James Jamerson Owned and Played 1961 Fender Bass Up For Auction

James Jamerson Owned and Played 1961 Fender Precision Bass, Serial Number 60228, with Strap, Case, and Photo Archive.
By BP Staff ,

James Jamerson Owned and Played 1961 Fender Precision Bass, Serial Number 60228, with Strap, Case, and Photo Archive.

A well-loved and well-worn P-Bass originally from the master himself: the man recently named by Bass Player magazine as the number one "Greatest Bass Player" of all time; the man who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 (the first year they honored session players); the man who, along with the other "Funk Brothers" was awarded a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award as well as a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; the man about whom Paul McCartney once said, "As time went on, James Jamerson became my hero... because he was so good and melodic."

Born in South Carolina, Jamerson moved to Detroit with his mother in 1954 and began playing the local jazz and blues clubs. This led to session work in local studios and, in 1959, he found a steady gig at Berry Gordy's Hitsville U.S.A., home of the Motown label. Jamerson quickly became an integral part of the studio musicians known as The Funk Brothers; they played on most of the Motown recordings of the 1960s. Early on, he used a double bass but switched to the Fender P-Bass in the early 1960s. His unique style of playing can be heard on thirty Billboard #1 hits as well as more than seventy #1 R&B hits, a feat that will never be surpassed. It is estimated that he played bass on 95% of Motown recordings during this period. When Marvin Gaye was recording "What's Going On," he was desperate to have Jamerson add the bass line. When he could not be found, Gaye searched several bars he was known to frequent, located him, and brought him back to the studio where Jamerson recorded the famous line lying flat on his back.

Jamerson was not just a proficient and talented player, his style revolutionized how the bass was viewed and used in popular music. He took the typical bassline from a simple and basic root/ fifth pattern to a unique complex, syncopated, and melodic style that totally complemented the vocals but was still in lockstep with the drummer in laying down the beat. Experts often cite the songs "Bernadette," "What's Going On," "For Once in My Life," "Darling Dear," and "I was Made to Love Her" as prime examples of his much-imitated style. The afore-mentioned Paul McCartney isn't the only modern bassist to acknowledge him as a primary influence. Others include John Entwistle, John Paul Jones, Bootsy Collins, Brian Wilson, Bill Wyman, Tommy Shannon, and Donald "Duck" Dunn.

This particular bass was owned by Jamerson from 1962 until about 1967 or 1968 when he loaned it to a close friend and fellow Detroit bassist "Billy" Hayes who had a gig but no instrument. Jamerson never asked for the instrument back and he kept playing it. Hayes played bass with John Lee Hooker for a period and accompanied numerous Detroit acts. Through his years of ownership, he changed only one string (the "G"); this bass has three of the original La Bella flatwound strings James preferred. Nothing else has been changed or modified since Jamerson owned and played it. A signed Letter of Authenticity from Hayes is included with the guitar.

Owning a beloved Fender Precision from the absolute maestro of that instrument would be the dream of any bass player or collector. Heritage is thrilled to have been chosen to offer this important instrument to someone who will treasure it and hopefully keep the funk alive with it.

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