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Vintage 1979 Ovation Magnum II Bass Guitar

Let’s Give Up A Hand for Lumpy Gravy (Vintage 1979 Ovation Magnum II Bass Guitar)

No matter what you think of Ovation guitars, you have to hand it to them for trying, and I mean trying hard. Their application of helicopter technology to acoustic guitars is the stuff of legends. I’m always blown away by how good the synthetic materials sound when you just don’t expect them to compare to traditional timbers. I confess Ovation’s choice of aesthetics has often been baffling, but some of that is attributable to the times in which they emerged. All of the above certainly applies to Ovation’s Quixotic attempts to break open the solidbody guitar and bass market.

Vintage 1979 Ovation Magnum II Bass Guitar

Vintage 1979 Ovation Magnum II Bass Guitar

So naturally I’ve always been attracted to Ovation’s solids. I mean, what’s not to like about a battle-axe-shaped guitar like the Breadwinner and Deacon?! Or those nifty Ultra Kaman UK IIs with an aluminum frame and urethane foam body (finished up in really ugly sunbursts)! As you’d expect, the workmanship was always first rate on those guitars. Unfortunately, I was one of the very few who ever liked Ovation solidbodies, because they were notoriously bad sellers. I guess Mr. Robinson liked them too because he’s got a couple of Ovation inspirations in his line offered here, the Eastwood GP and Breadwinner models.

In any case, when I found this Ovation Magnum II Bass with a built-in on-board 3-band graphic EQ, I had to have it! That it was/is exceptionally, well, homely with its lumpy potato shape certainly added to the mystique!

Actually, there’s so much going on with this bass it’s mind boggling. Not only does the neck have a regular truss rod, it’s also got three carbon graphite strips for additional stability/reinforcement. One down the middle of the back and two more under the fingerboard. It’s got that big honking neck pickup which would be cool enough, but it has 4 individually adjustable volume trim pots built in under the cover. You need a little screw driver to adjust them to your liking, picking your sweet spots. Of course the brass saddles on the cast bridge/tailpiece assembly are micro-adjustable so you can noodle your intonation to your heart’s delight, and you can even adjust the tension of the whole tailpiece using an allen wrench. This bass has only mono output, which is a shame! A similar Magnum I was also offered that gave you stereo output, but didn’t have the EQ. So many bells and whistles!

 

Vintage 1979 Ovation Magnum II Bass Guitar

Vintage 1979 Ovation Magnum II Bass Guitar

Maybe too many bells and whistles, truth to tell. I’m always infatuated with being able to adjust the heck out of technology, but maybe Eddie got it right when all he needed was a volume knob. I mean do you really want to be fooling around with trim pots in between songs? You might get electrocuted messing with a screw driver on stage. And is that tail tension just right? Sometimes you can overthink things and that may have been what happened with Ovation’s Magnums.

As I’ve said before, I’m not really a bass player, even though I indulged in playing one briefly back in the day. Still, you just don’t pass up an opportunity to adjust volume pots for each string AND get to play around with a graphic EQ. The Magnum I (1261) and Magnum II (1262) were introduced in 1977 and lasted until around 1982. This one has a serial number B 01259 which dates it to 1979, right in the middle of the production run. I have no idea if these Magnum basses—indeed the entire Ovation solidbody oeuvre—were ever very plentiful, but I suspect there weren’t that many made, and even fewer sold.

Vintage 1979 Ovation Magnum II Bass Guitar

Vintage 1979 Ovation Magnum II Bass Guitar

Ovation had actually begun making electric guitars—as distinct from its acoustic-electric guitars—way back in 1968 with its Electric Storm series of thinline semi-hollowbodies, the Thunderhead and the Tornado. They tried valiantly to plant the flag for close to 15 years, to no avail. They finally pulled that plug in 1983 and just said no to making their own solidbody electric guitars and basses. Ovation did pick up a few endorsers over the years. Jim Messina and the Strawbs briefly endorsed them. Johnny Graham of Earth, Wind & Fire was seen playing a white Breadwinner on the 1976 album Gratitude. And Eddie Hazel offers a glimpse of a Deacon or Breadwinner on the back of his album Games, Dames & Guitar Thangs. Slim pickins. As in “not so great,” not as in the country western singing star.

