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Encyclopedias and the Electric Bass

Encyclopedias and the Electric Bass


“Try something new. Amateurs built Noah’s Ark. Professionals built the Titanic.” - Hy Wate

“Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first”. - I. Lovette

(Quotes are real. Authors are not.)

My encyclopedias have been donated with assurance they will gather children, not dust.

How did I acquire two sets? With three kids in elementary school a mutual friend approached my wife, wore her down and made a sale. At the time I was holding down a full time and two part time jobs and playing music three nights a week, trying to accumulate my first million. Didn’t happen!

So I abandoned my quest for the first and started work on the second million. Didn’t happen again! Not then, not now, not ever!

The purchase caused a disagreement. We compromised. First set! Definition of compromise at my house: We argue, I give in, she wins. (Fellow husbands, does that sound familiar?)

A few years later we met the best encyclopedia salesman in the world. Bar none! Our kids had not opened one book from the first set but he convinced us we needed another. Set two! What a salesman! He must be a multi-millionaire today!

Electric Bass
In the late 1950’s, I changed my musical instrument (Axe) from guitar to electric bass. Paul Tutmark had invented one (see picture) in 1935 with a solid body. Frets could fit in a car trunk and was designed to be played horizontally, everything the old bass fiddle was not. But it failed to catch on and few were sold because needing an amplifier made it cost prohibitive during the Great Depression.

In 1951 Leo Fender modified Tutmarc’s idea and the Fender Precision electric bass was born. It caught on big time!

In a few years the upright bass was obsolete and relegated to the trash heap of history, along with the 78, 45 and 33 rpm vinyl records, the Walkman Cassette player, 8-track cassettes and encyclopedias.
Several companies made them but the Fender Precision was the gold standard but more expensive. So I found a “Kay” brand at a pawn shop for $50 dollars.

Bringing it home I learned my first lesson about a solid body electric bass. It don’t make no sound, no way, no how without an amplifier and playing it on my small guitar amp would pop the speaker.

With very low volume and my ability with the guitar, the transition was easy, and I found out I was a better bass man than a guitar man. Reason: less strings, less chords to hit, less finger positions to manipulate and less brain power needed.

Since less was what I had, it worked out fine.

Still learning but comfortable, I sat in with friendly country, rock and pop bands using their equipment. Since no one threw me out, I assumed I had become at least adequate. I got better. (Proof: I was voted best bass player for 1972 at the Lafayette Cajun festival.)

Problem two: I needed a bass amplifier and a band who would hire me.

When Fender invented the Precision bass he invented its mate, the “Bassman” amplifier with a heavy duty 15-inch quality Jensen speaker, but it was expensive and too stylish to play a mere “Kay” bass on, therefore I put my brain to work, always a herculean task for me.

During my music years I accumulated and stored amplifiers and a gaggle of 12-inch Jenson speakers.

Coalescing four of them together would give me 33 inches more usable speaker power than a “Bassman”.

My brother-in-law Johnny Curole was a carpenter so I had him build a four-foot square cabinet. Mike and I covered it with a porous blue satin cloth surrounded by 400 continuous brass tacks and screwed in four 12-inch Jensen high duty speakers from discarded amps and public address systems.

My electrician brother-in-law Morris Guidry, Jr. hooked them to a 350 watts Peavey amplifier which already had several female quarter-inch jacks and voil la, I was in business.

It was beautiful and the sound was as clear and loud as a “Bassman” amp. Now to find a band to play in. Next week, enter the “Dominos”.

Bye now!
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