Sunday, May 24, 2009

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Vintage Ampeg AMB1

the shiznit!

Vintage Ampeg Scroll Basses: AMB-1 & AMUB-1

By Mr. Bruce Johnson

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(Please do visit his site for more infos,pics & to see his cool collections & stuffs that he's making including set-up,maintenance & technical issues regarding the AMB1)

Sometime in late '67, Ampeg began to work on a new model Scroll Bass, to address the customer complaints and manufacturing problems that they were having with the AEB-1/AUB-1 models. The "mystery" pickups had been troublesome to manufacture consistently, and tempermental on the road. Also, rock music was evolving rapidly, and electric bassists now wanted a full range, thundering sound. The AEB-1 didn't have enough range, and many Ampeg customers were adding new pickups to their basses as soon as they got them.

The AMB-1 (fretted) and AMUB-1 (fretless) Scroll Basses appeared in early 1968 to try to bring the Scroll Bass design closer to the dominant Fender P-Bass culture. These models were made through mid 1969, although some leftover stock instruments were sold out through 1970.

At a glance, the AMB-1 looks like the earlier AEB-1, but it's actually a completely different instrument with significant changes throughout. The headstock was reshaped to a smoother profile on the back, without the cello-like hook of the AEB-1. The AMB-1's body is solid maple, without the plywood back. However, I recently restored an AMB-1 with a high serial number, and found that the body was poplar, not maple. It was lighter weight and had a nice sweet tone. They may have been experimenting towards the end of the production run. Overall, he machining of the body and neck is much more precise and consistent than on the earlier instruments.

The "mystery" pickup was replaced by a black rectangular magnetic pickup mounted in the middle of the body. The pickups were made in Ampeg's shop, and are quite unique for the time. There's a separate coil for each string, and they're wired together alternately to form a humbucker. The whole assembly is cast into black epoxy.

The AMB-1's tailpiece is similar to a Fender; a bent steel plate that supports the bridge and is screwed down onto the top surface of the body. This allows them to use standard "extra long" strings, giving the owners much more choice and convenience. The aluminum bridge is similar in design to the AEB-1, but with three height adjusting screws instead of two. A round steel bar is mounted over top of the strings, behind the bridge, and it is used to adjust the angle of the strings over the bridge saddles. A large chrome cover with an embossed "a" logo on the face fits over the whole bridge area.

Most AMB-1's and AMUB-1's that are around today are in fairly good condition. Overall, they're higher quality instruments than the earlier models, and most have been well cared for. The lacquer finish is usually cracked, but it has stayed on well. Almost all of these two models came from the factory in the standard Ampeg black/red sunburst scheme with an ebony fingerboard. I know of only one instrument that appears to have been all black from the factory, although I've seen several that have been repainted all black.

From the player's standpoint, the AMB-1 and AMUB-1 are the best of the scroll bass family. They have a wider tonal range than the AEB-1 and AUB-1, but still have the distinctive warm, bassy Ampeg thump. Unfortunately, they didn't sell very well initially and production was cancelled in mid '69. A few bassists such as George Biondo of Steppenwolf and Michael Been of The Call played AMB-1's through the '70's and '80's. Today, musicians who own AMB-1's and AMUB-1's treasure them, and a surprising number of them are still played regularly by professionals. They rarely appear for sale.

The serial numbers of these models are stamped on the tailpiece, just behind and under the string hold-down bar. It's a six digit number with a bunch of zeros, starting (I presume) at #000001 and going up to about #000600. The highest number I know of so far is #000591C. I have information on a lot of AMB-1's and AMUB-1's in my database, but it's curious that I've only heard of one with a serial number under #000200. It's possible that the production run didn't start at #000001, and the early numbers may have been assigned to the prototypes, or may even have been mixed in with the short-lived SSB/SSUB models.

