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Vintage Vibes: 1959 Fender Sunburst Precision Bass
Holy cow! It’s a hometown 1959 Fender Precision Bass! Purchased at a Chicago garage sale in the early ‘70s, this beautiful Three-Tone Sunburst Precision Bass is now in the capable hands of a North Side native, our vintage buyer Mike Larsen. He details for us the essential features of the ‘59, like the anodized aluminum pickguard, as well as what separates it from earlier models and why this Precision Bass is one of the finest of its kind.
I want to introduce you to one hell of a '50s P bass. This one, specifically, we bought from a Chicago Local, who purchased it at a garage sale here in Chicago in the early '70s and owned it until recently.
In 1951, Leo Fender designed and introduced the Fender Precision Bass, which was the first production-level electric bass available on the market. It went through some minor design changes over the next six years. Then, in 1957, it was entirely overhauled into what we recognize as a Fender Precision Bass today, the most played and most recorded bass in music history, with a design that remained largely unchanged for the next seven decades.
It goes from a slab body to a contoured body. It goes from a straight single-coil pickup to a split-coil pickup. It also goes from a smaller guard with a separate control plate to a full guard, where the controls are part of the pickguard, and that goes from Bakelite to an anodized aluminum pickguard. It also gains a larger headstock, the one that we recognize today rather than the smaller Tele-style headstock.
1959 is the second year of Fender's Three-Tone Sunburst. It's also the last year for the anodized aluminum guard. This bass is likely one of the last maple board P Basses Fender made until the early '70s when Maple comes back as a fretboard option.
This one has a pretty big, chunky neck, but it feels nice, not oversized. It's got wear in all the right places, and it's just an incredible example of what a precision bass is and will be for a long time.