JG series basses

JG Custom series bass specifications

Prior to the development of the JG Custom Series basses all Wal basses were effectively one-off, custom built basses. With the JG Series, although they codified the basis of what a Wal bass was, each one was still effectively a custom built instrument. The first built was a 32" short scale version for John G Perry with the serial number JP1111. The JG basses featured a full 34" scale length. The JGs were named for the British Session bassist, John Gustafson - known for his singing and playing in the Merseybeats, the Big Three, Roxy Music, the Gordon Giltrap Band, the Ian Gillan Band and the rock musicals, Jesus Christ Superstar and the Butterfly Ball.

JG Custom fretless bass (JG1131) belonging to JG himself! John Gustafson

John Gustafson

John Gustafson using his JG Custom bass
live with the Gordon Giltrap Band in 1978
JG Custom Series basses are similar to the Pro Series Basses which followed them (solid ash body and laminated neck etc). However, the JG Custom basses feature the distinctive leather scratchplates common to early Wals (not all are tooled with the floral patterns - some are plain, see pictures of the Gary Tibbs bass below). Scratchplates on the Pro Series were plastic mounted on a metal backing plate. On the JG Custom Series basses the tone shaping switches were mounted on the pickup surrounds rather than the scratchplate (as on the Pro series). Most JG Customs also featured a decorative maple headstock facing.

Solid ash body with plain leather scratchplate

Flamed maple faced JG Custom Series headstock

The blonde, ash bodied JG Custom bass (JG1147) pictured above has a plain leather scratchplate. The tone shaping switches were mounted on the pickup surrounds. The controls were much as on the later Pro series. Upper row, right to left - Master volume, Neck pickup volume, Bridge pickup volume. Lower row, right to left - Neck pickup tone, Bridge pickup tone.

The "Pick attack" switch seen next to the Neck pickup tone control was a feature of only a few JG Custom basses.

Left - John Entwistle's JG Custom Bass with floral scratchplate. Far Right - Gary Tibbs' JG Custom with plain leather scratchplate.

Our thanks go to the sadly now late-lamented “Bunnybass” website for permission to use their beautiful photos of the Gary Tibbs JG Custom bass.

In late 2004 a very early JG Custom series bass came to light in the UK through an e-Bay auction. This JG was numbered JG1113 which implies that it was the fourth JG custom series bass ever made. See below for more on numbering...

JG1113 has a beautiful blue sunburst finish with a floral, leather tooled scratch-plate. The paint job is original. This was originally a natural ash bass, ordered by session bassist and multi-instrumentalist, Pete Zorn, who at the time was bass player in Barbra Dickson's band. However, the stain certainly is striking, setting off the light brown scratchplate beautifully. It has also allowed us to have a close look at exactly how the tooling is done and the tone filter switches on the pickup surrounds. The bass was bought by Mike Gutierrez from Arizona in the US who had it lovingly restored before passing it on to another Wal enthusiast. Mike also owns the Entwistle JG (JG1128) pictured here, giving him an amazing (and surely unique) collection of these rare basses.

JG Custom Bass (JG1113) with tooled leather
floral scratchplate and blue sunburst finish.

Typical JG Custom series headstock - large paddle profile,
laminated but without dark, amazonian hard wood stringers.
This JG Custom bass has no decorative facings on
the headstock (unlike Gustafson's bass)

The translucent blue sunburst finish brings out the natural
grain of the solid ash body.

According to Electric Wood records only 44 JGs were ever made (JP1111, JG1111 - JG1153) - they also give details on 36 of the original owners. The first JG went to Wal stalwart John G Perry but had a serial number JP1111 denoting a 32" short scale (the player's preference). The next, JG1111 was a demo model which went to Trident Studios, off Wardour Street, London. John Gustafson's fretted JG was next, JG1112 - he later returned for a fretless, JG1131.

Other notable JG purchasers included: 
  • Pete Zorn (session player & Barbara Dickson bassist, JG1113); 
  • Alan Spenner (Voice Squad and Jim Capaldi Band, JG1119); 
  • Percy Jones (Brand X, JG 1122 - a fretless); 
  • Dave MacDonald (Gordon Giltrap Band, JG1123 - making three Wal JG playing bassists moving through the ranks of Giltrap's backing group); 
  • John Glascock (Jethro Tull, JG1124), 
  • Mick Taylor (ex-Rolling Stones, JG1125), 
  • Paul Simenon (The Clash, JG1126 - a decidedly un-punk choice of instrument! The story goes that when Sandy Pearlman was producing the Clash's Give 'Em Enough Rope album he persuaded Simenon to purchase the Wal. The bassist reportedly couldn't get on  with it because it had too many knobs and switches...); 
  • John Entwistle (JG1128 - see feature article elsewhere on this blog); 
  • Nigel Griggs (Split Enz, JG1129) 
  • Sandy Pearlman (Blue Oyster Cult writer/producer, JG1132), 
  • Dave Markee (Clapton bassist and session guy, JG1139), 
  • Michael Schnoebelen (The Schnoeb - Manhattan Transfer, JG1143) 
  • ...and finally the Gary Tibbs bass (JG1147).
A hi-res version can be viewed here

John G Perry's JP1111 bass can be seen on this video of a novelty song, "Lone Ranger" by Quantum Jump, which was a hit in the UK in the late 1970s. It was recorded in 1976 and would actually have featured W1111.  Quantum Jump was actually comprised of the session players who frequented Trevor Morais' Farmyard Studio. They were all friends of Wal and Pete who had worked there on and off before setting up Electric Wood. The keyboard player/vocalist was Rupert Hine - later a well known producer and Wal user.

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