THE MOSRITE “VENTURES” GUITARS AND basses are among the most famous signature models of all time. From 1963 to 1967, Mosrite guitars and basses were endorsed, played, and sold by the Ventures, the most popular surf guitar instrumental group in the world. Their massive hit “Walk Don���t Run” featured the Mosrite sound, and even long after the “Endless Summer” of the mid ’60s, Mosrite basses and guitars have remained cult favorites around the world.
Mosrite founder Semie Moseley started out in California fixing guitars, including repair work for the famed Merle Travis. Before breaking out on his own, he apprenticed under not only master luthier Roger Rossmeisl at Rickenbacker, but also Paul Bigsby of Bigsby vibrato fame. By 1954, at age 19, he had already built a triple neck guitar, and this led to him making an elaborate personalized double-neck electric for guitarist Joe Maphis. The name Mosrite was a combination of Moseley’s last name and that of his friend, the Reverend Ray Boatwright, who loaned him enough money to buy some Sears and Roebuck tools.
In 1962, Ventures guitarist Nokie Edwards played a guitar Semie had built, and this led to an innovative marketing and distributing deal with the group in 1963. Original guitarist Bob Bogel, who had recently switched to bass, was the recipient of the Ventures model bass. Production of guitars and basses reached its peak by 1968, but the end of the Ventures deal that year was a tough blow for the company, and Mosrite shut down for the first time in 1969. The company opened and closed a number of times over the years, relocating several times before Semie’s death in 1992.
This particular bass belongs to Andy Mosely, Semie’s brother and partner in Mosrite, and it is in beautiful condition. (Thanks, Andy!) The distinctive reverse double cutaway design of the Ventures model bass bears a remarkable resemblance to an upside down Stratocaster, and looks like a wave in motion. The cream color is beautiful, and the curvy shape feels natural sitting or standing. The slim short-scale neck plays fast and features a zero fret and Mosrite’s famed “speed frets,” which were sanded down for maximum playability. Semie didn’t do anything half way—he wound his own pickups and fabricated many of his own parts, including the aluminum bridge and vibrato pieces. The contoured body features the classic raised “German carve” that Semie learned from Rossmeisl. Other original touches include the slotted “M” crown headstock and the “top hat” volume and tone knobs.
The 3-way pickup switch can throw you at first, as the bass pickup position points towards the floor and the bridge pickup is in the up position. It’s perhaps the opposite of what you might expect, but in some ways the whole thing feels like a left-handed bass body strung up right handed, so why not? The neck pickup has the perfect combination of Hofner thump and Danolectro twang. Combined with the bridge pickup, it has a wonderfully sweet, resonant sounding tone, especially with flatwound strings. The bridge pickup is located close to the center of the bass, so it is quite useful on its own as well. The tone knob is very sensitive, and when turned all the way down, exudes a warm and fuzzy vibe. The bridge has an old foam mute in it that just adds to the mellow upright-ish factor, and I wouldn’t dare touch it.
Mosrite has had a long list of famous players over the years, including Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Buck Owens, and Johnny Ramone, but the Ventures, sometimes called “The Band That Launched a Thousand Bands,” marked the apex of Mosrite’s status in the music world. Mosrite’s popularity has outlived the surf craze, stop-andgo production, and countless musical trends, and they are still sought after by collectors today, especially in Japan. Surf’s Up!