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Retro: Talk About Your Early Rigs #3023713 01/15/20 01:27 PM
Joined: Dec 2002
Posts: 1,877
Flemtone Offline OP
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I was approached by one of the guitarists in the 'tones and he wanted to know if I had an old Fender Bassman head that he could use as a guitar amp. We're all getting older and he was looking for a lighter alternative to his Super Twin - he was going to get a pair of 12" speakers and had heard a lot about the old Bassman heads being a great guitar amp. In going thru my old gear, I thought about all the gear I've used thru the decades.

When I started playing in '73, I borrowed my brother's Dual Showman head and Showman 1x15 cabinet. I didn't have enough money for an amp but saved up my paychecks from my after-school job to buy a new Rickenbacker 4001 ($425.00). I didn't have enough money for a case, so I spent the first year carting it around in its original cardboard box. Finally got a case (2nd hand - thank you, 48th St and Manny's!) and I was off to the races. Of course, I didn't know you needed to actually measure the bass to fit the case so the Ric rattled around in a case with a cut-out a good three inches too big. Our band was called 'Dark Star' - we played standard 60's-70's covers with a couple of surprises thrown in (a cover of Todd Rundgren's 'Utopia' went over big with the air-guitarists in the crowd), playing school dances, parties and the occasional 'Battle of the Bands' (which we invariably lost).

Dark Star had broken up - college had taken one of the players away and we didn't want to continue the name without him. The rest of us jammed together and joined up with an acoustic 3-piece that was looking to electrify and expand their harmony base, doing originals and Eagles/Fleetwood Mac-based vocal 'soft' stuff. We were with them for a couple of years until the original 3-piece core imploded, then we remnants of 'Dark Star' moved on individually and played in various short-lived bands. I was still using the Fender rig until my brother moved to California, taking the speaker but leaving the Showman head.

One of the guitarists/singers in the acoustic-based trip had become a very good friend, so he and I started playing duo at various restaurants for virtually no money. I bought a Fender Sidekick amp (small 70W combo with a single 12) for hauling around. It fit and was a nice clean bass amp for the money.

In 1979, the three Dark Star alumni (myself, the drummer and guitarist), my Duo partner and the guitarist's wife (also a singer) started a southern-rock band called 'Sidewinder', adding in a young guitarist who used to come and watch us rehearse as a mid-teen and had grown to become a stellar player. I needed a speaker to go along with the Dual Showman head so I bought a Sunn 2x15 Reflex cabinet that was a big as a Subaru. I screwed heavy-duty casters on one side of it and we used it as a cart to move the amps and PA system for load-in and load-out. It had a HUGE sound and paired really well with the Ric and the Showman head.

Sidewinder did pretty well until my Duo partner (Bobby) started having problems remembering words and chord changes. We slowed down our schedule a lot until we got a call one night that he had woken up to a massive seizure and was in the hospital. The diagnosis wasn't good - an inoperable brain tumor. We tried to continue without him as he was undergoing chemo, but we couldn't bring the same spark - it just wasn't right. The band went on hiatus. Bobby's condition worsened.

1985, the remnants of Sidewinder start talking about reforming with a keyboard player, changing directions a bit. We jammed together, cobbled a couple of sets of tunes and fiddled with possible band names. Since none of us ever expected to make The Big Time playing music, we kept our sense of humor and called ourselves 'Big Fun, featuring the Fabulous Flemtones'. We set up our first gig for February 1986.

Got a call a few days before our first gig - Bobby had passed. The funeral was the afternoon of our first gig as Big Fun.

The name was shortened to just 'The Fabulous Flemtones' a few months in. My insane bandmates and family bought me a new bass for my 30th birthday in 1987 - an Ibanez Roadstar fretless. Sweet bass - put away the Ric and the Roadstar became the #1. In 1988, I bought a Trace Elliot AH250 amp & a 4x18 TE cab, putting away the Fender rig. The Ibanez thru the Trace was a stellar sound.

Tradition continued - the band and the family bought me a Dan Electro Longhorn short-scale bass for my 40th birthday. It has a nice, poppy sound and is light enough not to cause backpain after a 4-hour show. I ran that thru the Trace rig for a number of years as well.

Jump to 2005, I was at a show and the bassist was playing a G&L L2000. I talked to him about it after the show and he was gracious enough to let me try his out. Within a month, I had the exact same model. I paired it with a MarkBass LMII and a 1x15 MB cab and that's what I'm currently playing. Still with the Flemtones (34-year anniversary coming up in February - same bar, same regular gig), still with the same guys I played with in high school.


Basses: Ric 4001 to Ibanez Roadstar fretless to DanElectro Longhorn to G&L L2000
Rigs: Fender Dual Showman/Showman 1x15 cab to Fender Sidekick 70w (combo) to Dual Showman/Sunn 2x15 Reflex cab to Trace Elliot AH250/Trace 4x10 cab to Markbass LMII/MB 1x15 cab

Share your stories! How have your instruments & rigs evolved with your playing progress?

Play. Just play.
BP Island
Re: Retro: Talk About Your Early Rigs [Re: Flemtone] #3023749 01/15/20 04:34 PM
Joined: Nov 2005
Posts: 5,022
jcadmus Offline
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My first "good" rig was a Gibson EB0 and a pre-CBS Fender Bassman amp with the 12-inch speakers from the original cab loaded into a Bandmaster cab. I also had a Univox 2x12 extension cab.

My first band was a quartet called Atlantis doing all the usual late 60s through mid 70s stuff -- Deep Purple, Peter Frampton, Bad Company, The Eagles, etc.

