Vintage Guitar - July 2018 - open - 95
replacements. Note the the unusual
dual rectifiers, two inputs, and lack
of Middle control. The tube chart lists
the two 5U4GA rectifier tubes.
'54 Bassman: Nathan Fasold.
Tufts of thread-bare tweed grace this
character-laden '54 "narrow-panel"
Bassman - first version of the 4x10.
The Jensen speakers are period-correct
was short-lived, swapped in '58 for a morecommon GZ34 tube rectifier.
This is perhaps the most notable change
to have ushered in the 5F6A, which is not
only the most legendary of Bassman models,
but today is a highly-regarded "amp for all
seasons" tone machine. Other alterations
might have seemed minor, but did play a
part in the culmination of a classic design.
Among these was the removal of the 1.5kohm resistors between the coupling caps
and the grids that served as the inputs to
the dual 5881 output tubes (a high-grade
variant of the 6L6GC), a change that helped
make the amps a hair livelier.
In '59, the Bassman also gained the rubber
"dogbone" handle in place of the leather
that was prone to wear. Otherwise, the '58
would be the final state of the narrow-panel
'54 BASSM AN
tweed Bassman until its deletion from the
lineup in '60. By this time, Buddy Holly
and other major stars had made it their
amp of choice, and a near-endless list
of greats would discover its toothsome
charms in years to come, from Buddy Guy
to Bruce Springsteen, Jimmie and Stevie
Ray Vaughan to Mike McCready of Pearl
Jam, and near-countless others.
While "the Fender tweed tone" is lauded
in all of its forms, the Bassman's success as a
creative tool comes from the fact it takes that
tweed je ne sais quois to its optimum point
of expression. Push it past it's delectably full
and rich clean tones and it retains admirable
clarity amid a juicy, euphonic breakup. Hit it
harder and it veritably wails with the perfect
blend of speed and articulation from the
four 10s and touchy-feely dynamics from the
tube rectifier, the no-nonsense gain stage,
and the cathode-follower tone stack. And
most guitarists know the legendary tale of
Marshall's homage to the 5F6A Bassman,
and how by basing the JTM45 (and iterations
including the hallowed "plexi") on that
schematic, the British maker assured this
tweed beauty would become a rock legacy.
After having created the legend, in 1961,
Fender reconfigured the model into an
entirely different thing. And that should
have been the end of the story - draw a line
under the Bassman, we're done. Yet, Leo and
company miraculously created yet another
classic in the process. Go figure.