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Thread: Some "Music Man" History From George Fullerton.

  1. #1

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    Some "Music Man" History From George Fullerton.

    As many of you know, Leo Fender was involved with the “Music Man” company in the early years. However, the instruments were actually made for “Music Man” by another company called “CLF Research”. George Fullerton (along with Leo Fender) was also associated with "CLF Research".

    Some time back, I sent some questions to George concerning Pre-EB Basses made by CLF and yesterday received some answer to my queries.

    Below are my questions and George Fullertons replies. I'm pretty sure you'll find it interesting:

    Was the original “Sting Ray” meant to be a statement (or re-evaluation) of what a “Bass Guitar”, as an overall instrument, should incorporate as it’s basic features. OR was its design (either partially or as a whole) necessary to avoid the infringement of patent rights held by other companies (the earlier sale of Fender to CBS comes to mind).

    “We wanted something new and didn’t want to follow what others were doing. Since it was for Musicman, we viewed it as a design they did and separate with no influence from other designs. It was a new design.”

    Plastic "Radio" knobs were used early in production before converting to the metal knurled control knobs. Were knurled knobs actually used before the plastic knobs.

    “We used plastic knobs until we decided what to have made. We always designed our own knobs but, until we made them up, we used what was available from local parts vendors...which is why we had the plastic knobs.

    When the Sabre bass was introduced, it featured body contouring whereas the Sting Ray Bass remained the same. What was the situation with this bass (the Ray).

    “It was a new model and we wanted to add a difference to distinguish it as a new model.”

    Can you confirm the introduction date of the “Sabre” Bass. It seems 1979 was the year but could they have appeared in late 1978.

    “I’m trying to remember, and I believe it was late 1978 for introduction.”

    A striking parallel seems to exist when comparing the Sting Ray and Sabre Basses, on the one hand, to the Fender Precision and Jazz basses on the other hand (Sabre and Jazz with twin pickups and thinner necks). Was any parallel intended.

    “None at all. We simply tried to design a bass that would do a good job.”

    The Sabre bass appeared to be not as popular as the Sting Ray. Any ideas on this.

    “The Stingray bass was more popular. Why?, that’s up to the musicians.”

    Who came up with the body design of the Sting Ray and Sabre basses.

    “We always used the same format in designing products and that was to include a lot of player feedback.”

    With regard to the Sting Ray, a top-load bridge and 4 bolt neck was introduced in 1980. Why the change.

    “G&L had started. We parted ways with Musicman and were not making products for them anymore. I can only assume they found another supplier who made it differently as we were no longer building products for them at that time.”

    Some neck and body dates were recorded with pencil as opposed to ink. Sometimes dates were not recorded at all. How did this come about.

    “Who knows! (George is smiling). The people in the factory would use a pencil or a pen, whatever they had available... and sometimes they missed adding a date.”

    The neck dating and body dating on some basses can be up to 2 years apart. Why is this.

    “I would believe these were basses returned due to finish issues. We were using a polyester finish which was cracking and Musicman would return them to us to be refinished. We’d send them a new bass from inventory and remove the necks on these basses right away as they were fine. The bodies would sit until we had time to refinish them and then add a new neck at that time. So that’s why you could have up to a 2 year difference.”

    Generally, the serial numbers run in chronological order but there are many that don’t. How did this come about.

    “We had the same issue at Fender, CLF (for Musicman) and G&L. We had a box that serial number plates were in. We’d use them up. When it was low, a new bunch were put on top. We never controlled them or used them in perfect order. So you can see how some at the bottom would simply be ‘behind’ the others.”

    With respect to the headstock logos, the words “Music Man” usually appear in solid gold. However, on some, the gold lettering is transparent and, on others, they appear clear. Was this intentional or was it just variation in production batches.

    “First, we used to place decals on top of the finish. But they would get scratched or get worn and we had feedback that people didn’t like it. So we found a company making decals that could go on the wood and be finished over and replaced them with these. They did look different.”

    Were serial number records kept. If so, what became of them. Ernie Ball has no information.

    “I don’t remember. However, they would not have been kept by production, they would have been kept by sales. Given how long ago that was, any records probably disappeared and are gone with the wind.”

    Some Sting Ray serials (rare) are prefixed with the digit “8” rather than the letter “B”. How did this come about.

    “I don’t know.”

    The first production String Ray serial was B001000. Why was it decided to commence with 1000 rather than zero.

    “We never started at 1. We always started with a higher number. I personally feel it would look awkward to see serial number "1" on something!”

    The Sting Ray serials are prefixed with a “B” which I assume indicates “Bass”. What does the “C” prefix for the Sabre indicate.

    “I’ve no idea.”

    When the “Cutlass” Bass introduced, what was the situation with the fitting of the graphite necks. Was that done by the supplier or at C.L.F.

    “Leo didn’t want graphite necks. He was opposed to it. We didn’t make the neck, so it was fitted elsewhere.”

    How long were the nitro cellulose finishes used for.

    “It’s hard to say. We used nitro and then changed to Polyester which cracked. We then moved to Polyurethane finish as I recall. I can’t remember the year we stopped Nitro.”

    Some of the early nitro finishes appear to be applied very thick and were subject to crazing. Was there any initial problems and a recalling of basses.

    “This would have been the polyester finishes cracking, not nitro.”

    Some ‘Rays have gold plated hardware. Others have non-standard colours. Were special orders available for some artists.

