Höfner 500/1

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500/1 Violin Bass
Hofner 500-1V62WorldHistory LH 1.jpg
Left-handed Höfner 500/1 Vintage '62 World History LH
Manufacturer Karl Höfner GmbH & Co.
Period 1955-Present
Construction
Body type Hollow
Scale 30"
Woods
Body Spruce (Top), Maple (Back/Sides)
Neck Maple
Fretboard Rosewood
Hardware
Bridge Höfner Ebony Bridge
Pickup(s) Höfner 511B Humbucking Pickups
Colors available
Sunburst

The Höfner 500/1 violin bass (nicknamed the "Beatle bass" or "Cavern bass") is a hollow-bodied bass guitar manufactured by Höfner under several varieties. It was introduced in the mid-1950s and gained celebrity during the 1960s as one of the primary basses used by Paul McCartney of The Beatles.

History[edit]

In 1955, Walter Höfner designed an electrically amplified, semi-acoustic bass guitar.[1] The hollow body made this style of guitar very light and easy to play, as well as giving it a rich tone, similar to that of the traditional double bass.The bass was first shown to the public at the Frankfurt Music Fair in the spring of 1956. A major advantage for the bass came in early 1961, when it caught the eye of a young Paul McCartney.

McCartney is left-handed, and he admired the instrument's symmetrical shape, which would not look odd when played "upside down".

"I remember going along there, and there was this bass which was quite cheap. I couldn't afford a Fender. Fenders even then seemed to be about £100. All I could really afford was about £30 . . . so for about £30 I found this Hofner violin bass. And to me it seemed like, because I was left-handed, it looked less daft because it was symmetrical. Didn't look as bad as a cutaway which was the wrong way. So I got into that."[2]

McCartney would acquire two of these models — his original 1961 model, and an updated 1962 model the company gave him in 1963.[3][4] Afterward, McCartney mainly played the 1962 model, leaving the original as a backup. In 1964, he had his 1961 model refinished in sunburst and had new pickups and an updated pickup surround system installed. He can be seen using this bass in the "Revolution" promo video, strangely with the strap attached to the top of the headstock instead of the neck heel strap button. He continued to regularly use the violin bass until 1965, when he switched to a Rickenbacker 4001S; afterward, he would rotate between the two, the 1962 making its last Beatle appearance at the Apple rooftop concert. He switched back to the Rickenbacker for the recording of Abbey Road. Sometime during the recording of Let It Be, the 1961 model was stolen from Abbey Road Studios, along with Harrison's Gretsch Tennessean and second Ric 360-12. [5] He switched to using his 1962 model for the remainder of the album.[6] He is still in possession of the 1962 bass as of 2014 and used it during the 2014 Grammy's Beatles Special TV performance.

The 500/1 was preferred by a young Gene Simmons prior to his success with KISS, and was often seen photographed with one.

Images[edit]

Variations[edit]

The following variations are currently sold by Höfner:[7]

  • 500/1 Vintage '58 re-issue
  • 500/1 Vintage '59 re-issue
  • 500/1 Cavern Bass (no longer available from Höfner)[1]
  • 500/1 Vintage '61 Cavern Bass (2011 model - based on Paul McCartney's original specs)
  • 500/1 Vintage '62
  • 500/1 Vintage '63 (no longer in production)
  • 500/1 Vintage '64 (replaced '63)
  • 500/1 125th Anniversary 'Black Violin Bass'
  • 5000/1 Deluxe Bass
  • H500/1-CT Contemporary Series
  • Icon series B-Bass, made in China (name changed to Ignition for legal reasons in 2010)
    • Höfner produced limited runs of the Icon B Bass in 5 custom color schemes. Only 150 of each color were manufactured and made available for sale in 2008.[8]
    • In 2008, the Icon B Bass was also issued in a limited edition "Dark Burst" finish, of which 88 were produced.
  • HI series B-Bass (Ignition), made in Indonesia, from 2010

Imitators[edit]

Due to the cost of the official Höfner bass, several guitar companies offer more affordable versions of the "violin bass". These include Greco, Epiphone, Tokai, El Degas, Jay Turser, Duesenberg, Rogue, Douglas, Harley Benton and Eko. These range anywhere from US$200 to $1,500.[9] Höfner themselves make an affordable version of their famous bass (the Ignition).

In popular culture[edit]

The Höfner 500/1 appeared in Guitar Hero II while the Epiphone Viola appeared in Guitar Hero: Aerosmith. A replica of the Höfner bass used by McCartney (albeit right-handed) is used as the basis for a guitar controller, included with the special edition bundle of The Beatles: Rock Band.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]