A bass guitar owned and played by Motown legend James Jamerson will be up for auction later this month. It’s not his infamously stolen Funk Machine, but it is a 1961 Fender Precision that he owned from 1962 until 1967 or 1968. It was then that the instrument was bestowed by the bass legend to fellow Detroit bassist Billy Hayes.
Hayes, who spent time playing with John Lee Hooker among others, befriended Jamerson through a mutual friend, Horace “Chili” Ruth.
“We all became very close friends, spending countless hours together eating, drinking, playing cards, jamming and checking out music all over Detroit,” he writes on the Heritage Auction website. “We shared a special bond because of the instrument we all played and were supportive of one another. On occasion, we would borrow one another’s instrument. Somewhere around 1967 or 1968, I don’t recall specifically, I had a gig but no instrument. Occasionally, I found myself in that situation. I mentioned it to James and he offered to help. He said he had a bass I could borrow. It was a 1962 Fender Precision Bass with a sunburst finish. He never asked for it back and I continued to use it for years with his blessing. James and his family left Detroit for California when Motown Records moved to Los Angeles and we never saw each other again.”
As if that’s not cool enough, Hayes left the bass completely original. He only ever had to replace the G string, meaning three of the four strings are the original La Bella flatwound strings that Jamerson used.
The bass’s bidding via Heritage Auctions begins May 29th with auction dates of June 17th and 18th. How much would you bid?