, and In our opinion do not need to be replaced. The bass plays well in all positions, without fret buzz or any compromise required. The decision as to whether to refret should be left to a subsequent buyer.
The original wiring has been worked on and there is evidence of later solder joints. However, everything works as it should – the volume and tone pots are smooth and adjust properly.
We believe the pots are original and date to 33rd week of 1952.
The single pickup appears to be original and unchanged.
Bottom line is this – we believe this to be a 1952 Fender P Bass. While the neck may have been made (and dated) in November 1951, everything else points to it being first made available for sale in 1952. It may well have a bridge from 1954, but it is exactly the same bridge as would have been on it in 1952.
Most importantly, it plays well and sounds great. The neck itself is a handmade work of art. We have had quite a few pro bassists through our showroom, all of whom pretty much agree that the neck on this vintage classic is one of the best they’ve ever come across.
And the tone is rich, warm & full. Like we said – they don’t make ‘em like this any more.
This has been a working bass, and could easily continue to be. It is also an almost irreplaceable example of Fender’s early history – particularly that of the iconic Precision Bass, the instrument that changed the sound of modern music in the early 1950s.
Comes with a quality gig bag in good condition.