4-String Basses 1974-1989

Collage of 4-string bass guitars

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1981-1989

11-22-86
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2-5-86
We’ve had pictures of this bass for awhile, but a few more came in when the bass showed up for sale in Japan. It is serial #2-5-86. This is probably the most rare and unique bass we’ve ever featured on the site. There was only one of these ever made and this is it. Apparently someone in Japan asked Carl in his early years if he could do a Hofner style body. Carl decided it would be an interesting project and created this bass. According to Carl, this is a 30″ fretless piccolo made of solid Cherry with a Gaboon Ebony fingerboard. Thanks Evan!


9-30-82
This bass was made for Chuck Kristan, a long time friend of Carl’s. Chuck used to play with him at the hotel Benedict in Carl’s hometown of Pitcairn, PA.

This is an example of a CT ‘hybrid’ bass, featuring a Carl Thompson neck and Dimarzio body, assembled in Carl’s shop.

The bass is serial number 9-30-82 and now belongs to Takashi Kamesawa in Japan.


2-6-82
CT ‘hybrid’ bass, serial number 2-6-82, featuring a Carl Thompson neck and Dimarzio body, assembled in Carl’s shop.


1980

10-15-80
Serial number 10-15-80 hybrid, Dimarzio body with a Carl Thompson neck.


9-9-80
Serial number 9-9-80 has original Wal pick ups and active system; two humbuckers (both coil tapped on push pull tone pots). It used to belong to the bass player of Elkie Brookes’ band.


8-21-80
1980 fretless Carl Thompson bass, serial number 8-21-80. Maple neck with rosewood fingerboard, set in a walnut body with rosewood details. EMG pickups and an elaborate 18 volt preamp give a broad
tonal range. The hardware is all Schaller. This bass is now owned by Michael Jessen.


7-4-80
Matteo Andreatta’s 1980 fretted CT, serial number 7-4-80. This one was done in the 1977 style.


7-1-80
Serial number 7-1-80 4-string fretless. Also pictured are 8-30-78 and 2-26-95. Photos by Michael Jessen.


6-14-80
1980 fretless bolt-on, serial # 6-14-80.


4-10-80
This 1980 fretless, serial 41080, boasts a bolt on maple neck, Koa body, 34″ scale, rosewood fingerboard, DiMarzio Model J pickups, Badass 2 bridge, smoked acrylic control plate and truss rod cover.

Later, the new owner Ted Stanton swapped out the clear acrylic control plate and truss cover for curly Koa and changed the knobs.


3-27-80
Serial number 3-27-80 is walnut, with mahogany and curly maple accents. The previous owner added a Hipshot D-Tuner that matches the original Schaller tuners and active electronics.


3-21-80
Jose shared photos of serial number 3-21-80. It has a mahogany body with a maple neck and ebony fingerboard. The control plate is a smoked plexiglass cover and the electronics are DiMarzio jazz pickups.


3-3-80

2-28-80

2-5-80
Serial # 2-5-80. This was Carl’s main gig bass in the 90s and early 2000s. It has a curly maple body with a cherry neck and 34″ scale rosewood fingerboard. It has two Schaller 10/404 pickups.

Les Godfrey is playing in one photo.


1980 Les Claypool
Les’ original Carl Thompson bass, a 1976 style bass likely made in 1980.


1980 No Serial
This 1980 style bass belonged to Stanley Clarke. It does not have a serial number.


1980 No Serial 2
This 1976 style bass was most likely made in 1980 for Stanley Clarke, judging by the neck attachment and electronic date (7th week of 1980). It does not have a serial number.


1979

11-8-79

10-22-79
This impressive left-hander was custom-built for Colin Hodgkinson, a vituoso bassist best known for his work with 1970’s British bass/sax/drums trio Back Door. Carl Thompson is a New York-based builder whose influence on bass history is under rated. He was involved with bassist Anthony Jackson in the development of the modern 6-string bass, and is still experimenting today, making basses such as Les Claypool’s stunning six-string fretless.” Note the “Carl Thompson” signature on the headstock has been removed.
Bacon, Tony and Moorehouse, Barry.The Bass Book , GPI Books, San Francisco, 1995.


7-4-79
32 inch 1979 era bass, recently refurbished by Carl. The body is made of walnut, and striped pickup covers made of bocote, bloodwood, and macasar ebony, with a matching control plate, were added. The neck is curly maple with a macassar ebony fingerboard and bloodwood fretlines veneers. The headstock is a combination of flamed mahogany, curly maple, bloodwood and ebony.


6-1-79
A 1979 CT found on a Japanese website, serial number 6-1-79.


5-17-79
A 1979 CT found on a Japanese website by David Muntner. The serial # is 51779.


5-12-79
Our buddy Pete sent in pictures of his very cool bolt on fretless 4-string, Serial #51279.


2-21-79
PJ’s “Zebra Bass”, serial number 2-21-79.


1-25-79
Every CT is one of a kind, but David owns a truly unique 4-string with magnetic, interchangeable fretboards. Tired of playing a fretless? Just pop the fretboard off and swap it out with a fretted one. In the first picture you can even see the fretboards lying next to the bass.


1979 1

1979 2
Jake Ivry is the original owner of this 1979 4-string bolt-on.


1979 3
1979-era 4-string. Photos courtesy of The Bass Collection www.e-basscollection.com


1979 4
Two as-yet unidentified circa 1979 scroll basses. This photo was taken during the  Sound International Magazine interview by Colin Hodgkinson.


1978

9-26-78
J. Nygaard-Ford’s Lefty 4-string, serial number 9-26-78. The body is Honduras mahogany, the center is maple with blood wood piping. The fingerboard is rosewood and the headstock has a chestnut-laminated front and back. The electronics are straightforward, Two humbucking pickups each with seperate volume, a common tone control and a three way phase switch.