Current rig is Eden WT550 and TN 501 amps with D210XLT, D210XST, D410XLT and TN410 cabs. Basses are the '76 Fender Jazz Bass I've had since high school graduation, a Pedulla Rapture J2-5 and a Music Man Stingray.

I've been in three bands in the past year -- a garage rock band doing everything from the Moody Blues to Beastie Boys called Dan's Garage, a hard-rockish outfit doing everything from Cheap Trick to Foo Fighters called Pneumatic Jones, and a country-rock band that does a rock set playing everything from America to ZZ Top called The Dirt Road Pickers. And I play a lot at my church.

Last edited by jcadmus; 01/15/20 04:38 PM.

"Tours widely in the southwestern tip of Kentucky"
Re: Retro: Talk About Your Early Rigs [Re: Flemtone] #3023756 01/15/20 04:49 PM
Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 5,695
Danzilla Offline
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Joined: Jan 2004
Posts: 5,695
So, does your guy want to buy my Fender Bassman?

I had been playing guitar for 3 years when I realized the rally cool parts of The Who were actually John Entwistle's bass parts. A year later I bought my first bass & amp - a Kramer Striker (P/J, maple neck, candy apple red) and a Fender Bassman Ten combo (50 watts; 4 10" speakers). Sure it was bigger than my parents would have liked; but it had casters. The bass lasted a couple of years; I still have the amp. Seriously - if your guy wants to buy it, and take the head out of the combo, let me know.

A couple of years on, I saved up for a better bass - a Yamaha BB1100S. (Just missed out on a Gibson EB3 I had been lusting over.) It was a beauty (violin sunburst?), and my first bass with active electronics. I ended up putting a Hipshot D-Tuner on it. Played it through a few bands, and at church, for years. Eventually I got sick of the active pre-amp. Had I known how easy it was to swap them out, I might have kept it longer.

I then bought a fretless Fender Jazz Frankenstein. Fretless neck was not original; Schaller roller bridge; EMG pickups; blackburst finish that obviously was not original. But all work was done by a local luthier with a good reputation. Still have this guy.

A couple years on, I ended up playing more guitar than bass (band-wise), and traded in the Kramer and Yamaha on a good (at the time) Washburn acoustic-electric. Yeah, I got ripped off. Don't miss the Kramer; every now and again I would like to have the Yamaha.

So for the next 7 or 8 years, the fretless Jazz and the Fender Bassman were my bass rig. Then I got into a couple of acts playing bass again, and knew I needed to at least update the amp. I got a Genz Benz head and 2x10 cabinet. I wish I had a little more in my budget and could have gotten a higher wattage head; then I might have kept that longer, too.

The next year my wife bought me an Epiphone Les Paul 5 string bass; still one of my favorites even though it's starting to get a little bit of separation of the fingerboard from the neck. One of these days I'll get that worked on...

A few years on, I won a contest from Bass Player Magazine: a Lakland Darryl Jones 5string; and amps from Phil Jones Bass: Six Pack, Brief Case and Bass Buddy headphone amp. Theses are all still in the arsenal, except for the Bass Buddy. To be honest, it's never worked right for me. Next Time I go to move some gear, it's probably going away. But the Lakland - great low B; classic scooped J bass sound. Six Pack: powerful on it's own; thunderous with the GB 2x10 added on. The Briefcase can go anywhere and often keeps up with non-obnoxious drummers.

While I had firmly become a 5-string man, I did pick up a 4-string Schecter Legend at a GC clearance sale. A couple of small scratches made them mark it down so low I couldn't resist. Recorded a few tracks with it, and the engineer thought it was a Rickenbacher. Now, I keep it tuned a half step low for certain songs in our set.

Looking for a fretless 5 string, I came across a used Schecter T5 that I got for a really good deal, with the intent of de-fretting it. The Bartolini pickups were not right for it, so I replaced them with Carvin stacked humbuckers. Did a hack job installing them, too. Neck was so nice, though, narrow and fast, so I ended up not de-fretting it. In a heavier band I was with, this was just the trick for fast runs. Every now and then I look online for a replacement neck, so I could have one fretted and one fretless; but nothing that's the same dimensions comes up.

A year and a half ago, my wife gave me permission to buy another bass. I saw an add for a local guy selling an Ibanez 305 bass for cheap; again with the intent of de-fretting it. I should have passed on it. It had a crack, that didn't look too bad at first; but when I got it home and opened the control cavity, it was bigger than expected. Pots & hardware were really dirty, but it cleaned up relatively well. Once again I fell for the neck! If I get around to getting that crack fixed, I might go the de-fret rout; but again, I'd then be putting more into it than I paid. This will probably get traded in towards another instrument in the coming year.

Last year, I saw that MF was blowing out older models of the Gibson EB5 bass. I had played older models and liked them; but not the recent re-designed ones. I decided to take a chance (great price, great 0% finance deal; free shipping). Once I oiled up the neck and the minor fret issues got reset, it's become my number one. So much so that I consider getting another... to defret. But I probably won't. Unless I get a really sweet deal. And it's the red or sunburst model.

Then last year a dear friend and former band mate told me she was getting ready to move to Texas. Asked me if I was interested in her late father's upright bass. I was honored, and am just about confident enough that I might start playing it live on a few rockabilly tracks in the coming months. And she also gave me two of his amps - an Oliver tube combo and a Trucker solid state (now my son's).

I won't go into the pedals I've had over the years...

"Am I enough of a freak to be worth paying to see?"- Separated Out (Marillion)
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