In 1985 Ovation imported some Korean necks and bodies and finished them up in the U.S. plant. These were the Hard Bodies series that featured the aforementioned GP model. In 1987 they imported a line of Celebrity solids completely finished in Korea. In 1988 Ovation just gave up and bought Hamer guitars and finally had a successful solidbody guitar and bass line on its hands.

Still, I love all the techy stuff with this Magnum II bass, even if it’s not always all that useful. Hmm, where’d I put that screw driver?…

Vintage Domino Beatle Bass Guitar

Back Catalog Memories: 1960’s Domino Beatle Bass Guitar

In keeping with the Domino theme this month, let’s take a look at the Domino Beatle Bass. Imported to New York by Maurice Lipsky Music Co., these Japanese guitars were part of a series of models branded “Domino” throughout the 1960’s.

Vintage Domino Beatle Bass Guitar

Vintage Domino Beatle Bass Guitar

This model was an obvious take on the Hofner Beatle Bass from the same era. The Hofner brand were German made guitars and basses and had been making top quality instruments for many years without much popularity in North America. However, once Paul McCartney surfaced with his lefty Hofner bass, everybody on the planet wanted one. Hence, once again Lipsky was quick to jump on the opportunity with the Domino brand.

The California was available in 2 pickup configuration, 3-way switch, volume and tone. Main color was Sunburst, but I’ve seen them in White, Redburst and Greenburst. They all sported a wooden floating bridge and single f-hole.

Vintage El Degas Ricky Bass Guitar

Back Catalog Memories – El Degas Ricky Bass

Growing up outside Toronto in the early 1970’s, El Degas was a very popular brand in most guitar shops. Made in Japan, the quality was great, the price was right, but that is about all we know about them. The internet is surprisingly thin on threads to the origins of El Degas. I’ll take some educated guesses from owning a few. I’d guess they were made at the same factory that was putting our UNIVOX guitars from Japan at the same time. I’d guess there was an importer in USA somewhere that sold to a smaller distributor in Canada. Most El Degas models were tight replicas of Les Paul’s and Strats, and all the ones I have owned over the years were exceptionally good quality. I’ve even seen a Les Paul Recording model with the El Degas brand! So it was not a one trick, one year pony.

Vintage El Degas Ricky Bass Guitar

Vintage El Degas Ricky Bass Guitar

This Rickenbacker Bass replica is very good, and likely sold for 1/4 the price of the original at the time. I took this in on trade some time back, and remembered my younger brother in the mid 1970’s playing one of these in his band “Drama”. How dramatic. Good player – at the time he could peel off Chris Squire riffs blindfolded – later Barry Adamson riffs from each Magazine LP, but then switched to guitar to form Surf Cinema. Last year he was up here in Toronto from California for a visit. I showed him this El Degas bass. As you might guess, it went home with him where it belonged.

But as for the history of the brand, who knows? When it comes to El Degas, we’re all pretty much guessing. Would the real original importer please stand up? Or maybe his nephew? Somebody out there must know something about this brand…

Vintage 1980's Aria Pro ZZ Bass Deluxe

Back Catalog Memories: Vintage 1980’s Aria Pro II ZZ Bass Deluxe

Aria was formed in Japan in 1953 by Shiro Arai as Arai and Company. They began retailing acoustic guitars in 1960, although the company didn’t actually start manufacturing their own until 1964. Aria arranged for Matsumoku, the musical instrument maker, to build the guitars for them under contract. Arai and Matsumoku started building acoustic guitars in 1964, and then electric guitars in 1966, using Arai, Aria, Aria Diamond, Diamond, and much less frequently, Arita brand names. The Aria brandname was changed to Aria Pro II in late 1975, though this has been used mostly (but not exclusively) for electric guitars and basses. All guitars were made in Japan until 1988, when production of less expensive models was switched to Korea.

