When I first started playing bass more than 15 years ago, I noticed that Fender sunburst finishes were priced a little higher than solid colors. What’s interesting is that Fender only offered sunburst as the standard finish from the late 1950s through the 1960s. If you wanted any other color, it was a 5% up-charge, known at the time as a custom color job. They offered several custom colors, all of which were based on American automobile paint options of the era. I’ve listed 12 of my favorite vintage Fender custom colors from that time period.
Fender introduced the Jazz Bass in 1960 as a “deluxe” model to augment the Precision Bass. Since its debut, the Jazz has stayed remarkably similar to its original design. There have, however, been many smaller changes over the years that are important not only to Fender Jazz bass history in general, but also as valuable year indicators for vintage Fender bass buffs.
When Leo Fender invented the first mass-produced electric bass, no one could have guessed that it would have such a massive impact on music. The first Precision basses looked liked over-sized Telecaster guitars. But by the late 1950s, the Fender Precision Bass became the definitive electric bass in modern music. So
Coming up with the top 10 vintage Fender Bass years is a tall task, especially when you consider all the years that Fender produced great basses. I decided to concentrate on the vintage years between the 50s and the 70s, even though there are many awesome years after that, including up to today. It would be almost impossible to play a vintage Fender from every year, and of course, any given bass from the same year could either be amazing or not so great for many reasons. For instance, one bass may have some hidden electronics issues, a warp in the neck from damage or weather, and many other possible problems.
I, therefore, put the main criteria on the significance of a particular bass in Fender’s history, on the great players that used them, and the overall reputation of that year’s quality when I was working on this best vintage Fender bass years list.