IN PRAISE OF: Fender Bassman

Posted Nov 7, 2012 at 9:34am

When Fender launched its Precision Bass (the first mass-produced, solid-bodied electric bass) back in 1951, it revolutionised the sound of the bottom end in popular music. It also rattled the hell out of the tiny valve guitar amps of the day.

Never one to miss a trick, Leo Fender decided to add a purpose-built bass amplifier to his catalogue. Loaded with a single 15-inch Jensen speaker, and featuring an all-valve- driven 26-watt output, the first generation Bassman combo soon attracted the attention of just as many guitar players as bassists. Country, blues and rockabilly guitarists fell in love with the amp’s sweet compressed tone when the volume control was cranked up.

While even the team at Fender acknowledged that the original Bassman was the best amplifier they ever made, that didn’t stop the firm launching a redesigned version in November 1954. Boasting four 10-inch Jensen P10R speakers (another industry first), the second generation Bassman now pumped out 40 watts of spine-tingling valve brilliance.

The 1952 Bassman featured a ported, tweed-covered, closed- back cabinet, establishing a template for almost every bass combo designed in the past 60 years. Curiously though, the ’54 model had an open-backed cabinet... just like a guitar amp.

That the Bassman was a guitar amp in all but name was nailed down forever when Jim Marshall and designers Ken Bran and Dudley Craven copied a 4x10 model’s circuit for their first Marshall-branded amp head, the JTM45, launched in 1962. As it happens, Fender had already dropped the onboard speakers – and the tweed aesthetic – in the early 60s, re-launching the Bassman as a blonde Tolex-covered head.

Two 1963 Bassman reboots are at the heart of rockabilly genius Brian Setzer’s live rig and his solo and Stray Cats records, including Rock This Town. Hendrix was rumoured to have used a Bassman in the studio, while Kurt Cobain definitely ran his Mustangs and Jags through one during the recording of Nirvana’s Nevermind in 1991.

Josh Homme even had one in his Them Crooked Vultures backline. The Bassman has become so synonymous with the six-string fraternity that when Fender reissued the ’59 4x10 model in 1990, it finally took the hint and changed its designation from bass to guitar amplifier.

Fender Bassman Timeline

1952: The 1x15 Bassman Combo makes its first appearance

1954: Fender switches the Bassman to a 4x10 format

1960: The Bassman is redesigned as an amp head

1990: The '59 Bassman is reissued, but as a guitar amp


Add a Comment
0 Comments

Similar Guitar News

In praise of: Fender Deluxe Reverb (12/15/2014)
Read more about In praise of: Fender Deluxe Reverb at MusicRadar.com In 1963, Fender revamped its range of amps. The line had been updated previously, in 1960, when, at the behest of regularly gigging customers, Fender replaced its attractive bu...
Paul Stacey, Fender Classic Players and more new guitar demos in The Gear Show episode 5 (11/24/2014)
Read more about Paul Stacey, Fender Classic Players and more new guitar demos in The Gear Show episode 5 at MusicRadar.com The makers of Guitarist, Total Guitar and Guitar Techniques magazines and MusicRadar.com present The Gear Show, a monthly ...
Fender launches Brown Derby and Top Hat round-neck resonators (11/12/2014)
Read more about Fender launches Brown Derby and Top Hat round-neck resonators at MusicRadar.com Fender has expanded its resonator range with a pair of new round-neck acoustic models, the Brown Derby and Top Hat.Both models share laminated mahoga...
Fender Releases FA-300CE Acoustic/Electric Pack with SLIDE interface (11/11/2014)
Fender is proud to announce the release of the FA-300CE Acoustic/Electric Pack with Fender SLIDE interface. The FA-300CE Acoustic-Electric Pack gives players everything they need to start playing right now. With the included Fender SLIDE instrum...
Fender Releases Brown Derby and Top Hat Resonators (11/11/2014)
Fender is proud to introduce two new instruments, the Brown Derby Resonator and Top Hat Resonator. Fender’s Brown Derby Resonator gives a jaunty tip of the hat to phenomenal round-neck reso-phonic sound and style. Pure resonator tone rings from ...
WIN! A signed Fender Jim Root Telecaster in association with Fret12 (10/29/2014)
Read more about WIN! A signed Fender Jim Root Telecaster in association with Fret12 at MusicRadar.com Click here to enter! If you're trying to capture the sound of your hero, getting hold of their signature model is a good first step. But thank...
WIN! A signed Fender Jim Root Telecaster (10/24/2014)
Read more about WIN! A signed Fender Jim Root Telecaster at MusicRadar.com If you're trying to capture the sound of your hero, getting hold of their signature model is a good first step. But thanks to the good people at Fret12, we can go one bet...
Fender launches Adam Clayton Jazz Bass (10/16/2014)
Read more about Fender launches Adam Clayton Jazz Bass at MusicRadar.com Hot on the heels of U2's like-it-or-not gifting of their new album Songs of Innocence to the entire world, Fender has announced the launch of its new Adam Clayton Jazz Bass...
Fender Introduces Adam Clayton Jazz Bass Guitar (10/16/2014)
Fender has introduced its Adam Clayton Jazz Bass guitar. From the company: Throughout the entire phenomenal history of the band, the music of U2 has been underpinned by the gracefully muscular bass work of Adam Clayton. His impeccable groove and...
Fender launch Adam Clayton Jazz Bass (10/16/2014)
Read more about Fender launch Adam Clayton Jazz Bass at MusicRadar.com Hot on the heels of U2's like-it-or-not gifting of their new album Songs of Innocence to the entire world, Fender has announced the launch of its new Adam Clayton Jazz Bass.
Joe Bonamassa Talks Fender Strats and His New Album, 'Different Shades of Blue' (10/15/2014)
This is an excerpt from the December 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the rest of this Joe Bonamassa story, plus features on Slipknot, Slash, Lenny Kravitz, Paul Gilbert, Motionless In White, Electric Wizard and more, including lessons, tabs and ...
The Fender Stratocaster at 60: The Six Coolest Strat Solos (10/2/2014)
This feature is from the October 2014 issue of Guitar World, which celebrates 60 years of the Fender Stratocaster. As the curvaceous Fender Stratocaster marks six decades of innovation and influence, Guitar World celebrates its legacy via 60 pla...
Fender Releases Piha'ea Soprano Ukulele (10/1/2014)
Fender is proud to announce the release of the Piha’ea Soprano Ukulele. Piha’ea is Hawaiian for playful, and that’s exactly what this soprano-style uke is, and it’ll have players smiling as soon as they strum their first chord on it. An afforda...
Fender Announces Tom Petty Signature Kingman Dreadnought (9/17/2014)
The Fender Acoustic Custom Shop has announced the arrival of the limited edition Tom Petty Kingman dreadnought, beautifully crafted with the famed singer/songwriter’s personal style and specs. With the Heartbreakers, the Traveling Wilburys, on h...
Fender adds Vibrolux Reverb to '68 Custom amp line-up (9/10/2014)
Read more about Fender adds Vibrolux Reverb to '68 Custom amp line-up at MusicRadar.com Fender has announced the newest addition to its electric guitar amplifier line: the 2x10, 35-watt '68 Custom Vibrolux Reverb. Autumn 2013 saw Fender debut it...
Fender announces Sherwood Green Metallic finish for Johnny Marr Jaguar (9/3/2014)
Read more about Fender announces Sherwood Green Metallic finish for Johnny Marr Jaguar at MusicRadar.com Fender has revealed that the Johnny Marr Jaguar - the most practical and best-sounding Jaguar we've played - is now available globally in ve...