Vintage 1980's Aria Pro II ZZ Bass Deluxe

Vintage 1980’s Aria Pro II ZZ Bass Deluxe

Aria Pro II did some copies of famous American guitars like the Fender Stratocaster and the Gibson Les Paul though it also did its own style of guitars. In the 70s and early 80s the company came into its own in the United States with a series of high end professional instruments. The company had professional endorsements from Herb Ellis, Yngwie Malmsteen, Neal Schon, John Taylor, and many more. Cliff Burton of Metallica used an Aria SB Black N Gold I as well as an SB-1000 bass but was never an official endorser.

Here is the Aria Pro II ZZ Deluxe Bass. These were manufactured between 1982-1987.

Vintage 1960's Espana Bass Guitar (Sunburst)

Back Catalog Memories: 1960’s Espana Bass Guitar

Here is a rare bass from Italy. There is little information about the Espana brand, but it was most certainly created under the Crucianelli brand in the 1960’s Italy, likely the late 60’s. This bass was obviously targeted at the Fender crowd – check out the headstock – and the body too is quite reminiscent of the classic Fender style. The switch on the upper horn was the pickup selector switch, added to this was a switch on the lower horn which switched the pickups in and out of phase. Each pickup had its own volume and tone controls.

Vintage 1960's Espana Bass Guitar (Sunburst)

Vintage 1960’s Espana Bass Guitar (Sunburst)

These Crucianelli guitars are surprisingly well made with a wonderful, slim neck. Unfortunately, many of these instruments from the 60’s were 30.5″ short scale basses, so never did measure up to the sonic boom of the full scale Fenders.

1970's UNIVOX Coily Bass Guitar (Sunburst)

Back Catalog Memories: 1970’s UNIVOX Coily Bass Guitar

1970's UNIVOX Coily Bass Guitar (Sunburst)

1970’s UNIVOX Coily Bass Guitar (Sunburst)

UNIVOX guitars were imported to North America from Japan in the late 1960’s to the late 1970’s. They had many different models – most popular of which is the Hi-Flyer – but also included an array of Les Paul copies, Hagstrom, Fender and others. UNIVOX guitars were built by the Matsumoko guitar factory in Japan, who also built guitars for Aria, Westbury, Westone, and several other brands at the time. This model, the Coily Bass is based on the Epiphone Casino. They also made a 5 string version with a Bigsby style tremolo. Here are two samples, sunburst and redburst. These models featured dual pickups with a 3-way switch, two volume and two tone controls. Bolt-on maple neck with hollowbody flamed maple top and a floating bridge and string mute bar. At $125 in the early 1970’s, pretty good value and construction for the money!

Paul McCartney with his Epiphone Texan FT-79 Acoustic Guitar

Paul McCartney’s Guitars in the Beatles

Many Beatles fans are not aware that Paul McCartney played more than just his Hofner Bass, especially since that was his main instrument seen in their live performances and music videos. Paul in fact used other basses as well as guitars. This article will show you several instruments Paul used with the Beatles that you may not have known about.

RELATED: George Harrison’s Guitars in the Beatles

Basses

1964 Rickenbacker 4001S-LH

Paul McCartney with his 1964 Rickenbacker 4001S-LH Bass

Paul McCartney with his 1964 Rickenbacker 4001S-LH Bass

In 1965, Paul got his hands on a Rickenbacker bass which was first used on the song “Think for yourself”. He also used it extensively on the Revolver and Sgt. Pepper albums notably on tracks such as “Penny Lane” and “Strawberry Fields”. McCartney sometime in 1967, painted the Hofner with day glow paints to give it a psychedelic look. George Harrison and John Lennon did the same for the occasion. The newly painted Rickenbacker can be seen in the live satellite performance of “All you need is Love” in June of 1967.

