The Most Important Bass of all Time?

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Many people agree the arrival of the Fender Precision bass marked a huge turning point in the way bassists approached making music in the late 50’s / 60’s. One of the biggest pioneers in bass playing during this time was Edisto Island session player James Jamerson. Featuring heavily on nearly every hit record in the sixties, James embodied a unique playing style and tone which really highlighted the Precision bass and its versatility.

The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye and The Temptations all feature James’ melodic bass lines during the height of the Motown era. Such tracks as ‘For once in my life’ (Stevie Wonder) & ‘Darling Dear’ (Jackson 5) instantly ooze of James’ unique syncopated rhythms twinned with the solid earthy tones drawn from his trusty Precision.

In May 2017 James’ personal Fender 61’ Precision went up for auction after spending most of its life with close friend Billy Hayes. James owned this bass from 1962 – 1968 using it as a back-up to his main 4 string. The bass ended up selling for $68,750 USD through ‘Heritage Auctions’

The Precision bass itself has seen many reincarnations over the years with 5 string, active electronics and fretless variations introduced to the market. Decades on and you will find most players are still drawn to the passive, four string configuration that started it all back in the 50’s.

They might have just got it right, all those decades ago…


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