Silver Laughter Member Reaches Out to Andy Babiuk

Hofner headstock with raised lettering

Older Hofner headstock with raised lettering

This is an open letter to Andy Babiuk, the author of the FANTASTIC book, “Beatles Gear. It is my opinion that he may be one of the best researchers of Beatles equipment ever and might be the only person in the world who can help me. I would like to know the origin of my Hofner 500/1 Beatle bass. My hope is that he hears my plea. (Help me, Babiuk, you’re my only hope!)

As many of you know, last year (2014) I bought a new Hofner violin bass (Ignition Series made in China) to play for our induction concert into the Iowa R&R Hall of Fame. The electronics on my old Hofner were failing, the E string wasn’t playing true and my top pickup was falling in and had to be taped into place (McCartney’s had a similar problem according to Andy’s book).

older Hofner controls

older Hofner controls and squared tailpiece

Apparently Hofner doesn’t think enough of its NEW instruments to give them serial numbers as I have looked all over (including inside) to find one so I can insure it. However, it looks almost identical to the 500/1 except that it has Humbucking pickups (same positions as the models made in the ’60’s) and black nobs and switches which (in my opinion) look sharper than the gold capped ivory-colored ones on the earlier models. The tailpiece is similar to the older models except the part that holds the strings has been rounded giving it a sleeker look. Other differences are that the nut is black instead of ivory, there is no space under the neck where it meets the body and the location of the top guitar strap peg is in a different location. But I digress…

older style Hofner pickups

older style Hofner pickups

Anyway, the OLD Hofner right handed violin bass (500/1 model) was purchased around 1976 as a spare to my 1969 Hofner 500/I. It was found hanging on a peg in a second hand/pawn shop in Willmar, MN, and I am pretty sure it is older than the ’69 model I bought new from a mail order company in Texas (while I was still playing with The Contents Are). The head stock on the instrument in question has raised Hofner lettering, something which I have never seen on any other example found on the Internet. The pickups are in the same configuration as McCartney’s ’63 (second) Hofner (one close to the bottom of the neck and one down by the bridge) as opposed to the earlier models which had both pickups high where the neck meets the body. The serial number was on a piece of gold tape on the back of the head stock, but, unfortunately, only a few of the numbers remain after all those years of playing it onstage.

What happened to my ’69 Hofner? I had it refinished black around 1978 which ruined (muted) the tone, so I gave it away… much to my regret.

As you can see from the finish in the photos, this bass has seen many hours of playing time. I had to add a couple of screws to hold the pick guard on as well as drill some holes on the side of the neck so I could see where the fret marks were while I was singing. The check marks (cracks in the finish) are from taking the instrument from the cold van into the warm air of the night clubs we played. A spot can also be seen where my hand rested while I picked and grinned.

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1 reply

  1. I learned later that Hofner had trouble keeping up with demand during the ’60’s thanks to Paul McCartney and the Beatles, so that’s why they think there is no real standard during those years. My ’67 Hofner has the “bar” pickups while my ’66 and Ignition have Humbucking pickups. I use my Ignition for live performances because there are fret markers on the side of the neck. My ’66 does not have them!

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