There are other mysteries in the serial numbers. Some AMB-1 and AMUB-1 models over #000500 have an "A", "B, "C", or "D" stamped at the end of the serial number. There are a lot more "C"'s than "A"'s and "D"'s, and I've only seen one "B" so far. I'm not sure what this means. Some of these instruments have some factory custom features, and others appear to be standard. Since so few were being built at that time, it may even indicate which employee built the instrument. Also, there's an AMB-1 marked #00371; someone forgot one of the zeros.

Taking all that into account, I estimate that 300 AMB-1's and 200 AMUB-1's were built, and most of them are still around today.

Classic Instruments-Ampeg Horizontal Basses

Classic Instruments-Ampeg Horizontal Basses by Gregg Hopkins and Bill Moore


Visit this site for more details about the Ampeg AMB1

The Ampeg Horizontal Bass, perhaps because of its rarity and odd beauty, has become quite a collector's item. And because production records for Ampeg products were lost or destroyed after various corporate buyouts, it is impossible to say exactly how many of these instruments were made.

Serial Numbers
Serial numbers can be found in two places on the Horizontal Basses. For the AEB, AUB, ASB, and AUSB models (all with the "mystery pickup"), look under the block tailpiece. For the SSB, SSUB, AMB, and AMUB basses (all with a magnetic pickup), look on the bridge/tailpiece plate. The serial number prefix M, perhaps for "Master," seems to indicate a prototype bass. The serial number suffix C may indicate a "Custom ." Serial numbers run chronologically, but mixed among the various models of basses, as if the relevant parts for the different models were kept in one bin. Serial numbers seem to run from 1 to nearly 1,200, then start over, with a triple zero prefix, from 0001 to nearly 000600.

Horizontal Bass Users
Joe Long the Four Seasons - lefty Model AEB-1
Rick Danko The Band - Model AUB-1
Boz Burrell Bad Company- Model AUB-1
George Biondo Steppenwolf- Model AMB-1
Fred Smith Television - Model SSB
Billy Rath Johnny Thunders' band - Model AEB-1
Michael Been The Call- Model AMB-1
Christ Novoselic Nirvana Model AMB-1

Early 1966 - Dennis Kager designs Horizontal Bass with F-holes.
July, 1966 - Horizontal Basses introduced at Chicago NAMM.
Late 1966 to 1967 - Production of AEB-1 and AUB-1 basses (most numerous, perhaps 1,200 made).
1967 and early 1968 - Production of ASB-1 and AUSB-1 "Devil Basses" (rare, perhaps 100 made).
September, 1967 - UNIMUSIC buys Ampeg.
Mid 1967 to 1968 - Production of SSB and SSUB basses (very rare, perhaps 50 made).
Late 1968 to 1969 - Production of AMB-1 and AMUB-1 basses (hard to find, perhaps 600 made).
Late 1969 - End of vintage Horizontal Bass production.
Late 1996 - Start of contemporary AEB-2 and AUB-2 basses (available!).
Note: Production figures are estimates based on incomplete information, since no relevant records have survived.

Everett Hull presents the fretted and fretless Horizontal Basses to his salesmen, NAMM, July '66. Courtesy E.A. Hull.

This article originally appeared in VG's March '97 issue.

All content copyright 2009 Vintage Guitar, Inc. All rights reserved.

Vintage 1968 Ampeg AMB-1

This Is The Vintage 1968 Ampeg AMB-1 Serial Number 000229 Belonging To The First Batch Of 300. With The Distinctive Head Of An Upright. What’s Special About This Bass Is Not Only Is It Vintage , It’s Also A Piece Of American History! This Gig Scarred Rig Is Original To The Bone! The Original Hard Case (OHC) Bears The Markings Of The 4th USMC, RSAK On The Back Of The Guitar Is Marked ECASEY ...Acquired In Korea. This Bass Was Most Probably Used In The Historic Camp Casey To Entertain The Troops Stationed There During The Late 60s And 70s. The 000229, Apart From Scratches And Dings
Appears To Be A Solid Instrument. An Expert On These Instruments Is Bruce Johnson- .He Doesn’t Sell His Originals However He Restores And Also Sells Replicas Of These.

Original Hard Case Markings Ampeg AMB1

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Ampeg AMB1 Scroll Bass