60 years of the Höfner 500/1 Violin Bass
Original Article Written for Bass Guitar Magazine
Image courtesy of www.hofner.com
The Höfner 500/1 Violin Bass is undoubtedly one of the most distinguishable and significant instruments in bass guitar history. Designed by Walter Höfner in 1955, its public debut was at the Frankfurt Musikmesse in 1956. 2016 marked the bass’ 60-year anniversary.
The Violin Bass’ hollow chamber body makes it very light and easy to play, as well appealing to double bass players looking for a more portable instrument.
Looking back on Höfner’s vast experience of producing traditional stringed instruments, it’s only natural that the 500/1 was styled and shaped like a classical stringed instrument with its hollow body, set neck, arched top and ebony bridge. Not only was the bass in-keeping with the company’s heritage, but the construction method was also mindful of the luthiers at Höfner who had been producing violins for many years, thus embracing the name Höfner 500/1 ‘Violin Bass’.
Perhaps Höfner’s biggest publicity victory was when the 500/1 fell into the hands of a young Paul McCartney, when he purchased the bass from a music shop in Hamburg, Germany in 1961. Paul’s relationship with the bass was more by chance, simply because he couldn’t afford to buy a Fender at the time. Nevertheless, the 500/1 violin bass soon adopted the name ‘Beatle Bass’ and McCartney's bass was used on many Beatles tracks.
The significance of the Höfner 500/1 to Paul McCartney and the Beatles is comparable to the Brian May Red Special Guitar and Queen. Paul’s ‘Beatle Bass’ became an icon of 60's pop culture and defined the Beatles’ sound.
Despite the numerous production changes and modifications, the newer 500/1 still remains true to the style and design of the original… even if the 60th Anniversary model’s finish is an acquired taste.
If you’re looking for the real deal, vintage bass Maestro Andy Baxter keeps regular stock of 60s Höfner 500/1 basses.