The One: John Patitucci's 1972 Fender Mustang

When John Patitucci moved from Brooklyn to Northern California in 1972, little did he know that he’d be right in the middle of an East Bay funk explosion.
By E.E. Bradman ,

When John Patitucci moved from Brooklyn to Northern California in 1972, little did he know that he’d be right in the middle of an East Bay funk explosion. “It was an amazing time to go there, with bands like Tower Of Power, Sly Stone, Santana, and Herbie Hancock & the Headhunters, with Paul Jackson on bass,” he says. Is it any coincidence that he bought his first good bass there?

In search of a Fender Precision, 13-year-old Patitucci had gone to Brown Music in Concord, across the Bay, with his guitar- playing older brother, Tom. The store had neither a P-Bass nor a Jazz, but it did have a brand-new Fender Mustang. Patitucci took it home, stringing it first with flats and then round-wounds, and by the time he was 15, he was doing sessions.

“This red Mustang was such a great bass for me, especially when I was younger and my hands were smaller,” remembers the man who’d one day become an icon of 6-string bass virtuosity. “The only foolish thing I did to the bass was to remove the frets after hearing Jaco in the mid ’70s. Obviously, no other bass player ever sounded like Jaco, and taking the frets out of the old Mustang didn’t work out too well—I didn’t know you had to fill in the spaces with epoxy or something!”

Four-and-a-half decades later, Patitucci thinks warmly of the past and the future. “Oh well, what can I say? I am inspired to have the bass re-fretted and restored to its original condition.”