Wednesday, 31 August 2016

JG Special Pt 4a: Gallery - "Mk 2" JG Basses - the later models

JG1128 - John Entwistle's fretless JG bass

JG1145 - “Snotburst” JG

In the second and third of the JG bass galleries as part of this special feature we'll take a close look at some of the later JG basses which were produced by Wal in late 1977 and through 1978. These are marked on the JG bass order sheet as being "Mk 2" versions. The changes in the basses are subtle but significant and set out the firm template for the Pro Series basses. All the elements are there - the multi-laminate neck and paddle headstocks (although some sported a fancy facing veneer), the distinctive chromed bridge, humbucking pickups and stratchplate shape. Check out the previous posts for the fuller specs.

So we've got a few real celebrity basses to share in these blogs... John Entwistle, Gary Tibbs plus a couple of other beauties... Two of the featured basses are very late models - one so late it already has a Pro Bass decal on the headstock. But it is still 100% JG series. These came to light when their current owners shared photos on the Facebook Wal fan page after JG1117 was put up for auction. Despite the heady final bid which that bass attracted (£7,400!) they were both very clear that their JG basses were definitely NOT for sale!

So let's just work our way through in numerical order...

JG1128 - John Entwistle's fretless JG bass

John Entwistle's fretless JG bass is featured elsewhere in this blog but well worth revisiting. John was a well-known bass collector so it's not surprising that some Wals ended up in this collection. After his untimely death in 2002 the JG was one of the basses included in the famed Sotheby's auction of some of his extensive collection. Complete with the characteristic leather tooled scratchplate which typified the design it is a typical later model JGs. It now resides in Arizona in the collection of bass and Wal enthusiast Mike Gutierrez.  As a professional sports and music memorabilia appraiser and a contributor to the US version of the Antiques Roadshow he's well placed to spot a good deal when he sees one. Bearing in mind the price which JG1117 achieved in the recent eBay auction he picked it up for a song...  the bass went for only £2040! A bargain even without the exceptional provenance!

The bass was featured in early Wal promotional literature, pictured in the Ox's hands... Ironically it was promoting the Pro Series rather than the JGs!


JG1145- “Snotburst” JG

Next up is a bass whose original owner isn't specified in the Wal order sheet. Neither does the order sheet specify the rather unusual green finish in which this bass luxuriates. It's certainly an unusual finish which, if original, suggests that it may be a custom order whose details were not recorded. Certainly the photos and the comments of the current owner, Andy Lucey, corroborate that presumption. Let's open up the Wal branded flight case and have a little look...

"Just a little background info - I brought the bass in 2011 from the original owner who lived very close to High Wycombe. He told me that he'd been a personal friend of Ian Waller and had the bass made to order in the custom colour that you now see (which earned it the nickname of 'the Snotburst')."

"I've been very careful with the bass and haven't gigged it but I've spent a fair amount of time playing it at home (I also have an 80's Mk1 that I'm a little less precious about fortunately).
In many ways I prefer the JG to the Mk1 - I feel that it [the JG] gives me a warmer more 'vintage' tone than the Mk1 but it still retains a classic Wal sound."

That "snotburst" really is a striking finish (no wonder it never made it onto the Pro Series list of standard finishes). And that affectionate appellation is so typical of the type of comment Pete and Ian might come up with.  However, like all translucent stains, it does show off the beautiful grain patterns in the ash body as it winds around the curves and contours of the bass.

The detailed photos provided by Andy really do give a great opportunity to examine the JG bass marque close up. So let's open up the Wal flight case and see what we have before us...

The headstock shows up a couple of interesting points of detail. First is a typically Wal-going-the-extra-mile feature. The bass features the now familiar multi laminate neck. However, the headstock is faced with a book-matched maple veneer to give a smooth finish to the front of the bass.

Also visible are the new style string trees which were carried over into the Pro series. Here finished in an oxblood colour, to match the control knobs, they neatly create the requisite break angle over the nut and retain a straight string pull to the chunky Schaller machine heads. Compare with the much less "designed" Fender type string trees on the Entwistle JG above.

The neck sports a rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, the twelfth fret having a cute trio of side dots. This was a common feature across a lot of the JG series. The heel of the neck shows how it was carefully shimmed to ensure proper alignment, a common luthier's practice.

Coming down to the body, the leather-tooled scratch plate and twin humbuckers are present and correct. The series/parallel dip switches are clearly visible on the mounting rings.

On this bass the selector switch and control knobs are a rather fetching oxblood brown. Close examination shows that unlike the Pro Series knobs which include an unused number 11, these knobs go up to 12! To misquote Nigel Tuffnel, "That's TWO more, innit?!"

The bass features the dual balanced and unbalanced outputs developed by Wal for these basses, the XLR output being fed by a neat little passive transformer DI nesting under the scratchplate.

Series/Parallel switches in the mounting rings
Lifting the scratchplate really allows us to examine the truly innovative design that went into these basses. The printed circuit wiring run on the back of the scratchplate is clearly visible, and so very elegant.

There is no doubt about it... These basses were beautifully designed, expertly built and way, way ahead of their time! The perfect example of great British innovation and guitar building!

The neat little integrated balanced DI box feeding...

...the balanced DI output alongside the standard jack output
NB the dip switches for earth list and effects routing through the DI

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