1964 Hofner President Bass, as made famous by Stuart Sutcliffe
If, that is, Stuart Sutcliffe had lived to see the meteoric rise of The Beatles. A beautifully aged semi-acoustic bass, with all original features bar a nut replacement and pick-up rewire to restore full range of tone.
Not entirely "As Made Famous By", except through confusion. The Hofner President bass was introduced in 1963 as a successor to the 500/5 (333) Hofner bass. That's the one that you can see Stuart Sutcliffe playing. It's close, but the 500/5 comes with a narrower headstock, 21 or 22 frets (versus the President's full 24), a deeper body, a rectangular control plate on the body (versus the body-mounted pots of the President), and earlier Hofner Response pick-ups. The President Bass is still a lovely guitar, and the Brunette flame has just got better and better over the years. So, as a what might have been, it's "As Made Famous By"; in reality, it's just a fabulous piece of history that takes you right back to the Sixties!
See & Hear It In Action
Number of Frets
24 (+ zero fret)
Maple & Mahogany
Spruce & Maple
Hofner Open Tuners
Hofner Fretted Ebony
The President Bass was built from 1963 to 1967. Hofner was as well-known for its basses as for its 6-strings, with bass versions of the Committee, Senator, Verythin and, of course, that now very famous Violin Bass all on offer at the same time as the President.
This particular guitar was bought in auction. It had seen some action and then some neglect. The nut had broken off below the G-string, replaced by a nail; the D-tuner had been bent sideways into the headstock; and the pick-ups were producing as much output as a crackly crystal radio set (older generation reference).
And one very unique quirk from the original build: the tone pots work backwards! The higher frequencies are muted at the "10" setting, and sharpest at the "1" setting. Took a while to work this out, but whoever built this one must have put left-handed pots in for the tone pots. And with a hollow-body like this, it's a near impossibility to replace them once the body's sealed around them. Still, whether by mistake, out of necessity, or for a laugh, it's a feature that makes this guitar even more unique.
Pots aside, this became a bit of a project. Cleaned up, rather than refinished, to keep that lovely depth and patina; reset the tuner, to retain the original; replaced the nut with an aged Hofner 3-ply nut; and hand-rewound the pick-ups. Added to that, a new custom-case . . . there's no off-the-shelf case that can take the length and depth of this beauty.
All in all probably more cost than its remaining market value. But what a piece of history. And what a pleasure to play - the "slenda-nek", the easily accessed 24 frets, and the huge warm tone of those Novasonic humbuckers. Close your eyes, and turn back the years.
Sources & Links
Vintage Guitar And Bass on the Hofner President Bass: Always the starting-point for content, insight and archive materials for any vintage guitar. Plus the original 1964 Selmer Catalogue, with the Hofner President Bass going for old money 48 Guineas.
Steve Russell's Vintage Hofner Site: An absolute treasure trove and bible for all Hofner collectors.
Credit and thanks to John Armitage at Guitar Hospital UK and Andy Eales and Andrew Scrimshaw at Richmond Guitar Workshop for all their help in restoring this guitar to its former glory.