Retro-Rama : Joe Osborn’s 1960 Fender Jazz Bass

Joe Osborn's 1960 Fender Jazz Bass is arguably one of the most famous recording basses in the history of popular music.
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Joe Osborn's 1960 Fender Jazz Bass is arguably one of the most famous recording basses in the history of popular music. Taking delivery of this stacked-knob beauty while playing with Ricky Nelson in 1960, Joe found the slim neck and versatile sound of the Jazz a perfect fit with his playing style, making it his main axe for the next 30 years. The bass can be heard on such hits as the 5th Dimension’s “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In,” the Mamas & the Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” and hundreds more with Merle Haggard, Chet Atkins, Ricky Skaggs, the Carpenters, and others.

Originally from Louisiana (where he now resides), Joe was on the scene in the early ’60s as the electric bass gradually supplanted the acoustic upright in the studios of Los Angeles. As a member of the famed “Wrecking Crew” studio band, Joe helped defined pop bass style and technique in the golden era of recording. Osborn’s distinctive pickstyle playing—simultaneously “in your face” and in the pocket—was often a prominent feature in the mix of hit records.

Osborn later moved to Nashville, playing on many hits there, as well. Starting in 1974, Joe had artists he played with sign the back of his bass, which now reads like a Who’s Who of music icons. This bass was the inspiration for Lakland’s Joe Osborn Signature bass, and in the development of that bass, great care was taken to duplicate every aspect of the original in all its aged glory.

This iconic axe is now owned by Joe Chambers, founder of the Musicians Hall of Fame, and until recently was on display there. The MHOF recently lost their building in an “eminent domain” forced sale of their building to the city of Nashville. Unfortunately, while looking for a new location for the Hall, Chambers stored many of the Museum’s exhibits and instruments in a rehearsal/storage facility known as Soundcheck, which was the scene of devastating damage in the Nashville Flood of May 1–3, 2010. Many of the MHOF’s precious instruments were damaged or destroyed, but this bass, true to form, is a survivor. I was the first one to tune it up and plug it in, and to my relief and joy—it still works! It needs some cleanup work, but that glorious tone is still intact.

The Nashville Flood has been a real challenge to our community. Insurance adjusters estimate that at least $60 million in personal instruments were lost in the flood, and the damage to the city is now over $2 billion. If you would like to contribute to our flood relief efforts, please visit www.nashvillemusicians.org, where you can make a contribution to the Nashville Musicians Flood Relief Fund. The healing power of music is strong, and Nashville is already coming back stronger than ever. Thanks for your support. Peace, Love, and Grooves!

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