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Telecaster Bass Guitars

1968 Fender Telecaster Bass

Color: Butterscotch Blond, Rating: 9.00, $4,800.00 (ID# 01814)
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1968 Telecaster Bass

 

1968 Fender Telecaster Bass.

 

Fender's first reissue of the original Precision Bass. This fine instrument has a 12 3/4-inch-wide solid ash 'slab' body and weighs just 8.70 lbs. One-piece fretted maple neck with a nice fat nut width of 1 3/4 inches, a full Fender bass scale length of 34 inches and a really comfortable thick neck profile. Twenty original jumbo frets, black dot position markers and small black dot side-markers. The neck is stamped "23 MAY 68 C." Single circular string tree. Headstock decal with Fender logo in silver with black trim and with small circled "R" (for "Registered"), with "TELECASTER BASS" and one patent number ("PAT. 2,968,204") in two lines in black beneath it. Individual Fender "paddle gear" tuners with "Fender" logo and with paddle-shaped metal buttons. Four-bolt neck plate with large Fender "F" logo and with serial number "246377" between the two top screws. Single-coil, light-gray pickup with four pole-pieces with an output of 6.65k. The underside of the pickup has "4-24-68 ea" written in black ink. Expert reproduction white plastic pickguard with eleven screws. Thumb rest with two screws on treble side of pickguard. Two controls (one volume, one tone) on a chrome-plated metal plate adjoining the pickguard. Chrome knobs with flat tops and knurled sides. The potentiometers are stamped "304 6642" (Stackpole October 1966). Combined two-saddle bridge/tailpiece. Complete with the two original pickup and bridge covers. This guitar is a great example in exceptionally fine (9.00) condition of one of these rare basses. The original Olympic white finish has mellowed over the years to a nice butterscotch color. There is virtually no wear to the original frets or the maple fretboard. There is an area of finish loss (approximately 2 1/2 x 1 inch) on the back of the body, a small amount of wear on the top bass edge from the players arm and a few small chips on the edges. This is one of the earliest and nicest Telecaster Basses that we have seen with a neck date of May '68. Housed in the original Fender black hardshell case with dark orange plush lining (9.00).

When we purchased this bass the original pickguard was missing and the pickup was not working properly. We had Chris Mirabella make a perfect reproduction pickguard and then we sent the bass to our expert luthier Scott Lentz who successfully restored the original pickup to its former glory.

In [May]1968, the original Precision Bass design was re-introduced as the Telecaster Bass with the majority of the original appointments: the strings went through the body; the bridge had two saddles like the original; the pickguard, covers, headstock and controls were resurrected, as was the slab body. Other features differed: the pickguard was white, rather than the original black single sheet Bakelite; the neck was constructed with a maple fingerboard lamination cap, unlike the original one-piece maple design. Some models featured the original one-piece maple neck later that year. The ferrules on the new Telecaster Bass were smaller and no longer seated flush into the body like the original 1950s model" (J.W. Black and Albert Molinaro, The Fender Bass: An Illustrated History, pp. 53 and 49).

1968’s Telecaster Bass occupies a special place in Fender history, if for no other reason than that it was the company’s first-ever “reissue” instrument. Many years later, in the 1980s, the modern Fender corporation would start building the first of the great many reissue guitars and basses that now comprise a large and popular portion of the company’s stable of instruments. But such an idea was highly unusual at the CBS-era Fender in the late 1960s, when designers first decided to look backward rather than forward for a “new” bass guitar design. Thus the arrival of the interestingly named Telecaster Bass. Basically a reissue of the original version of the Precision Bass, there was really very little about it that had anything to do with the Telecaster guitar. True, it had the distinctive headstock shape of the Telecaster, but that shape was also a feature of the original Precision Bass headstock.

The Telecaster Bass owed its existence to the fact that its true direct ancestor, the revolutionary Precision, was redesigned not once but twice within several years of its 1951 debut; first in 1954 and again even more dramatically in 1957. So substantial were the changes, in fact, that the Precision Bass of 1957 onward bore little resemblance to its 1951 predecessor. It was this long-discarded design—that of the original ’51 Precision—that was re-introduced in May 1968 as Fender’s “newest” bass.

Like the first Precision basses, the Telecaster Bass had a slab body, one single-coil pickup, the aforementioned Telecaster-style headstock, string-through-body design with a two-saddle bridge, large chrome bridge and pickup covers, a pickguard that covered the entire upper bout and controls mounted on a Telecaster-style chrome plate. Priced at the time at $302.50, it was less expensive than a Jazz Bass ($356.50) but slightly more expensive than a Precision Bass ($293.50).

This first Telecaster Bass version had three different headstock decals. The earliest was a regular silver Telecaster guitar logo with the word “bass” added underneath; only prototypes are known to have this decal. The second decal was the larger black Telecaster Bass logo, with “Bass” in the same script style as “Fender.” The third and most common decal had the silver Fender script with the words “Telecaster Bass” in a sans-serif font underneath. The 1970 Fender catalog page shows the original version of the Telecaster Bass with covered single-coil pickup and Telecaster-style control plate; the 1972 catalog page showed the humbucker-equipped second incarnation with an enlarged pickguard.
 

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