1965 Fender Precision Bass, as made famous by Jet Harris

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1965 Precision Bass, salmon-hued Fiesta Red beauty.  A timeless bass from a golden era, built in the final months before CBS took Fender into a world of modern mass production.  And a near perfect match to the P-Bass famously played by Jet Harris in The Shadows, truly the first British guitar gods.

OK, most younger readers may not have heard of Jet Harris.  There's a chance you may have heard of The Shadows, the band he played bass in up to 1962.  And, if not, a better chance you'll recognise their most famous hit, Apache, the song that kept them at Number 1 for 5 weeks in the UK Charts in 1960.  For those that do know, you know.  Every guitarist growing up in the UK in the 1960s and 1970s knew - and couldn't help being influenced by -  The Shadows.  They were the original guitar gods.  Purely instrumental, the riffs, the sound, the syncopation of instruments and choreography (check out the "Shadows Walk"), this was the guitar band that inspired a generation of hopefuls.  Lead guitarist Hank Marvin was the first true British guitar hero.  And famously the first British guitarist to own and play a Fender Stratocaster - a 1959 in Fiesta Red, bought for him by Cliff Richard.  Less famously, Jet Harris was also one of the first in the UK to own a Fender Precision, a 1960 Sunburst, soon to be replaced by a Fiesta Red to match Hank Marvin's.  The guitars were as syncopated as the sounds and the choreography. 

The story of the Fender Precision itself is an older one.  The first ever full production electric bass, launched to the market late in 1951.  If you want to know more, check out the full story with our 1972 Precision, the first P-Bass to join the collection. 

 

As far as this one goes, it's an end of an era bass.  CBS bought Fender in March 1965.  For a few untroubled months, Fender guitars were produced to the spec and quality that had solidified their reputation, just before the CBS focus on mass production techniques took hold.  This one, from July 1965, came out in those months.  It's an absolute beauty and a tribute to its heritage.

The only real difference from jet Harris' earlier P-Bass is the pickguard - a beautiful green nitro guard in contrast to the (surprisingly uncoordinated) tortoiseshell guard on his.  It looks all the better for it!  Pickguard and Jet Harris associations aside, this is a real deal pre-CBS P-Bass.  Pearl-inlaid rosewood fretboard, perfectly shaped C-profile neck, green nitro guard, original pick-up and bridge covers, and that beautiful salmon-hued Fiesta Red finish.  Needless to say, it plays like a dream.  All the tones and resonance of a classic P-Bass.  It demands to be played.  The "Shadows Walk" is optional.

See & Hear It In Action
  • The Savage, The Shadows (1961):  Every original performance I've found of Apache is in black & white.  So here's The Savage, in full technicolour, onto your screen straight from the big screen smash, The Young Ones.  Hank Marvin describes The Savage as "a run-of-the-mill number with little to recommend it".  It's not that bad!  And it's got all the ingredients of a classic Shadows performance - including three more orange than salmon Fiesta Red Fenders, the "Shadows Walk", and an audience on the point of rioting . . . .

  • 1965 Fender Precision, Norman's Rare Guitars:  Over to Mark Agnesi for this run-through of a late-1965 Fiesta Red P-Bass.  It's early-CBS, so doesn't have the earlier "L" series serial number, but it's got everything else you could wish for.  And thanks to Mark for the clearest and simplest explanation of Fender Custom Colours, ever - Metallic, Flat or Pastel, simple!

  • The Precision Over The Years: Over to the Chicago Music Exchange for a video run-through of a fabulous collection of Precisions, from its earliest slab incarnation to the modern day.  11 minutes to get very excited about.

  • The Fender Precision Bass: A Short History:  An astonishing amount of detail packed into a 23 minute video, taking us right from the inception of the P-Bass to the present day.  Thanks to Five Watt World for this, and so many other "Short Histories".

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Specification

Make

Fender

Model

Precision Bass

Colour

Fiesta Red

Year

1965

Serial  Number

L91250

Number of Frets

20

Fretboard

Rosewood

Neck

Hard Rock Maple

Body

Alder

Tuners

Fender Precision Clover Leaf

Pick-ups

Fender Precision Split Pick-up

Bridge

Fender Precision Adjustable Bridge Plate

Scale Length:

34"

Full Length:

45.5"

Further Information:

  • First, that colour.  Fiesta Red.  Honestly, when I first got this P-Bass, I thought I'd stumbled on a rare custom colour.  It sure doesn't look red!  More like Salmon Pink or Tahitian Coral.  I wish . . .  Turns out that Fender never put Salmon Pink on their Custom Colour Charts, and there's some doubt about whether Tahitian Coral ever existed.  The truth is that Fender weren't always as accurate about their paint mixes from batch to batch.  The pastel tone of Fiesta Red comes from adding very small amounts of white paint to the base red paint.  So depending on how much white paint was added, it's easy to see how you might end up with anything from from orange to pink - all under the generic name of Fiesta Red. 

  

  • What's less visible is that this bass has had a re-lacquer.  Not a refinish.  The paintwork's original.  I wouldn't have known that without the expert appraisal of vintage guitar guru Joseph Kaye.  By touch alone, he was able to confirm the original 1965 nitrocellulose finish had been replaced by a polyurethane finish.  And then with further analysis, confirm that this was most likely a Fender Factory re-lacquer from the late-60s.  Fender had been using poly lacquer occasionally throughout the 60s, but moved to 100% use in 1968.  And provided a small service to guitarists who wanted to upgrade to a more durable lacquer.  Which also helps explain the exceptionally good condition of this P-Bass.

  • Everything else, apart from that re-lacquer, is original - with a serial number, neckstamp and pots that date this guitar to July 1965.  Classic features, plus the special additions of an additional strap button on the back of the headstock (first introduced in 1960), that nitrocellulouse "green" pickguard in its last year of service, and the retention of both pick-up and bridge covers.  Obviously from a non-smoking home ;-).

  • And did I say it plays beautifully?  Original and only lightly worn frets, gloriously comfortable neck.  From classic thump to treble click, this P-Bass has it all.  It really is a vintage classic!

Sources & Links
  • Legendary Lows: The Precision Bass Story: The story as told by Fender.  Just a fantastic source of information about the evolution (minor adaptations over complete redesigns), use (just look at the list, then add your own), and influence across the decades.
  • Vintage Guitar And Bass Original 1965 Catalogue: Hats off once again to Vintage Guitar And Bass for outstanding research, here's the original 1965 catalogue, featuring the Precision: "The choice of basses in every field".  And all for $234 for a custom colour finish!
  • More Than Everything You Need To Know About Fender Finishes at Guitar HQ:  Guitar HQ once again comes up with the goods on the history, identification and analysis of the classic Fender colours and lacquers.  And there's plenty in here about the various shades of Fiesta Red - and the wishfulness of some of us for a touch of Salmon Pink!