8-30-78
Serial number 8-30-78 4-string fretless. Also pictured are 7-1-80 and 2-26-95. Photos by Michael Jessen.


7-5-78
Allan Dunstan shared the story of this oustanding bass, serial number 7-5-78:

Hi, Aaron.
As promised, here are some details of my treasured work of art by Mr. Carl Thompson and how I came to purchase it.
In 1978 aged 16, I enrolled as a student on a music and performing arts course at a college near my home town of Dagenham, Essex, England. The campus was located in the nearby town of Romford, where I also had a part-time job in an aquatics store; retailing in everything from Koi carp to seahorses. This job was to supplement my meagre grant, so as a ‘poor’ student I would work Saturdays and some weekdays after college lectures. It was in this busy part of Romford that a new music shop opened nearly opposite my place of employment; an establishment that would prove to be very important for the music industry worldwide. This shop was called, ‘Soundwave’ and was situated in Victoria Road, Romford. It was ground-breaking in the UK as it was the first purely bass-orientated store. Needless to say, I frequented this place as often as possible. I got to know the owners very well, was on first name terms with them and was always kept up to date with the latest instruments, amps and technology that regularly adorned this fantastic place.
One of the owners, a great bass player called Alan Morgan, taught me a great deal about bass; technique, amplifier care, stage etiquette and much more. I purchased all my stuff there, from basses to amps and strings.
As the store became more established, the owners and technicians were all working on their own projects; the guitar tech, Rob Green began working on an idea for a British equivalent to Ned Steinberger’s graphite headless bass: STEINBERGER. His prototype model was a graphite headless neck with wooden sides. These first few (weighty) instruments were called: STRATA. That was, until Fender Corp found out and put a stop to it. After many refinements (and a name change) Rob started to produce the now world famous STATUS bass. I have one of these also (Serial No.97) and is indeed a joy to play. Rob, some years later, went on to form his own company-Green Machine Technology which is still thriving today.
As for amplification the bass world owes a great deal to Soundwave’s co-owner, Fred Friedlein and design engineer, Stuart Watson. Listening to customer’s comments and niggles regarding what was “out there” they set out to create the best bass amp possible; incorporating suggestions and requests from both pro and amateur. The result? TRACE ELLIOT was formed. These were great days, and I was there as it all started!! The business eventually became too big to be run from the Romford location so they moved production to another part of Essex. Many years later, Alan Morgan moved to America to run that side of Trace. I think it is now owned by Peavey.
As a bit of a maverick, as Alan Morgan was, he would take time away from the store and travel to the USA to go “hunting’. This was when he would visit many music stores (sadly, I don’t know where) and make deals with owners; purchasing some great examples of American basses, ‘Alembics’, I remember were one such make, but this was also when he bought the ‘Carl Thompson’.
I remember visiting ‘Soundwave’ one Saturday in 1979 shortly after his return to discover a wealth of new stock-unbelievable!! The first bass he let me try from these imports was Greg Lake’s (Emerson, Lake & Palmer) Alembic 8-string studio bass. I had never seen such workmanship-but way out of my price range. Then I spied the ‘Thompson’ tucked behind another bass. What a vision. I couldn’t wait to try it; the craftsmanship, the balance, the woods (even the smell) and the overall beauty. I was hooked, and I hadn’t even plugged it in yet!
Alan proceeded to tell me a little about it and I can tell you it is made of ‘birdseye’ Maple with Rosewood inlay on the back that apparently is one continuous piece. I’ve looked for a join but can’t find one so it must be correct. The fingerboard is Ebony.
He plugged me into a combo amp for a try out and before starting I zeroed the EQ so as to hear the true bass sound. It was amazing; crystal clear, no dead spots anywhere on the fretboard. Another thing that impressed me was the shape of the neck; never before or since have I played a more comfortable bass. Outstanding. He explained a little about the electrics; although not an active bass, a great deal of sound and tonal variations can be achieved by combinations of the three switches and the two pick-up pots. I can only describe this as he did: ‘phasing’. It is an impressive tool considering it’s a passive bass.
The price tag was a little under one thousand pounds (£1000) with no wiggle room, ‘Ouch’ and me a ‘poor’ student. So I went to the ‘bank of mum & dad’ and reluctantly they agreed to loan me the money. With the cash in my pocket I made my way back to ‘Soundwave’ all set to make my transaction, eager to get home and play it. Perfect plan, you would think…
I entered the store, checked the CT was still there and promptly thrust my money in Alan’s direction. He congratulates me on my purchase but then tells me I can’t take it out of the store until Friday evening. Anxious to get this baby home, he then informs me he has invited all the top pro bass players that were in the country at that time (inc. Double bass players as he also had a fine stock of double basses) to come to Romford to experience what ‘Soundwave’ had to offer. We reached a compromise…that I could take the Carl Thompson bass home…as long as I promised to let him have it back early Friday. To this I agreed (reluctantly).
Friday came and so I did as promised, and took the CT back to the store for Show Day. The place looked amazing; every conceivable make of bass, amp, pedal etc, perfectly displayed. The shop was to remain closed to the public and only invited players and music journalists allowed. I do have one regret regarding that day; Alan asked me if I wanted to stay, but I had some important college lectures to attend.
Before leaving my new bass with him I asked if people would be playing it, to which he replied, yes but he would be present and ensure its safety. I made a request before leaving that would he please make sure if anyone plays it sitting down to remove coins, keys etc from right trouser pocket, if standing, avoid “buckle rash” on the back and put away any ‘Bee Gees’ style medallions. This, he said he would do.
Saturday came and I was eager to collect my treasure from Soundwave. The Show Day had been a success and the CT was a big hit. So much so that Alan Morgan had an offer to make to me on behalf of one of the pro’s who had tried it. He asked me if I wanted to double my money and accept TWO thousand pounds for it. Well, I was tempted but obviously said no. And the guy who made the offer was the legend that was; John Entwhistle from THE WHO. Yep, wish I’d skipped college that day!!
I’ve used this bass on many occasions since; both as a pro player and now, semi-pro. It’s never let me down, always in tune and it still smells nice (ah, that Maple)! I do upset people a little I must admit, if someone asks if they can try it out, I always say no. I don’t want to risk any damage. When you consider the age of this bass and the amount of use I have got out of it over nearly 40 years; playing show bands, rock bands, jazz orchestras and session work, it’s in great condition. In all these years I’ve never done anything to it except change the strings and wipe it down with a soft cloth. However, earlier this year I decided to take the CT to a highly qualified Luthier (John Walker-J W Luthier Services) to give it a full service and bring it back to its original playability. I’m pleased to say this John has done, he was also very impressed with the instrument.
Something else I thought I would mention; in 1984 Alan Morgan secured me a couple of weeks employment at another bass guitar store, ‘The Bass Centre, Wapping, London’. The owner Barry Morehouse was going to be attending a trade show for the duration and asked if I could cover. I mention this only because in his stock was another CT bass. It wasn’t as nice as mine (in my opinion) but it may have been an earlier model. It was made from (what I remember) one colour wood; dark brown. The interesting thing about this one is it was labelled in the store as being a piccolo bass once belonging to Stanley Clarke.
Anyway, Aaron. If I haven’t put you to sleep with this monotony, I’ll just say I hope there is some useable info here. Any questions then feel free to contact me.
Can you pass on my best wishes to the genius that is Carl Thompson if you are in contact with him. I did email the CT website some 10 years ago but received no reply.

