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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.
Later, the new owner Ted Stanton swapped out the clear acrylic control plate and truss cover for curly Koa and changed the knobs.
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.
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.
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).
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Neck: Cherry with a rosewood fingerboard. 26 frets, 34″ scale, and a wood nut.
Body: Mahogany with a maple center section. On the back there is a rosewood center strip and the heel block is ebony. I believe the control plate is walnut.
Electronics: Schaller 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.
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.
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.”
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 refusbished it, reducing the number of frets and adding a second pickup. The bass now belongs to Richard Nunez.
Included are photos before and after the refurbishment.
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.”
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.
Dan is playing the bass.
Here is the Bunny Bass description:
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.
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.
Finish: hand rubbed oil finish.
Bridge: hand made ebony.
Strap buttons: small chrome buttons.
Outputs: 1/4″ mono.
Pickup: single Schaller humbucking dual coil, 8 adjustable polepiece design.
Controls: volume, tone, 3-position toggle (sounds like in/out phase and standby).
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.
“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.
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
Thanks to Jerry for sharing the pics and story with us.
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.
Casey and Sommer are playing the bass. Also, see the 1974 construction photo.