Fender Performer Bass

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Fender Performer Bass
Fender Performer.jpg
Manufacturer Fender
Period 1986–1987
Construction
Body type Solid
Neck joint Bolt-on
Scale 34.0 in (863.6 mm)
Woods
Body Alder
Neck Maple
Fretboard Rosewood (Standard), Ebony (Elite)
Hardware
Pickup(s) 2 or 3 special design single coils
Colors available
Various solid metallic and sunburst finishes

The Fender Performer was an electric bass guitar released in 1985 and discontinued in 1987, assembled in the United States and Japan. The Performer was also available as an electric guitar.[1]

The guitar[edit]

The Fender Performer bass was a uniquely styled bass guitar, designed by John Page, renowned for its extremely slender neck (narrower than Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars). The Japanese Performer Standard has an alder body, with a bolt-on 34" 24-fret micro-tilt adjustable maple neck and a 2-octave rosewood fingerboard as opposed to the United States-made Performer Elite, which sports an ebony fretboard. Controls are: Tone, Volume, Pickup Selector Switch and TBX Circuit Control (Treble Bass eXpander). The latter provided the same tonal range as the Jazz Bass between 0 and 5, with the range 5-10 providing significantly brighter sound – oriented towards solo playing and particularly suiting the sharp attack needed for a slap bass playing style. Both basses were available in Burgundy Mist, Gun Metal Blue, Candy Green, White and Tobacco Sunburst. All finishes were metallic except for the sunburst. Both versions featured a number of minor features underlying the 'high end' design including rubber inserts around the volume and tone controls, a high-quality fully enclosed jack socket, a then new and contemporary Fender logo, sculpted pickups marked with an (original) Fender logo, felt washers to prevent the strap buttons marking the body and individual intonation adjustment for each string as standard (many P-Basses at this time had just two bridge pieces).

The Performer Bass was available in 2 versions, Standard and Elite, with the latter having rear-routed controls and sporting three specially designed single coil pickups (with the first two placed side-by-side in the rear position and the third in the center), 5-way switching and an ebony fretboard. Unlike the Japanese-made Performer Standard, which featured a 3-ply white pickguard, dual single coils, 3-way toggle switch and a rosewood fretboard, the more expensive Performer Elite was manufactured in the United States, retailing at $949. The moderately priced Standard retailed at $499.[2]

A short-lived 5-string prototype of this bass was released in 1987, though less common.

History[edit]

The Fender Performer Elite Bass was designed by John Page to be an Elite version of the Fender Jazz Bass.[1] The Performer Standard was manufactured in Japan in 1986 at a time when Fender was not manufacturing guitars in the United States. Shortly after the launch of these instruments, CBS sold Fender to a group of employees led by Bill Schultz and production of the Performers ceased. It is rumored that only a few hundred were made and that some were ordered to be destroyed because of a copyright dispute concerning the neck; however, there is no credible evidence for this. Because no manufacturing assets were transferred in the sale[3] – forcing the new owners to contract the manufacture of instruments – it is more likely that the new Fender Musical Instruments Corporation simply chose to focus on proven lines.

Collectibility[edit]

Once largely ignored by Fender enthusiasts, the Performer has recently grown in popularity and second-hand values. As of 2010, in recent eBay auctions these instruments have commanded prices as much as US$1,000 and higher.

Words from the designer[edit]

The following is from posts[4] that designer John Page made on fenderforum.com:

Yes the Performer was one of my designs. Believe it or not, the Performer bass (designed before the guitar) was designed to be the Elite version of the Jazz Bass... yes that's right... it was going to be the top version of the Jazz Bass... scary huh? The shape of the instrument is derivative of the back of the Strat. Look at the waist cut on the back of the Strat and you'll see where the basic horn/body shape started. At the time (1982-3ish?) I was designing this, Fender was considered a pretty conservative instrument. Kramer, BC Rich and Jackson were building these radically styled instruments, so we wanted to get into that market. In my original design, it used a Strat-style peghead and the pickups were a double Strat humbucking setup. I also designed the Fender logo on the Performer... I can't say that that['s] a good thing, but it was kinda cool to design a new Fender logo. We got some comments that it looked like the Peavey logo, which really pissed me off.

The guitar that was produced was different than the original that I designed. I initially designed it to be made in the US, but it ended up being made in Japan. When that transition happened, things were changed. The peghead went from the Strat to the Swinger, for example, so I don't remember what pickup they actually went with. I angled the pickups to thicken up the top end a bit... and it looked cool. Well, at least to me, I like "off-line aesthetics". Why weren't they successful? Look, I was a designer in Fender R&D for years before I started the CS. I was always trying to design something new and different. When we started the CS, I tried to do the same. Reality is, the public wants Strats, Teles, P & J basses from Fender. So it's really tough to get them to accept any "new & different" designs in any great quantities. I'm afraid I have no idea how many were actually produced.

I designed the five string version when I first came back to start the CS in '87. To the best of my knowledge there was only one prototype made by Fuji Gen Gakki. It was kind of a pinkish color and had the same basic features of the 4 string Japanese model. When I initially designed both basses, the [pickups] were modified Mustang coils, wound beefier and wired to be humbucking. When the four string version was released it used a single coil p/u under each cover. The original also was designed with an angular/massive/fine-tuning bridge, and a "lightning bolt" styled string tree. Both were prototyped but never released. I never heard of any instruments being destroyed for any legal issues... maybe another one of those "legends"? The idea behind the neck was simple, at the time a lot of bass players were guitar player converts. Bass playing style started to have more of a "lead guitar" approach, so the idea of a narrower neck was to help along those lines. The original proto[type] went on the summer before it was released with the then "hottest" bands, Billy Idol (I don't remember his bass player's name) and The CARS bass player, Ben Orr.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Fender Performer". Ed Roman Guitars. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  2. ^ http://www.fender.com/en-GR/m/news.php/?display_article=904[dead link]
  3. ^ Fender History from www.fender.com
  4. ^ John Page's Post from www.fenderforum.com

External links[edit]