Precision Bass, ’52
Butterscotch Blonde, Serial # 0215.
Leo Fender introduced the Precision Bass in late 1951 following the success of his revolutionary electric six-string, the Telecaster. The P-Bass proved to be even more ground-breaking. The radical guitar-sized instrument was almost immediately embraced by bassists and guitarists alike. Bassists had labored for years carrying around the huge upright, only to be barely heard over the horns and drums. The new readily portable bass was easily amplified and could provide a strong bottom end compliment to the drums. Unemployed guitarists, out of work due to the post World War II trend of smaller dance bands, could find work without having to learn a completely new technique. An early 1952 ad described the reasons to buy a Precision Bass: “fretted neck, superb tone, easily played, modern design, highly portable, extremely rugged, faster changes, light weight, 1/6 size of a regular bass”.
The P-Bass pictured dates from July of 1952. It shares the characteristics common to basses made between 1951 and 1954. The most prominent of these are: a flat slab ash body like the Telecaster’s with elongated horns for better balance (the body became contoured to match the Stratocaster’s in ’54), a headstock shaped like a larger version of the Tele’s (became more Strat shaped in ’57), black “Bakelite” pickguard (white by ’56, gold anodized by ’57), and a single coil pickup (became two-coil hum-cancelling in ’57).
Early players of the original Precision were Roy Johnson and Monk Montgomery – two consecutive bassists in Lionel Hampton’s band. Over two decades later, the bass again found favor with two successive bassists for the Fabulous Thunderbirds – Keith Ferguson and Preston Hubbard.