Hand made in the UK
With a helping hand from Martin Sims and the Bass Centre, we trace the story of how Leo Lyons’ 1962 Jazz Bass was faithfully reproduced...
For more than 40 years, Ten Years After bassist and band leader Leo Lyons has taken to the stage with his beloved ’62 Fender Jazz, the very same bass that accompanied him at the legendary Woodstock Festival back in1969. Having decided it was high time to save this elderly and now valuable 4-string from his gruelling concert tours with TenYears After, Lyons was met with the dilemma of how it could ever be replaced. As luck would have it, Bass Centre founder and CEO Barry Moorhouse approached Leo in 2009 and asked if he’d authorise for a copy of his vintage Fender to be made, allowing the original to be withdrawn from active service and protected from any further wear and tear.
The idea struck a chord with Leo who had long felt uneasy travelling with such a rare and treasured bass on concert tours. "Immediately agreed," Lyons told BGM. "The thought that I could go on stage again with an exact replica of my old Fender … well, it was fascinating." Luckily, Moorhouse knew what he was doing and, with custom expert Martin Sims on board, set to work on the Bass Centre Woodstock Bass.
"The goal was clear" explained Sims. "The new bass should not only look and sound like the original, but also feel exactly the same for Leo, like it had been played for 40 years." Leo’s bass was disassembled and scanned with a 3D laser scanner. The hardware was largely sourced from the Gotoh Vintage range or, for the mechanical parts, new old stock offerings from various manufacturers. "It wasn’t easy," says Sims. "Any chrome was removed and the metal nickel-plated. The parts had to withstand an artificial aging process that’s only possible with nickel-plated elements, not chrome parts. Guitars don’t just wear out from being played for a long time: it’s also a result of contact with people and reactions to their sweat. Our task was to age Leo’s bass until it looked and felt like it had been through 40 years of hard work onstage… in four weeks!".
‘‘Given the nature of the project, I was able to try out different pickups and decided to go with Seymour Duncan Vintage pickups, which have a familiar sound, but with a little more punch." At first, Leo’s band mates didn’t even notice that his bass had been replaced. It was only the strange logo on the headstock, which reads ‘Bass Centre Woodstock’, that gave it away. "During my career I’ve played a lot of Jazz Basses," says Lyons, "but none have had a neck as thin and playable as my ’62 Jazz, even if they’ve supposedly had identical dimensions. It’s crazy how different Fender basses from the mass-production periods of the '60s and '70s can feel. I’ve been looking for a replacement for my ’62 for so long and haven’t managed to find one, but now the case is closed. I feel like I have come full circle and I’m now back at the beginning – and still making good progress!".
Words courtesy of Bass Guitar Magazine