1966 Fender Jazz Bass

Paul McCartney with his 1966 Fender Jazz Bass

Paul McCartney with his 1966 Fender Jazz Bass

Paul used a Fender Jazz Bass in 1968 during the Abbey Road/White Album sessions. It can be heard on songs such as “Sun King”, “While my Guitar Gently Weeps”, and “Yer Blues”. This was the last known bass (aside from the Hofner) that McCartney used with the Beatles.

Guitars

Epiphone Texan FT-79 Acoustic

Paul McCartney with his Epiphone Texan FT-79 Acoustic Guitar

Paul McCartney with his Epiphone Texan FT-79 Acoustic Guitar

The Epiphone acoustic guitar was used by Paul on the album Help, specifically for the song “Yesterday”. It can be seen in his live performances of “Yesterday” as well. McCartney, known for being a hoarder of instruments, still has this guitar today.

1962 Epiphone Casino ES-230TD

 

Paul McCartney with his 1962 Epiphone Casino ES-230TD Guitar

Paul McCartney with his 1962 Epiphone Casino ES-230TD Guitar

Paul got this righty Casino which he modded in order to be able to string it as a left-handed guitar. Known as one of Paul’s favorite guitars ever, he used it on famous songs such as “Taxman”, “Paperback Writer”, and “Drive my Car”. This guitar can be seen today as Paul still performs with it.

1964 Fender Esquire

Paul McCartney with his 1964 Fender Esquire Guitar

Paul McCartney with his 1964 Fender Esquire Guitar

This sunburst Fender was played by McCartney in 1966 for the Revolver album. You can hear it on songs such as “Good Morning, Good Morning” and “Helter Skelter”. Very little is known about how Paul got the Esquire, or where it is now.

1967 C.F. Martin D-28 Acoustic

Paul McCartney with his 1967 CF Martin D-28 Acoustic Guitar

Paul McCartney with his 1967 CF Martin D-28 Acoustic Guitar

Another acoustic guitar Paul had was a nice, warm-sounding Martin which he acquired in 1968. It was used in the White Album Sessions and can be heard on the songs “Two of Us” and “Blackbird”.

Well, there you have it. The other guitars and basses Paul used with the Beatles. Hope this gives you more insight into some of the magic of the Beatles!

Posted by Raj from Guitar Tone

1960's Ampeg AUB Bass Guitar

Back Catalog Memories: Ampeg AUB Bass

1960's Ampeg AUB Bass Guitar

1960’s Ampeg AUB Bass Guitar

Although better known for their monster SVT amps from the late 1960’s, Ampeg made a family of electric basses that were quite unusual and advanced for the time from 1966 through 1969. There were four basic models, each of which was available in fretted and fretless versions.

The model designations are:

  • AEB-1
  • AUB-1
  • ASB-1
  • AUSB-1
  • AMB-1
  • AMUB-1
  • SSB
  • SSUB

The letters seem to follow the following pattern – “AEB” means Ampeg Electric Bass. The “U” means Unfretted, the “M” probably means Magnetic pickup, and the SSB is the Short Scale Bass. In the late 2000’s, Canada’s Eastwood Guitars began to reissue two of these models, naming them EEB-1 (Eastwood Electric Bass) and EUB-1 (Eastwood Unfretted Bass). However, the re-issue simplified the headstock somewhat.

Here is a nice example of the original AUB-1. This one has had been modified with a modern bridge.

 

1960’s Supro Airline Pocket Bass Guitar

What’s the best bass for guitar players? What’s arguably the coolest bass ever made? What’s got bottom that’s so huge, warm, and round that Mr. “I like Big Butts” Sir Mix a Lot would pen a moving ode to it? If you guessed the Valco-made Supro and/or Airline Pocket bass, you guessed right.

