Franklin TN, March 26, 2022
Non-musicians can usually tell the difference between an acoustic guitar and an electric guitar. Sometimes that’s all they notice. Guitarists, on the other hand, can see a performer on television and be able to tell you not just the make and model, but the year.
It’s like cars. A 1966 Ford Mustang is very different from a 1972 Ford Mustang. And a 1957 Fender Stratocaster is very different from a 1983 Stratocaster.
These things matter to guitarists. Hence, the guitar show; specifically, the 2022 Nashville stop of the famous Amigo Guitar Show. Similar to a car show or a boat show, musicians can walk from booth to booth looking at instruments and equipment, old and new, workhorses and collectors items, cheap and really, really expensive. Most of us walk through twice to make sure we didn’t miss anything, like kids in a toy store.
I was mostly interested in bass guitars and effects, but I tried to get pictures of anything interesting. Having said that, there were over a thousand instruments and this only scratches the surface. Let’s begin.
This is the booth I spent the most time in. I’ve always loved Ampeg basses but they’re rare and I’ve only ever seen a few. Here’s six of them all in the same place, and there’s a few more in their cases under the table.
The dealer had purchased 52 Ampeg basses from a single collector. He showed me a photo of the entire collection and my jaw dropped. They were only made from 1966 to 1969, and this guy had somehow got 52 of them.
The smaller basses in the back are the SSB and SSUB models. The “SS” stands for “short scale” which means the length of the strings is 30” rather than the standard 34” inches. This gives the instrument a boomier sound. The “U” in “SSUB” means “unfretted.” It’s unclear how many were made, but they’re very rare.
The bass in front is notable for the F-holes that go all the way through the body, the “mystery” pickup that is entirely hidden under the bridge, and the scroll headstock. This one is an AEB-1 but the whole series of them is nicknamed as the “scroll bass.” The first one I saw was played by Boz Burrell of Bad Company on Don Kirschner’s Rock Concert.
Ampeg made only 100 “Devil” basses. 75 were fretted, 25 were unfretted. The collector had two of each. There are so few of them that I had never seen one in person, and here were two right in front of me. $7500 each, which the research I’ve done since shows to be a fair price.
I seriously considered getting one as an investment. It would never leave the house, and mostly stay in its case until the value goes up enough to be worth selling. I stipulate in my will that my son gets all of my music equipment when I die, so a rare bass like this might be a nice inheritance for him.
Yet, I’ve always believed that instruments should be played. I can’t imagine such a beautiful bass just sitting in a closet. At the same time, I can’t picture bringing a Devil bass to a honky tonk or a punk club or on tour. It’s much too valuable to bring it anywhere it could be damaged or stolen. So I’m letting this one slip through my fingers.
When I walked into the show, I was hoping to get some parts I need to build a bass but I didn’t find any. And I thought I might find an effects pedal or a bass with a coolness factor. I ended up not buying anything, not even a vacuum tube night light, and that’s how it goes at these things. Sometimes you find the instrument you always wanted, sometimes you even buy it, and sometimes come to your senses and don’t get anything. And you tell yourself that’s the right thing to do.
However, I do have the dealer’s business card.
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