|Headquarters||High Wycombe, England|
Wal is a brand of electric bass manufactured by Electric Wood Ltd. in High Wycombe, England. It was started in 1974 by electronics expert Ian Waller and luthier Pete Stevens. Wal basses are known for their exotic wood selection, custom electronics, superb playability and excellent quality.
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, Justin Chancellor 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 The Pro Series were superseded by the Custom Series in 1983.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.
Death of founder, restart
In 1988 Ian Waller died of a heart attack, after which Pete Stevens continued running the business. Stevens worked as a sole trader with little or no additional workforce, causing Wal basses to become in very limited supply. Their scarcity, coupled with their high demand, makes the instruments notoriously difficult to obtain.
In the third quarter of 2007, it was revealed that Pete Stevens, due to health problems, would no longer personally build these basses. The official Wal website also shut down, claiming practical reasons. However, Stevens was optimistic about future production of Wal basses, seeking a luthier to resume production.
On August 20, 2008, it was announced that Wal basses are back in business with a new luthier (Paul Herman, who had already worked at Wal) clearing backorders and getting pending repairs done. Paul Herman launched a new website on October 5, 2009, inviting new order enquiries for the unchanged Custom series of bass guitars.
On December 28, 2011, Pete Stevens died, a short time after his 65th birthday anniversary.
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