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An upright bass returns


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In 2002 I bought a new (made in 2001) Engelhardt EC-1 bass from Music123 or one of those companies. Not big money, $860 shipped I think. A Chinese one wouldn't have been that much cheaper and I liked the idea of a US made bass that was sort of the legacy of Kay. I noodled around with it some. I paid huge money 2 or 3 times trying out new strings, based on others recommendations. I'll never do THAT again. I liked the bass fine; didn't care much for the red and yellow sunburst but otherwise it was fine, solid as a rock, well built, etc.


The next year I found a 1940 Kay M-1, a very early one with an ebony board. Sweet old bass but the neck was popping loose. They wanted $1500 and after about a year of hemming and hawing on both parts, I gave them $1000. I refitted the neck and also refinished the neck, as someone had stripped it and varnished it. I was extremely proud of that finish, as I worked hard to replicate the sunburst pattern and coloring.


In 2004 I sold the 2001 Engelhardt through the local music store to a school band department for $600 or $700, I don't recall. I never did use the 1940 Kay much over the next 9 years. It was like....this is a holy grail bass, I don't dare use it for fear I'll bang it up. It sat in the corner. In the Great Corvette Search and Fund Raising Event of 2013 I sold the Kay to a friend for $2000. That was the 'friend' price, as you will note if you price old Kays. I thought, okay, my upright bass days are done. Whatever.


At the end of the school year, the 2001 Engelhardt ended up back at the local music store. Not really sure what the deal was, whether they intended to trade it in or it was deemed surplus or what. In any case, I walked through a back room on my way to the toilet and here was my old bass laying on it's side, a little worse for wear (9 years in a high school), the bridge crooked, a couple strings dinged and fraying, etc. I told the owner if it became available to me 'for a price' I wanted it back. I think we've agreed on $500 cash.


My first thought was to go nuts with a paint job, white with red and yellow flames. Maybe some crazy 50s George Barris hot rod paint job... you get the idea. I'd like to tart it up rockabilly style but I don't want to pay someone $1000 for a paint job. I'm thinking if I can hook up with someone well versed in 50s pinstriping I may tell them to go nuts on it. Anything that will draw the eyes away from the clown sunburst. It looks pretty mellow in this pic. It's definitely more red/yellow in person. This way I can rockabilly it and keep what patina it has gained, and the bumps and bruises too, so I can USE it without thinking I'm setting fire to my 401K.




Maybe an oversized period correct cheesecake water slide decal on it somewhere, a pair of dice...yeah man.


And the Obligato strings must go. I'm getting a set of weed wacker strings so I can finally learn to SLAP.

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Thats pretty cool upright,,not sure I could play anything fretless,,I tried a fretless bass in GC a while back,,totally different technique required,,almost have to play more by ear,,than looking at frets on a fretboard,,as far as the paint,,do a translucent green SG job on it,,and some seafoam green flames. Nice bass though,,and that 57' Chevy aint too bad either!

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  • 1 month later...

Haven't really covered much ground but I'm picking away at it (no pun).


I know this isn't a rockabilly bass forum but maybe if there are any wannabes out there, they might glean something. I bought a set of 'premium' weedwackers, the D and G having Kevlar cores and the E and A having steel cores. The Kevlar gave a big happy satisfying thud, not a lot of definition and not transparent at all. The steel core ones were awful. Not even strings as far as I'm concerned.


Learning to slap is harder than it looks. I youtube all the time and they make it look simple. Running and dribbling a basketball is supposed to be simple too, but imagine the first time you tried it!


I ordered a set of LaBella Supernil strings and they came in today. I'll put them on tonight and try them. They're supposed to be old school nylon from the early 60s, the first nylon set offered. Mixed reviews on the tone but anything negative mainly comes from jazz players who want growly steel strings.


I'd like a big honkin' Bettie Page waterslide on the back of the bass, Bettie with devil horns, dice, an 8 ball, flames....yeah baby.


The rockabilly era never really 'was', or at least not the way we revisionist historians want to remember it. Don't care, I'm in.

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