1960's Supro Airline Pocket Bass Guitar

1960's Supro Airline Pocket Bass Guitar

What makes it so special? Let’s start with the delightful design, typical of early to mid 60’s Valco. The Supros came in black, with transparent thumb and finger rests on either side of the body and the white (and sometimes, rarely, black) headstock. The Airline came in the Ice-Tea sunburst and white pickguard wings. Some of the Airline models came with a bound neck; some did not. For my hand, I dig the unbound, thinner neck, but that’s all to taste, I suppose. Either model is a ridiculously easy bass to play. Both models sport Brazilian rosewood fingerboards.

Is one better than the other? I think the AIRLINE model is better looking, but beware: The SUPRO model has a MUCH better down angle from the nut to tuning pegs. The Airline’s angle is too shallow, allowing the strings to pop out of the nut unless you add some after market string trees on at least the A and the D strings.

Other interesting features? Small (for a bass, at any rate) Kluson tuners. A monster of a fat Valco pickup in the neck position and a piezo pickup in the bridge. The knobs are for pickup blend and volume.

What’s the story behind these? They are pretty much a guitar-sized bass, which is really just too cool. Actually, the bodies ARE guitar bodies (or, at any rate, were USED for Valco-made guitars that are the cousin of these basses). The only things different are the necks and the bridges. So, it was probably an economical way for Valco to use the bodies as a duel-purpose body to get more bang for fewer production bucks (though they probably weren’t very successful, as the productions ran for fewer than 4 years).

But back to the bass at hand (if you’re lucky enough to have one at hand). None other than vintage gear collector and ex-Bob Dylan sideman and Saturday Night Live bandleader GE Smith called these the best recording basses around. I’d agree and go one further – they are the coolest bass for jam sessions and live gigs if you’re a guitar player who plays bass on the side or a bassist with small hands.

The neck pickup is a typical Valco monster. VERY full and fat and round (put some nylon strings on this and play along to “Rubber Soul” all day long) with tremendous depth and warmth. The piezo pickup (and the blend knob) result in a much lower volume, but have an incredibly woody tone that resembles a standup jazz bass. Maybe not enough volume for the stage at this setting, but a fabulous recording setting.

The 25 7/8″ neck practically begs you to play chords and/or two note combos. The bass has a ring and chime to it that jumps out of a good cab’s speakers.

How much should you pay? As I write this (always a danger to list a price for vintage instruments…a month later, this could be woefully out of date the way prices seem to go), a MINT example seems to be going in the $800 range (that’s with the original hard shell case). A beater that you could take to your garage or a bar stage? Around five hundred bucks. Which, really, when you think about it, is better than money in the bank. You have an incredibly cool bass that will have people coming up before and after the set asking “what the hell are you playing?” Which, of course, is part of the fun with oddball gear.

We have two of these in the house, and both get used with the bands. One is set up like a normal bass – one set up as a baritone electric ukulele (hey, why not?). These are fabulous made in the USA vintage basses that are still pretty affordable on the vintage market (the Reso-Glass super short scale Map Shape Bass is ALSO incredibly cool, but they’re going for well over a grand now). Get one while you can. And, hey Mike, how about a re-issue?

Editors note: We’ve considered doing a re-issue of this little beast for some time. But, the ultra short scale has some inherent design flaws; the worst of which is the extreme difficulty in keeping these in tune. The heavy strings combined with the short scale make intonation and pitch very difficult to nail down. If someone invented tuners with a much higher (or lower?) gear ratio, they would be easier to tune. Also, the short scale length does not give a full resonance as a Bass. But hey, it is a great BASS for guitar players indeed…

In the meantime, we decided to offer something that is the best of both worlds, and hence the AIRLINE Bass and the new AIRLINE MAP Bass. Both are 30″ scale (shorter than traditional 34″ scale BASS), and therefore offering 1) complete comfort for a guitar player, 2) long enough scale for accurate tuning and setup and 3) resonant enough for professional Bass players.

