Retro-Rama : 1976 Guild B-50

THIS IS THE “MISSING LINK” IN THE trilogy of columns I wrote a while back about the evolution of the acoustic bass guitar, or ABG [August–October 2008].

THIS IS THE “MISSING LINK” IN THE trilogy of columns I wrote a while back about the evolution of the acoustic bass guitar, or ABG [August–October 2008]. It’s an outstanding example of concept meeting craftsmanship with excellent results. But first, a little history. . . .


Guild was founded in New York City in 1952 by Al Dronge, a successful musician and music store owner, and his friend George Mann. Their mission, as stated in Guild’s initial catalog in 1954, was to be the “Stradavari of Guitars,” and their reputation for impeccable quality and consistency certainly lends credence to that claim.

When Ernie Ball developed the Earthwood Bass in 1972, the instrument had a huge body with a bass guitar neck bolted on in a Frankenstein-like fashion. Production was sporadic, but no doubt the idea led others to go that route. Who better than Guild—with its long history of acoustic guitar building—to take it to the next level? Guild gave it a shot in the mid ’70s, and the results were nothing short of spectacular.

The B-50 was introduced in 1976, and appears to be based on Guild’s J-50 Jumbo style acoustic guitars. This monstrous ABG should probably be called a “Super Jumbo,” as it truly is a gigantic version of a top-notch acoustic guitar. With a traditional neck joint, a 31.5" scale with a split saddle (for improved intonation), and an arched back and body that is more than 6” deep at its biggest, it mimics the proportions and build quality of a great acoustic guitar. The biggest plus, of course, is that it not only sounds great; it’s loud. Some later Guild ABGs have had smaller bodies and no split saddle, as a pickup is much easier to install in a single bridge piece. But this ’76 B-50, which belongs to my good friend Scott Harrison, can hold its own in an acoustic jam session, whereas many of today’s ABGs would need amplification to be heard (which kind of defeats the purpose of playing an ABG.)

Aside from a bit of buckle rash on the back, this bass is in great shape, and the top has mellowed to a beautiful golden color. Scott also added the second pickguard to prevent wear on the top. I’m normally not a big fan of bronze strings on ABGs, but the Guild’s big body has enough low-end resonance to fill out the tone and balance out the twanginess of the strings. In fact, it’s hard not to imagine that you are playing the world’s biggest bluegrass guitar, and the smooth playing neck and even tone lends itself to playing hammer- ons, pulloffs, and open string licks a la acoustic guitar great Tony Rice—perhaps with Duane Eddy and Jonas Hellborg looking over your shoulder! I loved playing this bass, and recommend it highly to anyone who wants to check out the Cadillac of the acoustic bass guitar’s early days. In the past decade or so, a number of excellent builders have come along and are making great ABGs. But you have to give credit to Guild for raising the bar back in the day.



Retro-Rama: 1980 G and L L1000

AFTER SELLING THE FENDER company to CBS in 1965, and co founding Music Man in the ’70s, Leo Fender’s next business venture was the creation of G&L in 1980. Originally named for the partnership between Leo and his longtime collaborator

Retro-Rama: 1981 Fleishman 5-String Electric Upright (“The Beast”)

HAILING FROM THE EARLY ’80S, THIS BASS IS ONE OF THE first “modern” electric upright basses. Some of the first EUBs were developed independently, beginning in the 1930s by Paul Tutmark, Ampeg, and Framus. This bass was built for me in 1981 by Harry Fleishman, who now lives in Sebastopol, California and runs the International School of Luthiery. There are only four or five of these basses in existence, and this one has been extensively modified over the years—hence its nickname, “The Beast.”