’59 500/5 bass

Sometimes known as a Stu Sutcliffe model as the early ex-Beatle played one while he was with them, and also erroneously called a President bass as it resembles the President guitar which was its contemporary.  (But this is 17¼ inches wide; Presidents are 16¼).

Like my ’60 Les Paul TV Special, this instrument also belonged to my dad, who bought it ca. ‘63 to string as a sort of baritone tenor guitar because jazz chord-comping was his preferred style and he had quite big fingers. It came with a Selmer TV8T 5w combo amp whose tremolo circuit was broken, sadly long since deceased (tho’ I can remember it used to sound good cranked up with my first SG, an otherwise pretty forgettable cherry ’72 SG Deluxe).

Hofners were popular in the UK in the late fifties/early sixties.  Not only did a post-war trade embargo on US goods like Gibsons and Fenders remain in place until about ‘62, but they were also relatively affordable.

Most Hofners shipped into the UK during that period have a Hofner decal on the body front just above the neck join, and are typically made of stripier European spruce and sprayed much yellower. They either came with a semi-matt finish or acquired one over time.

This one has a beautiful pale coffee sunburst over a finer wood, maple laminate, and still very high-gloss. Great tight flame on the back and some on the sides too. The pickups and headstock inlay indicate it comes from ’59 and the 8.1.59 date inside the treble f-hole confirms this.  However, it’s never had a label inside to corroborate things – apparently this suggests it was originally sold in Europe rather than imported to the UK by Selmer.

I’ve seen one similar once, a few years back in the bass shop in Denmark Street. They were asking a lot of money for it.  This is in much better shape, almost minty, astonishing for a guitar that’s now over 50 years old : the neck is huge and very round. A nice touch is the intonation on the arched bridge, which is adjusted by moving tiny fragments of fretwire between the four thin slots between the layers of laminated ebony it’s fashioned from.

It’s a very photogenic guitar which I kept hold of it mainly for sentimental reasons, but I’ve started to play it again recently having rediscovered what a warm and modern sound it can produce.

(These pictures were taken at sunset, so they give the impression the guitar is yellower, and more like most other Hofners from that period. It’s actually a very subtle pale coffee colour which my camera has some difficulty in resolving – like the pink Musicman guitars also featured on this site).

Many thanks to Steve Russell for his kind help with much useful additional information. You can find visit his excellent, fact-filled site here.  Great stuff on Hofner, Selmer, Watkins/WEM, Fenton Weill and Bird amps too.  And Futurama guitars!

10 Responses to ’59 500/5 bass

  1. Pingback: Shout out to Hofner experts… | Rockbeare Guitars

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