But, might still be cool to do the real McCoy in the coming years…

– Mike Robinson

Rob’s Crazy eBay Finds: 1960’s Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

The Short-Scale Bass is a versatile and wonderful instrument. It packs enough punch to be used as a part of a bassist’s gigging set-up. Its shorter scale (anywhere from the super duper short 25 7/8″ of the Valco/National/Supro/Airline pocket basses, to the 30″ of the classic Fender Mustangs and Musicmasters) makes it comfortable to play for beginners, small-handed adults and guitar players more familiar with guitar scale. Plus, a lot of very cool ones have been made over the years.

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

Enter exhibit A: A late 60’s KENT short scale variation on the very popular (then and now) “Beatle” violin shaped bass. As you can see from the photos, this isn’t your average violin bass. While many, from the classic Hofner that Paul McCartney turned a few kids on to, to the Teisco and Black Jack Japanese models, didn’t stray far from the violin shape, this Kent takes a few attractive and stylish liberties with the standard template.

While clearly inspired by the violin basses, notice the cool horn flares and the distinct cut aways. Also of note on this model is a stunning triple (TRIPLE!) bound side and a highly figured and eye-catching sunburst on the back (!?) side.

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

This, like many (most?) Kents has a history that’s a little difficult to trace. This one is from 1967 or 1968 and was probably made at the Kawai factory. Some sources also credit the earlier slab bodied models to Guyatone and/or Teisco. A tangled web they weaved, these Kents.

Also of note about Kents is that both the amps and guitars vary wildly from model to model – perhaps more so than any other brand from the era. They made some truly crappy guitars (the slab body models mentioned above among them. Most I’ve seen, actually, are low-grade crude one pickup models with very little to recommend them as players or collectables). Yet, they made beauties like this and many other higher-end semi-hollowbodies. And while most of the Kent amps I’ve ever seen are the basic three and four tube crapboxes without Power Transformers (i.e., ones you don’t want to play barefoot on a cement floor with a moisture problem), there are a couple of models that are very sweet. These include a 2 EL84 output model with tremolo and a single 12″ speaker in a primitive basket-weave faux-tweed (or, paper, if you want to be exact-ha), and a REALLY cool piggyback model (with single 12″ cab). They may not be collectable, but their cool factor is very high and no one wants them, so they can be had on the cheap (which, for the frugal tone gourmet, only increases the cool factor).

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

Back to the bass at hand, though. This model has a zero fret and plays really well up the neck. With a good setup, these are truly sweet playing basses. If you were going to use it as your main bass, you’d probably want to get some higher-grade machine heads and also probably replace the pickups (which are pretty aenemic and flat sounding). However, the pickup covers are so radically cool, you’d probably want to find something that fit so you could put this beauty back to stock. No permanent mods on something this nice looking. For just looking and the odd recording bass and quieter(er) jams, leave it as-is.

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

One thing to look out for (especially if buying via on line auction and/or through the mail): I’ve seen a few of these over the years and nearly half had a warped neck. The truss rods are not the most reliable, so ask questions and don’t pay too much if you have any hunch there might be something hinky about it.

Other nifty features: Dig the 60’s Japanese top-hat Tone and Volume knobs (with the stylish “T” and “V”), the funky script on the headstock and chunky block mother of toilet seat inlays on the neck.

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

1960's Kent Short Scale Bass Guitar

What does one of these cost? These are pretty rare and, as a result, they don”t show up on eBay or in music stores a whole lot. As a result, there seems to be more variation on the price- I’ve seen them go as low as $150 (not including shipping…which of course we never do include when discussing what we paid for a neat vintage guitar, right?) and as high as $450. There is a corresponding guitar model, so be the hep cat on your block and, like they used to say about Hot Wheels, “collect ’em all.” Happy hunting, yee vintage freaks.