A 1963 Bass VI leans
expectantly against a 1966
Bassman head and 2x12 cab.
In 1961—10 years after launching the
groundbreaking Precision bass—Fender
introduced a 6-string bass, the Bass VI. The
instrument was tuned like a standard guitar,
but an octave lower. The idea was to attract
both guitar players (who could immediately
transfer their chord and scale fingerings to
the new instrument) and bassists who wanted
to expand their soloing range. Cream’s
Jack Bruce and The Shadows’ Jet Harris
were among those who explored the Bass
VI’s soloing capability.
The Bass VI had the comfort-contoured
“offset” body design and floating tremolo of
the Jazzmaster, and the narrow nut size of
the Jazz bass. The constricted string spacing
made playing with a pick the easiest way
to get sound out of the Bass VI. Nashville
session players made great use of this when
doubling lines played on an upright bass.
This was known as “tic-tac” bass.
The 1963 Fender Bass VI pictured this
month is typical of Bass VIs of that year.
The pickups, which originally had metal
surrounds, were changed to match the
newly released (1962) Jaguar’s pickups. A
bridge mute was added, also much like the
Jaguar’s, and a fourth switch appeared to
allow for a darker tone.
The 1962 Fender list price for a Bass VI
with a sunburst finish was $329.50. The
current retail value for one in exceptionally
nice shape is $6,000.
Left: With its Jazzmaster-style floating tremolo,
the Bass VI allowed guitarists to explore their
favorite surf licks an octave lower than was
Middle: On a Bass VI—which is tuned like a guitar,
but down an octave—all six strings are wound.
Right: The 1963 edition of the Bass VI also borrowed
features from the Fender Jaguar, including
a bridge mute.
The amp paired with this Bass VI is
a 1966 Bassman head and cabinet. The
Bassman amp had evolved from the 1x15
combo of the early ’50s to this blackface
“piggyback” 2x12 version. While the
Bassman was intended for bassists, guitarists
also favored each incarnation of the amp.
The 1966 Fender list price for a Fender
Bassman head and bottom was $410. The
current retail value for one in excellent alloriginal
condition is $1,250.
You’ll find more information on the Bass
VI and other classics in Fender: The Golden
Age 1946-1970 by Martin Kelly, Terry Foster,
and Paul Kelly. For details about blackface
Bassmans and other Fender combos, heads,
and cabs, check out Fender Amps: The First
Fifty Years by John Teagle and John Sprung.
Original price: Sunburst Bass VI, $329.50 in
1962; Bassman head and 2x12 cab, $410 in 1966.
Current estimated market value: Bass VI in
excellent condition, $6,000; Bassman head &
2x12 cab, $1,250.
Dave ’s Guitar Shop
Dave Rogers’ collection is tended
by Laun Braithwaite and Tim Mullally
and is on display at:
Dave’s Guitar Shop
1227 Third Street South
La Crosse, WI 54601
Photos by Mullally and text