Best wishes,
Allan Dunstan


7-3-78
David Muntner’s new-old bass. It is a 1978 (serial # 7-3-78) with a cherry neck and rosewood fingerboard. The body is walnut with Schaller pickups and a Badass bridge. Note the set-neck design with ebony heel-block.

Also includes are some pics of the ’78 along with Dave’s 6-string. These were taken just after the bass was returned by Carl after being cleaned up and having the frets dressed.


6-23-78
1978 4-string fretted mahogany bass made for Gene Perla, serial number 6-23-78. It has a maple neck with 26 frets, and two Schaller pickups. Note the ebony “half moon” insert at the neck / body joint.


5-13-78
Cherrywood bass originally made for Charles Farnsworth, who was Stanley Clarke’s brother in law. Restored by Carl Thompson around 2014.

Also pictured is 10-15-80, a Dimarzio bodied bass with a Carl Thompson neck.


5-4-78
One of two 1978’s of PJs, 5-4-78.


5-2-78
One of two 1978’s of PJs, 5-2-78.


4-13-78
This fretless CT was found at a Sam Ash for $750 in 1990. It seems the manager of the store did not know what he had his hands on. he frantically tried to buy it back once he found out! Serial # 4/13/78.


2-11-78
These pictures aren’t new, but reader Jonathan bought this bass and realized we had it listed twice on the site. We originally saw it sell for $3400 on eBay, and then it was spotted on Wes Borland’s site. And now Jonathan is the lucky owner! Serial # 2-11-78 has a mahogany body with rosewood stringers and cherrywood center. Also a maple neck with rosewood fingerboard and rosewood headstock veneer.


13-13-78
Mike Grote bought this 1978 4-string from Bass Northwest and the previous owner had removed the nameplate and replaced it with a bird. Fortunately for Mike, you can still see the screw holes from where the nameplate once sat. The bass was lovingly restored and now resides in Canada. The serial number is 13-13-78, which may include a mis-hammer. Also pictured are 9-25-06 and 6-5-07.


1-25-78
1-25-78 Carl Thompson owned by Allan Crispell. The bass has various types of mahogany comprising the body and neck, maple burl on the head stock, rosewood fingerboard and pickup covers, black/white ebony as the control cover, Schaller tuning machines and a BassAss bridge.


1-5-78
Ray Pirotta bought this bass, serial number 1-5-78, in the summer of 1978. He was told by Steve Friedman, (son of Larry Friedman, owner of We Buy Guitars on West 48th Street in N.Y.C.), that this had been ordered by Stanley Clark as a piccolo bass. It had piccolo strings when he bought it. Steve told Ray that Stanley did not get around to picking up this bass and that Steve sold it to Brooklyn-based bassist Frank Gravis who sold it back to Steve in the summer of 1978.

The bass has the accented 3D scroll, zebra wood sides, two Bartolini HI-A Jazz bass pickups, and is 32″ scale. It has two volume controls, one tone control and a mini three-way toggle switch (hi, low and off).


1-2-78

1978 Les Claypool

1978 1

1978 2
1978 4-string in Brazil.


1978 3
“Hi, I found your page on the net. I’m sending you a pic of my Thompson. It was made in ’78. It’s made of walnut with 26 frets, 2 schaller pickups and tuning pegs, a DiMarzio bridge. Carl put the bridge up on a rosewood saddle for me because I like the action kinda high and didn’t want to raise the bridge saddles that high. The last time I was there, he was still working out of his kitchen. He had a bunch of necks in an umbrella stand and told me about this guy who came to see him. Some kid that could really play and had great technique, but he thought his musical style was kinda out there. He was talking about Les Claypool. I bought the bass in 1982 and took it back to Carl to get fixed in ’84. I can’t tell you what the guy who owned it before me did to it, but he had 4 jazz bass pickups in it, he replaced the wooden control plate with plastic and routed out a hole for a preamp battery. Carl took good care of it though. – Vinny”


1978 4

1978 5

1977

12-19-77
Serial number 12-19-77, originally made for Billy Christ.


