Cream’s Jack Bruce and The Shadows’ Jet Harris were among those who explored the Bass VI’s soloing capability.

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 previously possible.
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 by Braithwaite.

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