The bass shown here is an early Music Man StingRay bass prototype custom built for Ball in 1976. Not only is this historically significant for being one of the first Music Man instruments ever built, but also because it now can be seen as a torch-passing moment between Leo Fender and Sterling Ball—current owner and CEO of Ernie Ball Music Man.
It has an ash body finished in a 3-tone sunburst that has aged to a deep chocolate brown around the edges. The neck is a one-piece maple with a walnut stripe down the back and bullet truss rod adjustment on the headstock. It has the original string-through-body bridge with ferrules on the back and adjustable bridge mutes. The unique feature of the bass is the pickup, which was fabricated using two StingRay bass pickup covers, cut and rejoined to form a pickup with five pole pieces in each coil. The pickup is mounted with each string placed between two pole pieces, which are the original 3/8" diameter Alnico V rod magnets. The preamp is the original Music Man 2EQ active preamp. And Dudley Gimpel, Ernie Ball Music Man’s production manager and master luthier, says the iconic bass’ cool nickname is Old Smoothie, because “its sound is very fat and smooth, with the typical punch of the StingRay, but a little more subdued and much mellower tone.”
A special thanks to Dudley Gimpel and Ernie Ball Music Man for the opportunity to feature this fine instrument and its story.