11-10-77
Serial number 11-10-77. 34” scale, 2 Kent Armstrong pickups, Original Bad Ass bridge, Brass nut


11-9-77
David “Rook” Goldflies played this CT with the Allman Brothers (1979-1983). It is a late 70’s mahogany 4 string fretted, serial # 11-9-77. Note the ebony heel block. He bought it while visiting New York in 1979 for $750. In March of 2000 Aaron purchased it from him.

Neck: Cherry with a rosewood fingerboard. 26 frets, 34″ scale, wood nut.
Body: Mahogany with a maple center section. On the back there is a rosewood center strip and the heel block is ebony. The control plate and truss rod cover are walnut.
Electronics: Schaller 10/404 neck and DiMarzio Model One bridge pickups, volume, volume, and tone nobs, with a three-position switch. From left to right – normal, treble filter, and standby.
Hardware: Chrome Schaller tuners, chrome Badass bridge, chrome rear strap button, and a brass “straplock” front button.

See also the refinishing photos and refinished bass.


9-1-77

7-2-77
Serial number 7-2-77.


6-22-77
Michael Jessen’s 6-22-77 was refurbished by Pete Hilton.

5-26-77
This 1977 4-string, serial #52677 is a 24 fret piccolo. This bass originally featured Green Machine Technology active circuitry (mounted beneath the original pick up to maintain the aesthetics of the Bass), a chrome scratch plate and strap locks. It now has a refinished body and Schaller 404 remake pickup and is owned by Michael Jessen.


5-20-77
This beautiful fretless 4 string, serial #5-20-77, belongs to PJ. This bass has a highly figured birdseye maple body with mahogany neck and rosewood fingerboard. Electronics are a DeArmond dobro pickup in the bridge position and a Rio Grande humbucker and the neck position. Badass bridge, Schaller tuners. PJ has seince restored the original Schaller 404 pickups and added frets.


5-13-77
Gerald Carboy sent photos of 5-13-77, of which he is the original owner. Also pictured are Kevin Eubands, Vini Lopez and Tal Farlow.


5-7-77
David Siff’s 1977 CT. He got it in a trade with no pickups. After a quick vacation at Carl’s shop, the bass came back with new frets, a leveled neck, Kent Armstrong passive soap bar, new bridge, and some woodwork. Carl inlaid a piece of Bolivian rosewood were an old Jazz pickup hole was. The pickup cover is cocobolo and rosewood. The serial # is 5-7-77.


4-8-77

3-25-77
This maple 4 string, serial number 3-25-77 has a rosewood fingerboard, 26 frets and badass bridge. The brass nut is a jazz bass width at 1.5″.

At some point the original Schaller 10/404 pickup was replaced with an active EMG soap bar.


2-8-77
Serial number 2-8-77, 36″ scale bird’s eye maple 4-string. This was the first bass to use the modern heel-block design and also the first extended scale 4-string Carl built. The bass features a two piece birds eye maple body, birds eye maple three piece neck, and birds eye maple control plate cover and headstock laminate. It also has an ebony fingerboard, 24 frets and two active EMG soap bar pickups. Carl refreshed the instrument in late 2016.

Kenneth Bow and Dave Muntner pictured.


1-4-77
Serial number 1-4-77 was originally owned by Cleve Alleyne, who bought the bass in 1977. Carl converted the bass to a piccolo but it has since been converted back to its original tuning.


1977 1
Late 1977 4-String fretted. Showing the 3d upper horn scroll design.

Photos courtesy of Darrin Huff.


1977 2
Early-1977 4-string owned by Gary Barnes and refurbished by Steve Wilson guitars. Piccolo with alembic soap bar neck pickup and bartolini jazz bridge pickup and electronics; brass nut and Leo quan bridge.


1977 3
Here’s a 1977 body that has been in the shop for who knows how long. Lovingly called the “truss bass”, it was so named due to the fact that the truss rod was sticking out of the upper portion of the neck, where the headstock was supposed to be. Perhaps we’ll be seeing this bass on the market sometime soon.


1976

11-12-76
Serial number 11-12-76. This is an interesting bass because only a handful of these were made and they are the precursors to the very popular 77 body style. New owner Trevor sent us along some photos and information. The owner Trevor (who happens to be a luthier) totally refinished the bass, made a new control plate out of Tiger Maple, put in new pots, added a thumb rest and dressed the frets. Trevor mentioned that the bass might have originally been a fretless since the neck side dots are directly over the fretlines. The figured Mahogany body has a Maple neck (with 29 frets) and Ebony fingerboard, a Seymour Duncan pickup, Badass bridge and Schaller tuners. Carl later converted it back to fretless.

There is also a photo of Brian Nomi playing the bass during a concert in Ohio. Brian is very close friends with Carl and is the own of the only 7 String Carl Thompson bass.


11-3-76
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10-6-76
10-6-76, left handed, 29 frets, all mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard. One Schaller humbucker. When it was completed, it had one volume, one tone, three position switch. On/ off/ slight tone cut.

This bass was stolen from The Rick Derringer Bands’ van in Rochester, N.Y. in late 1991, or early 1992. If you have information on it’s whereabouts please contact Aaron.

LH Bassist writes: “Sadly, I had done some stupid mods, after my cat knocked it over and broke the headstock off. I got a little carried away, and pretty much did the instrument a disservice. Mods:
Removed the body scroll. Shortened the 29 fret fingerboard to 24 frets. Repaired the headstock. Wood and epoxy filled the original Schaller pickup routes, and installed three Ibanez Musician bass pickups- two 824, and one 924 single coils. Three separate volumes, and an EMG BTC treble/ bass control. I believe it had a chrome Schaller bridge, with one roller saddle missing- just the threaded screw for a saddle. The bass was hastily refinished in 1956 Chevrolet Tropical Turquoise lacquer. Here’s a photo of me with the original bass, in 1977. I had added the bridge pickup, Carl refused to. So I asked him to sell me the pickup and pot, and did it myself. It looks like he did it. He actually complimented me on my work. I liked that. And I liked Carl.”


