Fri 12/3/2004 ~ Maple necks,
rosewood fingerboards, and the Vox Apollo bass
When we talk about Fender guitars
we often use the terms "maple neck" or "rosewood
neck." What's unusual about this is that we in the guitar
biz are generally quite precise and scientific with our descriptions,
yet these two phrases are not exactly accurate. All Fender necks
are maple. It's only the fingerboards that can be maple (which
is light colored) or rosewood (which is dark).
You see when Leo Fender first
designed his Teles, Strats, and P-Basses, they all had maple
necks with maple fingerboards. Unfortunately the lacquer coating
on Leo's guitars was very thin, and it quickly wore off. The
result was that dark spots started to appear on the fingerboard
from regular play wear. (From string corrosion...) (And dirt
from your fingers....) If you watch the old Ed Sullivan repeats,
there's a really cool Jerry Lee Lewis appearance. His guitar
player is using a `50s Strat, and from a distance it looks like
a rosewood fingerboard. But during a very quick close-up (keep
your finger near the pause button!) you can see that his entire
maple fingerboard has turned dark. THAT guy played a lot!
Anyway, in 1959, Leo decided
to install a rosewood fingerboard on the maple necks, which would
hide any play wear. It was a clever and easy fix to the fingerboard
In late 1962, no doubt in a cost-cutting
move, the rosewood used for the fingerboards became much thinner.
(Rosewood costs more than maple.) The 1959 through 1962 rosewood
fingerboard guitars, with the thicker rosewood, have since become
known as "slab boards." (As per the aforementioned
"precise and scientific" descriptions used by guitar
biz folks.) (I'm not sure where the term came from. I always
think of Dr. Frank N. Furter and ...."So......come up to
the lab.... And see what's on the slab....")
I mention all of this because
on Tuesday night I asked Scott to record some bass parts for
this year's Flashcat
Christmas Record #24, and he used a 1962 slab-board Jazz
Bass that we have here at the store. After the session he told
me that the slab-board Jazz Bass necks are the finest feeling
bass necks ever made in the history of mankind. Scott personally
owns a fabulous 1964 Jazz Bass, which he loves. But there is
some can't-quite-put-your-finger-on-it magic about the `59-'62
slab board basses. As if, for a brief period of time, the perfect
bass neck had been created.
At that point in the recording
session, as we were pondering the mysteries of the universe,
and bass guitar necks, I figured I'd lighten things up with some
comic relief. So I pulled out my Vox Apollo IV Bass. Vox, as
you know, made wonderful amplifiers... and wacky guitars. The
Apollo Bass neck is without a doubt the skinniest bass neck ever
made. If we in the guitar biz were the kind of folks who made
up names for things, this would be known as a "pencil neck."
a picture.) The Vox neck is nearly unplayable in its thinness.
Scott and I chuckled about the justifiable expensiveness of the
Jazz Bass, and the what-were-they-thinking?-ness of the Vox.
I said, "Well, that's why you never see anyone playing a
Two hours later, as I poured
my evening glass of wine, I turned on the TV and started to watch
"The Late Late Show." It's not one of my faves but
Ben Stein was on, and I like him, so I watched. After the commercial
they introduced the musical guest, Aimee Mann. As usual, she
was playing her old Gibson J-45. But when they panned over to
the bass player.... yep, I couldn't believe it either... he was
playing a Vox Apollo bass! Sometimes life is just plain strange...
In honor of basses, this week's
email special is a bass amp. I inadvertently doubled my order
on this model and I have too many. I can't tell you the brand...
but it's a 60-watt Bass amp... and you should be careful lifting
it into the back seat of your car so you don't accidentally dent
your car "fender."
See you soon,
PS: Starting in 1967 most Fender
instruments could be ordered with either maple or rosewood fingerboards.
PPS: We started recording The
Flashcat Christmas Records back when we were gigging five nights
a week. Even though we now only play once a year, every Christmas
we still write and record Christmas songs for the Fan Club. This
is the 24th year! It's a lot of fun and it helps get the season
started on a merry note. Email your address and I'll mail you
a randomly chosen CD.
PPPS: Customer Web Site:
Between The Waters