Here’s a wonderful vintage Fender Precision Bass with some significant history. In fact it’s such a good story that we’re going to let the owner tell its tale. This lovely 1969 P Bass is owned by Aussie rock legend Ronnie Peel, who has been a staple of some legendary outfits throughout the past five decades, including The La De Das, John Paul Young’s Allstar Band, the Albert’s label house bands, and his own solo moniker Rockwell T James.
Over to you Ronnie –
“First purchased by me, Ronnie Peel, in early 1972 from the Strauss Shop, which was located in the Chequers building in Goulburn Street, Sydney. It was represented to me to have been traded in by a Kiwi band on some Strauss speakers, so it was assumed to have been originally sold new in New Zealand.
The bass was originally sunburst and had a big neck profile that was uncomfortable for me. But I played it as was for some time in my first band after my return from Europe – One Ton Gypsy, who unashamedly did Mad Dogs and Englishmen covers.
The first recording with this bass was during this time, when I was called in to do a few songs for Allison McCallum at EMI Studios, with Laurie Prior on drums and Tim Piper and Lindsay Wells on guitar. I don’t remember too much about them, other than one track, “Superman” which was quite a hit for her.
I also did some work around this time with Doug Parkinson, once again with Tim Piper on guitar, plus Johnny Dick on drums and John Capek on keyboards. The La De Das followed and shortly after that I decided to do some modifications to the 69 P bass.
Firstly I had a classical luthier named Mr Ray Mellnick reshape the neck to a slimmer profile, using a 1961 Fender Precision Bass as a template for the curvature. It turned out brilliantly – it is a super sleek neck, and I used that bass for decades.
Next, wanting to even out the tonal balance to reduce some of the subsonic bottom end on the lower two strings, we switched the position of the two pickup pieces, and added an extra pickup set above the originals in the same configuration.
This gave the lower strings more bite and reduced the bottom end boom, and conversely moving the top end pick up piece away from the bridge, increasing the bottom end tone and reducing the twang on the upper strings. This made the instrument way more balanced and even tonally.
Working with the La De Das for the next 3 and half years meant that there wasn’t a stage in Australia that this bass and I didn’t play on. From small grass roots gigs, to major clubs and pubs, the Sunbury Festival, and what is thought to be the biggest crowd ever assembled in Australia – at the Myer Music Bowl in Melbourne, playing to an estimated 250,000 people.
The La De Das played the very first gig at the Bondi Lifesaver, and I was there again on Sunday 31st August 1980, the last night of the Lifesaver, with JPY and the Allstar Band.
From the early 70s I had been doing lots of advertising sessions including a whole lot of the ‘ocka’ ads from the Mojo Agency including ‘Good Onya Mum, Tip Top’s The One”, and Meadow Lea ‘You Oughta Be Congratulated’, and many others.
We also recorded several tracks for Richard Clapton’s ‘Prussian Blue’ album, followed by all of the La De Das’ ‘Rock n Roll Sandwich’ LP, plus many singles sessions for for various artists.
After I moved from the La De Das to the Allstar Band , the advertising sessions still kept flowing. But at the time, JPY’s tracks were created in the studio by the writers with overdubs, and not around a band performance until the Green Album which was all done as a live band recording.
The Allstar Band also demoed the first ‘Flash And The Pan’ album by ex Easybeats Harry Vanda & George Young. Some tracks were re-recorded (for key changes) and I can’t be certain what tracks were the original representations we did.
However, the third and final Flash And The Pan album was a lockout recording with George, Harry, Pig (Warren Morgan), myself and a nephew of George’s, James on drums.
From early 1976, I swapped over to rhythm guitar in the Allstar Band and some time after that I left the bass ‘on loan’ to George and Harry and the Alberts studio. I can’t be sure what it was played on recording wise – I just know they had it there at Alberts in King Street as the house bass from ‘76 to 80.
I retrieved the bass from Alberts around mid 1980 when I went back to playing bass in the Allstar Band.”
Ronnie Peel – January 2020….
According to Sydney rock folklore of the time, there’s every likelihood this bass was used on some early AC/DC recordings, along with the multitude of tracks produced by Vanda & Young for various other artists as they oversaw a huge amount of output from Alberts in this period.
So yes, it has had a natural refinish which was common in the 70s, and it has an extra set of P Bass pickups installed in a unique configuration. But this bass was built, and rebuilt, to be played. And played it surely was, by one of the best, over a long period of time, and on some significant recordings.
The pickups are housed in a thick leather pickguard which is the correct shape, and uses the original screw hole locations. So if it mattered, a subsequent owner could install a regular P Bass pickguard, or have one made to accommodate the extras.
The bass has been professionally refretted some time ago, but the newer frets are showing very little wear. A newer nut is also present.
The pots appear to be original and date to November 1966. An extra ground wire has been connected to the tone pot but the rest appears undisturbed.
Serial # is 228xxx = 1968, but neck date is August 1969.
But the original tuners and bridge are in place and working as they should.
Most importantly, this P Bass earned its place on hundreds of stages and recordings because of the way it plays, and the way it sounds. This is simply a great sounding Fender bass that plays comfortably in all registers with tons of tone & sustain and no dead spots. It’s an absolute winner in every way as a player grade vintage P Bass.
Comes in its poly flight case with enough baggage tags and stickers to corroborate the life of a well travelled pro instrument.