10-2-76
This 34″ scale, 29 fret, piccolo bass was built for Bob Babbitt, most famous for his work at Motown, by Carl Thompson, in Brooklyn in 1976. Bob had been working with Stanley Clarke at the time, who had high praise for the Carl Thompson piccolo bass he was using on his upcoming album, School Days. Bob decided he needed one.

Carl added that he still remembers the day Bob came into his shop, just after he relocated from Manhattan to Brooklyn, to order a bass. “Bob was a big guy,” he said, “and I had to re-cut the body on this bass to fit comfortably against Bob’s thigh. I used the new ‘Bob’ cut, on all my basses after that.”

PJ bought the bass and refurbished it, reducing the number of frets and adding a second pickup. The bass now belongs to Michael Jessen.

Included are photos before and after the refurbishment.


9-27-76
4-string fretted originally made for Ben Brown. It has a walnut body and neck, a rosewood fingerboard with a wide 1-15/16” nut, a badass bridge and a single Schaller 10/404 pickup. Note the ‘Custom Made for Ben Brown 9-27-76’ plaque and the African carving that was added to the headstock.

Carl refreshed the bass in early 2018.

Ben is playing with Dizzy Gillespie in some of the photos. Also pictured is Dave Muntner.


9-11-76
Lance Kennedy’s recently purchased 1976 CT, serial # 9-11-76. Lance picked the bass up on eBay in October ’01 for $3200.

Here’s the eBay description: “Mint! Looks new! Unplayed! Not a scratch! No fretwear! Serial # 91176, (Sep. 11 ’76) Koa, Bubinga, or Ovangkol body. Body is essentially 1-piece, the only lamination being a tiny piece on one side, I guess the piece of wood was just a 1/4″ shy of the size Carl needed. Mahogany neck w. Rosewood or Cocabola fingerboard. Typical CT oil finish. Schaller tuners, Badass 1 bridge. Passive electronics, (tone control is a little scratchy, sealed pots so I can’t spray it out, no big deal) 100% stock, straight neck, excellent action, works fine, 3-way coil split/series-parallel switch. NO cracks, repairs, or problems. 29, YES, 29, frets! Woodburned logo. Has the famed CT warm, woody sound and organic playability. Inc. hardshell grey rug covered case. This is the third, COOLEST, and final Carl Thompson bass in the collection of a customer who’s consigned them to me.”

Frankie P. sent the following history of #91176.

“The first time I took that bass to Carl was to have the neck adjusted. Nothing major. At the time he explained that he had gotten this one chunk of wood (African Mahogany) I believe, and he went on to explain that he only had enough to make twelve bodies from it, six where shaped like the 1976, the other six where shaped like the 1977. He remembered the head piece on that bass, saying that when he was making the neck and head pieces for those basses, one fell down and got damaged, so he had to reshape it. If you notice the head piece is narrower on that bass than on his others from around that time. Carl told me that story in about 1980.

Around 1982/83 I had a bad accident with that bass, when it fell out of it’s stand landing face down flat on the floor, cracking the head piece (almost) off the neck. Believe me when I tell ya, I was on my knees crying when that happened. I thought it was over.

I took the bass to Carl as soon as I could, expecting to hear the worst. He told me he had seen worse, it would take awhile, but he’d try to fix it. I got a call from Carl about a week later saying it was ready. When I went to pick it up, the bass was back to normal, like it never happened. Unbelievable. He cleaned it up and put on a new set of CT strings, the bass was back in A1 condition. When I asked him how much it was going to cost he said “well I have to charge you for the new strings” and as for the repair… let’s put it this way, he was all too kind.

He did tell me one thing, and this is important information, should this happen to anybody else (even though you’re in a state of shock ) always remember to loosen the tension on the strings.

One day someone showed me a Carl Thompson bass, and from that moment on it was a mission to find one. I’m not exactly sure if it was in 1977 or 78 but I found that bass in a used guitar shop on 48th street in Manhattan. I probably still have the receipt for it somewhere. It’s funny on the site it says Mint condition, UNPLAYED! That’s not true. Mint condition! (great) I’m so happy to hear that’s it’s still mint. Unplayed, is not the story though.

I owned that bass for about fifteen years. Played it everyday for hours on end. That bass was my life.

During the time that I had it, I had to bring it to Carl (twice) for some repairs. The first time I met Carl, He remembered that particular bass, and told me a few interesting things about it that make it a bit more unique. The second time, WELL, that repair made it even more unique.

During the time that I had it, it was definitely played ALOT, I just took special care in maintaining it. Kiwi neutral shoe polish, a soft cloth, and a little spit. Orders from Carl himself. During the time that I had it, that bass never had any fancy hi shine glossy guitar sprays put on it. It was always hand rubbed,spit shinned, It was some what of a ritual when it came time to clean it, but well worth the extra effort. That hand rubbed spit shine finish left the natural wood feeling like silk. Never used any oils on it, so it never got any dark greasy build up stains on it.

I also kept it in a custom foam fitted Anvil road case, that was like a vacuum packed coffin. Which actually came with the bass when I bought it. So who ever had it before me was very serious and careful about keeping that bass safe. That case was a ton, a lot of guys used to laugh, seeing me carrying that case around, until I opened it. At that time I couldn’t find a soft case that could fit the shape and long neck. In the long run though, that case has a lot to do with the “MINT” condition the bass is in now.