    “Gold was special order, we never made it for stock. So yes, if someone special ordered something, we would have it made.”

    The main body wood was Ash. Were any other woods used.

    “I don’t think so.”

    The 1976 catalogue suggests that the pre-amp on the Sting Ray was optional. Was this the case. Was a passive bass either intended or made available for sale.

    “Yes, either way it could be ordered.”

    Was the pre-amp a cut and boost or a boost only. The hang tag manuals refer to them as cut and boost. Although there was no centre detents for treble and bass controls, the manual advises to initially set the controls to their mid positions. This has been a subject of debate for a long time.

    “Leo designed it. My impression is that I remember it was a boost of signal and it split it up to help separate tones. It was the 1st time we had done this type of electronics.”

    Why were the pre-amps initially coated in epoxy. In 1979 the epoxy was deleted.

    “To prevent it from being copied and to preserve the electronics.”

    Was the very early epoxy coloured green as opposed to black. Did the epoxy come in other colours.

    “I don’t know.”

    How many refinements were made to the pre-amps. Some say that at least 10 versions were made.

    “I have no idea, but 10 wouldn’t surprise me.”

    Did CLF continue making the instruments up to the point when Music Man was purchased by Ernie ball.

    “No. At the end of 1979 we stopped building for Musicman and never made another item for them. We really weren’t friends at that point and not even talking. I can’t remember off hand, but it should be in one of my books about when Musicman went bankrupt and Ernie Ball bought them. Musicman would have sold what they had in inventory until they went out.”


  2. #2

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    thats alot of questions hah

  3. #3

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    Gav, great read! Thanks for taking the time to hit George with those questions.

    2009 black/tort Big Al 4 SSS

    My bands -
    Richard Madden band
    The Australian Rolling Stones Show
    The Volts
    Doors Alive

  4. #4

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    Very cool Gav! \m/ \m/ <---sorry, I just learned how to do this, and I am still having fun with it

  5. #5

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    Very informative and interesting reading.
    just awaiting

  6. #6

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    I just learned how to do this, and I am still having fun with it
    You are now officially a nerd.

  7. #7

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    Amazing info, thanks so much Gav!

  8. #8

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    Boys this is SOOOOOOOO wrong.

    I have known George Fullerton since I was a toddler. When my father started Earthwood to make the acoustic basses and the acoustic guitars he involved George.

    George did in fact return to CLF after the demise of Earthwood. Not good feelings either. We shut it down due to terrible relations with our partner George.

    George was brought in to CLF after Music Man basses were introduced. He was not there in the beginning. Ther was a lot of discussion regarding bringing George back in. I was there for some of those. Have George produce a pay stub oir a tax return from CLF in 1975-76 and I will eat my hat. There was some degree of initial controversy bringing George into the fold at CLF.

    George is a very pleasant man with a rich history in the development of the electric guitar but I think that the reason why he couldn't remember the answers to your questions, or answered incorrectly is that he wasn't there then.

    He is totally incorrect when he credits Leo with the design of the preamp...It was Tommy Walker. As I have said Tommy was also the guy who designed the Music Man Amps.

    Here is the problem....most of these guys are dead so trying to correct the record becomes more and more difficult. Tommy ,Leo, Forrest and quite a few more are no longer with us.. I can tell you that Leo was very dissapointed that his stingray and sabre guitars didn't sell and that was the basis for G&L. G&L (GEORGE AND LEO) was started at CLF behind Music Man's back and coincidence or other CLF made 2,500 Music man bass necks with straight truss rods. Tommy was forced to go to a young upstart Grover Jackson to make the basses. Grover was the one who introduced the trans finishes. I often asked Tommy why he didn't sue over the suspect necks and he replied "My dady didn't raise me like that".

  9. #9

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    You know, someone needs to do an in-depth interview with YOU.

    *waving hand*

  10. #10

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    Check my teaser that Im gonna post.......

  11. #11

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    ruh roh

  12. #12

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    >>>You know, someone needs to do an in-depth interview with YOU.

    Yeah, I agree

    I remember you telling us about the pre-amps, BP. It didn't cross my mind when I posted the thread


  13. #13

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    Once again, very nice work Rod !..

    It's always good to know some more... about our Axe's .

    Nice ..

    Last edited by GuelBass; 05-12-2005 at 06:06 AM.

  14. #14

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    Thanks Gav for some very interesting reading. Thanks also to "Big Poppa" for his input and his ability to set some of the record straight. It's amazing how convoluted history can become even when told by someone who lived it. I can't wait to hear the real history in SLO.
    Starting to think about returning to bass playing in the very near future.


  15. #15

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    As a fully paid up and long standing member of the journalist trade, the interview is good reading man. Well written and flowing. Not unusual to find that over time people's memories shift.
    I have interviewed a lot of old boys who served on the various beach heads and at major battles in WW2 and sometimes even their recollections differ from the history books - and they were there

    this thread could reveal some interesting history behind our much loved instruments.

    BP: Any time.
    the Double D - Dargie Delight SR4 HS matching headstock (E44380 - DOB 19th Mar 2007 – one of 17 and only one in the UK)
    the Creammachine - White HS SR5, white pg, maple neck and matching headstock. (E34451 - DOB 1st Mar 2006)
    the PurpleDaze - trans purple SR4-H, ashwood body, rosewood fretboard (E29097 - DOB: 12th April 2002)

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