Blog-vember #6 Four-String Love: Ode to the Fender Jazz Bass


Originally published as Blog-vember #6

For as long as I can remember I have always written songs, and wanted to play guitar and sing. I didn’t know the difference between bass guitar and a lead guitar, but I knew I wanted play.

What really made me feel like this was possible was when I saw the Jackson 5. I became a fan instantly and my favorite of the afro-coifed brothers was Jermaine Jackson. It was simple; Jermaine sang and played a guitar. –Of course, I assumed that they were writing their own songs.

Later, I discovered that Jermaine Jackson played bass guitar. The first bass I noticed he played was Fender Jazz Bass (on The Jackson 5’s “Going Back to Indiana" Special).

"Going Back to Indiana" Special Video

Thus began my infatuation with Fender Jazz Basses. –Later, I would find out that another bass idol of mine, Larry Graham, also played a Fender Jazz Bass. All this did was to solidify my love for the bass.

Larry Graham on Soul Train

Larry Graham on Soul Train

I loved everything about it, including the shape of it, the chrome pick up covers, and even the pearl block inlays on the neck. Then, once I got an opportunity to play one, I realized that I even loved the way it felt; it was perfect for me. Like our current president, Donald Trump, I have small hands, so the narrow neck on the Fender Jazz bass fit me perfectly. In reality, though, owning the bass of my dreams actually eluded me for years.

“Get out of my head and channel yourself through this bass.”

Finally, in 1993, I bought a 5 string Music Man, which ended up being a beast for me to play. Playing this wide neck behemoth was horrible (due to the aforementioned short fingers). It was so difficult to get my hands to play what was in my head on that bass. I started to feel like I just wasn’t a good bass player anymore. This poor fit was really hampering my creativity; my musical voices was muted due to this ill fit.

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Then I met a used Fender Jazz Bass on a chance encounter in a music store, decided to play it, and fell in love. (—I knew this notwithstanding the fact that the strings were dead and not the gauge I usually use. This bass was also in bad need of a set up.) I didn’t pass go and did not collect $200; no, I immediately offered a straight up trade for my 5 string Music Man. I was given a counter offer of my Music Man plus and an additional $300, which I quickly accepted.

1978 Fender Jazz Bass

I found out the reason they wouldn’t give me a straight up trade was because the bass I was trading for was a 1978 Jazz bass. I was bit skeptical because the neck did not have the pearl block inlays and body did not have any holes for the screws to attached the chrome pickup cover; these were hallmarks of the Jazz basses from the 70s. However, I didn’t raise these concerns because I knew that bass was made for me. It made me feel like a competent bass player again.

After I got that bass, the funky songs began to flow again. (I got my creative mojo back. Check out the Frankfather album and Daybreak album.) Although the bass was not my muse—my wife fills that role—it was certainly the spark and central tool in my creative process.

Fretless Fender Jazz Bass

Later, I added a 6 string Peavey Cirrus to my arsenal and a fretless Fender Jazz bass. However, I always longed for the bass that I fell in love with as a kid in the 70s; the Fender Jazz Bass with pearl block inlays and the chrome pick up covers. So, it is probably not a surprise that, in 2014, I finally got the Fender of my dreams; a 1974 re-issue Fender Jazz Bass. Although it does not feel as right for me as the Fender Jazz Bass that I got in 1993, I feel like finally owning one in some way completed me.

1974 Re-Issue Fender Jazz Bass

Now, I have since added a Fodera to my collection of basses and I am actually ready to part ways with the bass of my dreams. But I am happy to say that I owned one of these basses because it was so integral to the start of my musical journey.

Larry Graham Tribute

What tool inspires your creativity? What did you wish for and finally got that helped energy your creative mind? Spill the beans. Drop a comment in the box below.

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