Sunday, September 5, 2010
Another Brief History: The Wal
Early custom basses were purchased by leading bass players from the London studio circuit, such as John G. Perry, who purchased the first Wal bass. Another early instrument, a triple necked bass, was purchased by Rick Wakeman for his bassist, Roger Newell, to use at the Journey to the Centre of the Earth concerts. The bass was later given to Chris Squire of Yes and is now on loan to the Hard Rock Cafe. Later, a short run of semi-custom models (designated the JG series after the owner of the first model, John Gustafson) featured hand-tooled leather scratchplates. Owners of these models included John Entwistle, Mark Davis, Stayton Heyward, Paul Simonon, Gary Tibbs, Alan Spenner and Percy Jones.
The first full production range of Wal basses appeared in 1978 as the "Pro Series." These basses followed the basic design specifications of the JG series (solid ash body, maple, hornbeam and Amazonian hard wood neck and rosewood fingerboard) but replaced the leather scratchplate with a large plastic one. The Pro Series were superseded by the Custom Series in 1983. This introduced the laminated bodies now standard with Wal basses. Various woods such as American walnut, schedua/hydua, padauk and wenge were offered as standard thick laminates over a mahogany core. During the 1980s the range was expanded to introduce 5 and 6 string models and three distinct but similar body shapes - commonly referred to as Mark 1 (the original Custom 4 string style), Mark 2 and Mark 3. Other rare models were also available periodically, including a midi-bass (the MB4 & MB5) and a simplified passive model.