Bobby Vega is a
freak of the
first order. The
gear is real. The
stories are true.
The dates are
foggy. And the
names of the
to protect their
save Bobby’s ass!
My love affair with the Fender Jazz Bass
started after I saw Sly and The Family Stone on The Dick Cavett
Show on June 8, 1971. The bass player was Larry Graham, and he sound of the bass really got my attention. After seeing
that show, I knew I had to have a Jazz Bass.
The next day, I cut school, went to Don Wehr’s Music City,
the biggest and best music store in the Bay Area, and played
my first Jazz. At first, I didn’t like it, but Larry Graham had
shown me what that bass could do. I couldn’t make the bass
sound like he could—not yet—but that was the sound. I was 16.
Before long, I got a job working at Don Wehr’s. This other
guy who worked there, Billy Stapleton, knew everything about
old guitars and basses. We became friends, and he saw that
I was a bass junkie: I played bass, ate, slept, and played bass
some more. He starts to tell me about “concentric-pot Jazz
Basses.” I said, “What?” He told me that for the first two and a
half years of production, the Fender Jazz Bass had concentric
pots, a circuit with volume and tone potentiometers stacked
on top of each other, hence the term “stacked pot.”
After Billy told me about concentric-pot Jazz Basses, one
walked in the store. The guy who had it played his ass off!
I’ll never forget that bass. It was the first stack-pot Jazz I
had ever seen. It was white with a matching headstock and
a worn spot over the top of the back pickup where his hand
went, and man, did that bass sound great! I think it was the
first time I saw and got the relationship between a person
and his instrument.
OK. So now I’m thinking, “How am I going to get a concentric-
pot Jazz? Is somebody going to walk in the store and
trade one in?”
Well, I got tired of waiting for that day to come. I’d heard
about this guy named Norman Harris who specialized in vintage
guitars, so one day in 1973 I dialed 411 and asked for
Norman’s Rare Guitars in Reseda, California.
The operator gives me the number.
“Norman’s Rare Guitars.”
“Hi, do you have any concentric-pot Jazz Basses?”
“Yeah, I got one. But you better hurry up and get down
here,” Norman says. “The guy from the Eagles wants it.”
I ask how much he wants for it.
“Do you have anything to trade?”
How ’bout an anodized pickguard 1957 Precision Bass?
“OK,” he says. “Bring that bass and a hundred bucks, and
“OK, thanks.” I get off the phone.
“Oh, shit! I can’t believe it! I found a stack-pot Jazz Bass!”
I get a ride to San Francisco Airport. I buy a ticket on
Pacific Southwest Airlines to Burbank, and then my friend
Alvin Taylor, drummer for Eric Burdon and Billy Preston,
picks me up and drives me to Reseda, to Norman’s Rare Guitars,
where my Bass of Dreams is.
At the time, Norman’s Rare Guitars was in a little house.
I walk in and see Norman standing there.
“Hi, I’m here to see the concentric-pot Jazz Bass.”
He gives it to me and I check it out and it’s love at first
play. Then I look at it and it’s a two-tone sunburst. I’ve never
seen a sunburst Fender Jazz like this. It had a little red in
it, but the red had faded, so it was two-toned. We made the
trade, and now I had my first concentric-pot Fender Jazz Bass.
I got back home and man, was I a happy bass player!