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Old School: Kay K5915 Electric Bass

The Kay Musical Instrument Company emerged in the 1930’s in Chicago, when Kay founder Henry Kay “Hank” Kuhrmeyer and an invester acquired the Groehsl Instrument Company, which was founded in 1890. Kuhrmeyer was interested in producing electric guitars and amplifiers when he took over the company, and they did just that in 1936 with the release of the company’s first electric guitar.

A year later, Kay began producing their well-known upright – a 3/4 size bass hand-built using special machinery and featuring the embossed trademark Kay cursive script.

The company made electric bass guitars as well, and in this edition of Old School, bassist Frank Novko shares his late 50’s/early 60’s Kay model K5915 electric bass with us.

Kay K5915 Electric Bass

Make/Model/Year?

Kay model K5915. I’m unsure of the year, as there is no serial number found on the instrument.

How long have you owned it?

8 years

How did you come across it?

A friend gave it to me he was cleaning out his barn, and knew I liked to tinker with instruments.

Stock or customized? Give us all the specs!

Unfortunately when the bass came to me the pick guard was cracked around the pots, the pots were rust encrusted, so a handmade pickguard, new pots and cap are the only changes to the bass.

Any special characteristics?

The finish is checked and worn in places, but this just adds to the mojo of my “dump bass”.

What’s your favorite story about the gear?

How the bass was found is the most notable, to me.

Any notable bassists (other than yourself, of course) play the same instrument/use the same gear?

Well I saw an old Happy Days episode where Potsie was faking playing one. Acoustic has used one in their recent amplifier ads. Other than that, I do not know of any notable players.

Any special history or story behind this instrument or the company who made it?

Kay, maker of fine instruments for years, this bass is from the late 50’s early 60’s the best I can tell. As I mentioned it was given to me by a friend, he found it in a landfill, stored it in his unheated barn (in upstate New York) for a few years before giving the bass to me.

Do you use it on gigs?

I use the bass on gigs from time to time, though I typically bring a back up. I play in various roots rock bands in the Albany New York area, and I’ve recorded one CD and songs for a 45 (60’s garage rock band) with this bass.

Kay K5915 Electric Bass Photo Gallery

What else do you want to share about your gear?

I have numerous basses and other string instruments but none are pristine as they are all “players”. I switch up playing between the Kay, a Reverend Rumblefishfish P/J, Danelectro DC bass (Korean reissue) and my latest favorite gigging bass a DiPinto Belvedere Standard.

As far as amps go, I use either a Yorkville Sound/Traynor BLOC80B for smaller gigs or a Mark Bass Little Mark II head with a 15″ speaker.

Any other vintage gear?

  • Early 80’s Washburn B-20 bass
  • 1989 Fender 62 reissue Jazz Bass
  • 50’s Egmond parlor size acoustic (George Harrison model??!)

Tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve been playing bass for 30 years and I currently front my own roots rock band, Big Frank and the Bargain Bingers. I also play bass in a 60’s garage rock band named the Knyghts of Fuzz. I do fill-in gigs for various musicians around the Albany, New York area.