Just last night an old friend (band member) who I haven’t spoken to in years mentioned how cool that bass was, I told him” to this day I regret selling that bass”. He hooked me up with this site. I went through the list, and today, there it is, I’m looking at my long lost love.

I bought the bass for $750 with the case. There came an uncomfortable time when I needed money, and I sold it to a “friend” who always wanted to buy it, and I knew he would take care of it, sorta on the condition that I’d buy it back from him someday. It took about a year to get back on my feet, and when I went to buy it back, HE who said HE’d never sell it…..sold it!

I always loved that bass, It’s part of my life. I regret having to sell it, NOT because of how much it’s worth today, or how much it’ll be worth in five years, or anytime in the future. It has nothing to do with the value price. It has to do with the fact that it is such a beautiful instrument. It’s truly a piece of art. From when you first see it, to when you pick it up, to when you start to play it, you know that it’s a special instrument.

Brings back a lot of memories seeing those pictures on the site.”


8-19-76
Jim Londos shared photos of his 1976 fretless 4-string, serial number 8-19-76. Jim asked to tell his story:

He bought the bass when he was sixteen years old. He wanted a custom made bass, and after working all summer he looked at Alembic, Stewart Spector and Carl Thompson. When he got the bass a couple months later it was not what he ordered. He wanted the old scroll and got the new; he wanted two DiMarzio pickups but got one Schaller instead. There were other problems with the bass and Jim worked with Carl over the next months in order to sort them out but left with a bad taste in his month. Nonetheless he still has the bass.


8-5-76
Steve and family visited Carl in 2007 with his 1976 4-string, serial 8-5-76.

Steve sent us the following account of his visit:

The wife and I, Arrived in NY Thurs 25th , picked up Bass on the Friday, phoned Carl, and went around to his workshop at about 4.30 P.M. – Was not prepared for what happened next !!!

Arrived at Carl’s, and was immediately struck, by how much the streets, looked like Sesame St. Carl answered the door, and He looked just like I’d thought – A true NY muso gentleman.
He took an instant shine to my wife, asking if he could call her babe!, we talked for a bit – well, I say talk, but for the first half hour I couln’t say anything – I was absolutely blown away.
Carl, then asked to see the bass, and after about 5-10 mins , he turns to us and says ” Steve, you’ve got a really rare bass on your hands – and by feeling the bass, I can tell you that I made
the whole bass, there was no input from anyone else, Also, it is from the First stock of Walnut, that I made the first 50 Basses out of, and the lower horn is the ‘cut-off’ type.”

WOW, I’m really blown away by all of this, but it didn’t stop there.
Carl then asked, if he could 600grit wire wool the bass, because after 30 years, the Walnut’s grain, had rose slightly, so Carl proceeded to Wirewool, re-oil, using Orange Oil, re-seated the
frets, and re-strung the Bass for me. He also said he was going to send me a new control plate – as the original one, was for the Schaller pickup, whereas, the previous owner, had Mike
Sherman, to fit a new Kent Armstrong soapbar (switches and stuff on the original control plate ) – Carl said he would send me a New plate – to match the KA pickup !!!

We talked a bit more – Carl showed us Lou Reed’s new Guitars, had a go of the ‘First’ CT Bass, played Carl’s Bass – the one he uses at the Atlantic Bar, played us the Halloween Song, and showed us the really good Halloween book ( I’d like to get a copy of these for my 1 year old daughter – when they come out !), we talked about practising, Carl showed me a couple of new warmups, we talked about the DVD that he’s planning on releasing ,spoke to Carl’s lovely wife
Linda – she loved our accents, How some guy from Bass Player magazine had ‘Twisted’ the truth ( Bloody Journalists !!), Carl’s life , and the greats he’s known and worked with, Wow – Tony
Bennett practising in his old shop ( absolutely blown away !!!!!)

By now, the hours had passed quite quickly, and I was afraid of overstaying our welcome, But Carl then asked us, would we like to go for a drink, and a bite to eat ?

The wife and I, by now, felt really honoured, to be spending some time with the Master, so we offered to pay for his food and drinks. So, we went off to Carl’s car, and he drove around to Court
St. Carl pointed out his apartment, and we called in the Pub, across the road from where he lives. Can’t remember what it was called, but they had 500 different type of Beers 🙂 none from Wales though !( asked them to get some in for next time ) we all had a bite to eat, and a couple of drinks, Talked and talked, Carl signed a little birthday note to my daughter !, couple more Stolychnya tonics, and before we knew it – it was closing time. We stayed till closing time, and showed the owner Robert , and the bar staff, the Bass – It blew them away ! Just as we were leaving for the cab, Carl was off to Cody’s to contemplate the rest of the night,
I’m sure this was about 11.30ish – 🙂

Got back to the hotel, and I couldn’t believe what had just happened. never in my wildest dreams.

Carl is an absolute Gentleman. My wife Emma and myself had a great evening, and would like to extend, a very big thank you to Yourself, and Carl, for his Generosity, and his warm Hospitality.


7-24-76
Mike Satzinger with a 1976 4-string that he bought and rebuilt, serial # 7-24-76.


6-28-76
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5-7-76
This 1976 bass was one of a few that Carl built known as “Battle Basses.” Carl named them as such due to the way the horns came to points. I only know of two, although I am sure there are more. This one is serial # 5-7-76.


3-13-76
Paul Brodsky’s 1976 CT, serial # 3-13-76. It has a mahogany body and rosewood fingerboard. Look closely above the neck pickup and you will see a gouge in the mahogany. This was the result of constant playing over the course of 6 months by one of Paul’s friends, Schuyler Deale, who now tours with Billy Joel, Michael Bolton, Heart, and Julian Lennon.


2-27-76
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2-8-76
Terry Devlin’s 1976 4-string fretless CT, serial number 2-8-76. The fingerboard on this bass has 29 fret markers. This is likely the first ‘scroll bass’ Carl created, and this style did not resurface again until later 1976.


1-19-76
Stephen Tjaden’s early 4-string, fresh from being re-worked at Carl’s shop. The serial # is 1-19-76.


1-16-76
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1976 No Serials
This 1976-style bass has no serial number and an unbranded nameplate. It could be a bass made in the shop but sold without Carl’s blessing, or a genuine CT that was never branded and stamped. Rick Kneal owns this unique example.


1976 Stanley Clarke

1976 1

1976 2

1976 3
As-yet unidentified circa 76 bass.


1975

12-18-75
Our friend Mark Levy sent us pictures and a very interesting story about his Carl Thompson, #121875. Mark owned the bass and then sold it and recently purchased it back! Pretty incredible turn of events, and a very unique bass altogether.


12-10-75
Serial number 12-10-75, owned by Devin.


10-16-75
This 1975 4-string once sold on the site. This bass was originally made for Don Baldini.


10-3-75

9-25-75
This instrument changed hands a few times over the years, and due to problems with the neck Carl has traded it back and retired it.

9-22-75
Serial number 9-22-75, owned by Michael Jessen.

9-3-75
One of the first basses, this was finished 9-3-1975.


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3-75
Serial #3-75, it’s a very early and unique body style for Carl. The bass was originally built for Ron McClure of Blood Sweat and Tears and features a Birch body and Rosewood fingerboard. It has a 34″ scale length, a single Schaller pickup and Schaller tuners. The bridge was replaced somewhere along the line with a Badass bridge, but has since been brought back to original condition by Carl (as well as having the frets replaced). Thanks go to Jon and the crew at Bunny Bass for the amazing photos.

Dan is playing the bass.

Here is the Bunny Bass description:

Dimensions
Scale Length: 34″ inches.
Neck Shape: squarish – flat back, shallow at nut (3/4 inch depth) then gradually becoming thicker up the neck (17/16″ at 12th fret and full body thickness at 21st fret).
Width at Nut: 1 7/16 inches.
String Width at Bridge: 2 inches.
Overall Length: 44 1/2 inches.
Widest: 13 inches.

Construction
Weight: approximately 10 pounds.
Neck: appears to be quartersawn maple.
Fingerboard: rosewood with medium-small mother of pearl dot inlays, three dots at 12th and 24th fret positions, small side dots.
Body: birch.
Finish: hand rubbed oil finish.

Hardware
Bridge: hand made ebony.
Tuners: Schaller.
Strap buttons: small chrome buttons.
Outputs: 1/4″ mono.

Electronics
Pickup: single Schaller humbucking dual coil, 8 adjustable polepiece design.
Controls: volume, tone, 3-position toggle (sounds like in/out phase and standby).
Preamp: none.

Condition
Fret wear: none.
Superficial wear: a few light scuff marks on back of instrument (somewhat difficult to see because of the oil finish), light marking on wood control cavity plate. assorted very small bumps on bottom of instrument near the strap button. overall surprisingly few signs of player wear. the oil finish looks a bit old though, and the fingerboard, bridge, and headstock will look nicer with some oiling.
Deep wear: five very small marks scattered around the top, they don’t appear deep but because of the age of the bass they appear darker. witht the exception of the one mark about an inch away from the treble side of the pickup (this one looks like a ‘regular bump’ – please see pictures below), the marks are very symmetrical and round, almost as if they were formerly screw holes that have since been filled. certainly not unattractive, but curious.
Hardware wear: the machine heads are shiny and look nearly new, but the strap buttons a little dull and could use some polishing.
Pickups wear: a little bit of player wear on the pickup retaining ring.
Overall Condition: excellent.

Curator’s statement:

“Having the opportunity to closely examine any Carl Thompson bass is an exciting occurrence for anybody who loves bass guitars. So when this particular Carl Thompson arrived at BunnyBass we were quite surprised at what lay there in its case before us. A simple, elegantly designed bass, somewhat compact in appearance but sturdy and substantial in your hands – Nancy immediately fell in love with it and called it “cute”.

A telephone call and visit to Carl Thompson confirmed that this is a very special bass. This is Carl Thompson serial number 3-75, one of his earliest instruments. Built by Carl in 1975 for bassist Ron McClure of the legendary rock band Blood, Sweat & Tears, this bass already shows many of the unique design elements that would later coalesce into his unique, totally singular vision of instrument building. From a historical perspective, this bass stands as an important demonstration of how many of Mr. Thompson’s fundamental concepts on how to build a bass guitar have been present almost from the very beginning of his practice. The distinctive scroll, the beautiful handmade wood bridge, the signature headstock design, and swooping, graceful contours are already defining elements of this bass’s overall design and serves to hint at many of his amazing designs that were to follow. This bass is also very similar to the CT bass in the well-known photograph of legendary jazz bassist Victor Gaskin (see that very cool photograph).

Played with a light touch, the bass plays well, with a nice resonance that can be felt through the body and the neck. The electronics are fully functional, and the bass has surprisingly little wear for an instrument over 25 years old. The frets were recently replaced by Mr. Thompson so they don’t have any noticeable playwear on them. From a players perspective, the most unusual feature of this bass is the almost “squarish” profile of the neck. It’s not uncomfortable, but definitely different from what I’m used to and it took me a couple days to get used to it. The neck is quite shallow at the nut and gradually becomes thicker as you work your way up the neck – in fact the heel of the bass is integrated into the neck’s profile in such a way that the neck is nearly the full thickness of the body at the 20th fret position. The bass has a very powerful, present sound with a focused midrange – very old school! The toggle seems to switch the coils in and out of phase, resulting in both wide/fat and focused/bright sounds, and also has a standby mode. The Schaller pickup has an unappealing quirk that won’t endear it to players who do a lot of note bending – the strings tend to fall out the magnetic field when moved decisively from side to side – it’s possible to simulate an almost tremolo-type effect.

The handmade ebony and brass bridge, an essential aspect of this bass’s design, has a little story of it’s own. For at least part of its life this bass had a BadAss I bridge attached to it. There are photographs of this bass with the BadAss bridge at the Carl Thompson bass website (see note below). Recently the bass has been restored back to the original intended design by Carl himself. Notice the three dot inlays now on the bridge are in the same locatiion as the screws from the BadAss bridge, an elegant solution that visually rhymes with the three-dot 12 and 24 fret markers. This work was done at the same time when he replaced the frets, so everything on this bass is 100% original Carl Thompson. When restoring the bridge, he also made additional/alternate bridge saddles for this bass, so these are also included.

In the world of electric basses, Carl Thompson remains one of the few luthiers that still builds one of a kind works of instrumental art. To this day, no two of his basses have ever been the same. What a gift to bring a fresh set of eyes and a feeling of adventure and newness to each bass he has built for over twenty five years, and from this ethic the entire bass community has benefitted immensely from his work.

There also exists an entire online community of CT enthusiasts at www.ctbasses.com, the official Carl Thompson bass website (a labor of love run by Aaron Beharelle, Casey Paquet, et. al.). This site is a great resource and if you have an interest in Carl Thompson’s work but have yet to visit this site, please do. There is a lot of information and helpful people there.”

~ jon, curator at the BunnyBass Museum.


1-75
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0-75
Serial number 0-75. Photos courtesy of The Low End, www.thelowend.net and The Bass Collection www.e-basscollection.com


1975 1
Here is a beautiful 1975 Walnut 4-string that is amazingly still owned by the original owner it was built for! Jerry Fisher has had this bass since Carl made it for him way back in 1975. Want proof? Read the story of this bass:

In 1975, I was in Manhattan looking to replace a Dan Armstrong fretless that got stolen from me. Saw a tiny ad in the Village Voice about a bass builder. Went to a small shop and met Carl. Sure he could make me a bass. He took me in the back room and showed me some blocks of Walnut, told me to give him a few months and call. Got the bass about 4 or 5 months later with a Walnut body (that original tree, I guess), D’Armand pickup, Nbony neck mount piece, Ebony string holder and an Ebony fingerboard on a Birch neck.

— Beautiful, $650.

Took it home, but the neck was too thin and the headpiece came off. Back in the shop in 76. 6 months later, it was refitted with Maple neck and Rosewood fingerboard. A small strip of Ebony was left on the back as a detail.

Many years later, the pickup was replaced with the Bartolini. Perfect

Jerry Fisher

Thanks to Jerry for sharing the pics and story with us.


1975 2
Victor Gaskin holding a 1975 4-string fretless.


1975 3
1975-era bass owned by Bob Clinton.


1974

14-74
Michael sent in photos of this early 70’s fretless, #1474. When Michael bought the bass he was studying with Steve Swallow who sent him to meet Carl at his studio. Michael had this to say “Based on Steve’s recommendation and high opinion of Carl I went ahead. It was a great decision. The bridge is ebony and Carl made two other variations of different size and shapes. The neck is completely perfect. He really knows how to make them. It is in the same condition as when it was purchased. It is a fretless and one of his very first basses. It is possible it is his first fretless. There is a preamp inside that Carl thought a lot of.”


13-74
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12-74
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11-74
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10-74
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9-74
Serial number 9-74 is the first piccolo bass, made for Stanley Clarke. It is 34” scale with a walnut body and ebony fingerboard, 1.5” string spacing at the nut and 26 frets.

It has since been refurbished by Carl and converted to standard tuning. At the same time Carl replaced the tubing machines, bridge and swapped in a passive Kent Armstrong pickup.


8-74
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7-74
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6-74
Serial number 6-74, the sixth bass Carl built. This bass is now owned by Magnus.


5-74
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4-74
Serial number 4-74 made for Bob Cranshaw.


3-74
Serial number 3-74, made for Ken Smith.


2-74
The first Carl Thompson bass ever sold, second made. It’s serial number is 0274. It was originally bought by Erv Manning of the Benny Goodman Band for $200.00 in 1974.

Also pictured is the bass after a facelift consisting of having an old original HI-A pickup (early Bartolini) and a jazz bass pickup (that someone else had installed) removed, new wood (mahogany) put in and a new pickup and bridge installed. Carl also installed Sperzel tuners, and a new wood nut. The bridge was a Gotoh and the pickup of course, was an EMG. It was bought in Spokane Washington from Darrin Huff in 1997, and shortly after sent to carl for the facelift. It is currently in New York.

Original photos courtesy of Darrin Huff.


1-74
This is the very first bass Carl ever built in 1974, and its strung up and playable! The bass is in the middle of restoration, so its unofficially fretless for now. The amazing thing is that even though its the first ever, and it isn’t fully restored, it still plays amazingly.

Casey and Sommer are playing the bass. Also, see the 1974 construction photo.


1974 No Serial
1974 Carl Thompson with no serial number. The electronics feature both a wood covered pick-up (likely an Armstrong) plus a classic P bass pickup. This bass is one of the first few built and is now owned by Michael Jessen.


1974 1
Russell George posing with a 1974 4-string. It is one of the first 12 basses that Carl created.


1970s-1980s uncategorized

80s 1
An 80’s 4 string that was made for a client in Japan. Notice the “cat eyes” on the upper horn and body. This is one of Carl’s favorites.


80s 2
1980’s style fretless (Right hand side), next to 7-1-80.


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