Robert Trujillo Helps Pastorius Family Reclaim Jaco’s “Bass of Doom”

Jaco Pastorius with Bass of Doom

After a long and frustrating legal battle, Jaco Pastorius’ family have finally regained ownership of his legendary “Bass of Doom”, thanks to Metallica bassist Robert Trujillo. The news comes via a statement on

The bass, which was stolen from a Manhattan park bench in 1986, resurfaced in early 2006 in a New York guitar shop. The owner reportedly refused to return it to the Pastorius family and the issue was taken to court where it has been unresolved until now.

Trujillo recently stepped in to assist the family in recovering the legendary bass.

The “Bass of Doom” is Jaco’s 1962 Fender Jazz Bass that he used to record and perform up until the day it was stolen. It has a special place in the history of the bass guitar, not to mention music in general. The Bass of Doom is the same bass that Jaco famously ripped the frets out of with a butter knife, filled the gaps with Plastic Wood, and refinished the neck to convert it to a fretless. It is also the same bass that Jaco reportedly smashed after an argument in the mid ‘80s and was glued back together from over 15 pieces by his luthier, Kevin Kaufman.

Trujillo has always named Jaco as one of his greatest bass heroes, and when asked about the situation, he stated, “I felt a strong sense that it was the right thing to do for Jaco, and the family, whatever it took.”

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  1. Tg

    …what exactly did trujillo do

    • Rob paid to get the matter resolved, a guy who had the bass refused to give it back to the family, the matter got to court, got settled after 2 years only because Rob had the means to do it (and decided he could afford to). The family has the bass now, not Rob (who is the legal owner, since he paid for it, but didn’t keep it for himself, which was never the point).

  2. Michael

    Hats off to Robert Trujillo, truly a CLASSY, SELFLESS act.

  3. jeff

    The butter knife story is a fake. He bought it that way. He also recorded a lot with another bass – including his most famous “portrait of tracy” and “birdland.”. He used the BOD in concert though. In the 80s he was famous for showing up without ANY bass.

    • Tod Shinerod

      He told the story of how he defretted his bass in his own instructional video. So, no, he did NOT buy it that way…lol

    • Charles Bettes Gonzalez

      You are so very wrong in every regard.
      The fret story is no myth.
      His first record and all of the weather report records were recorded with that bass. At the time it was the only one in the world like it. The sound is unmistakable.
      If you had ears you would hear that.

      Try not to speak.

      • Burt

        Whoa, whoa, whoa! Easy, big guy. I mean, the guy’s wrong, but you sound like you want to kick his teeth in. There’s more important things in this life to get all fired up about.

    • The_Thom

      You’re going to have to come up with a source before you make a claim like that.

    • thomas daugherty

      How do the know the story about pulling the fretts is not true???

  4. Marc

    Awesome Robert!

  5. Mark DeMeritt

    Payed the shop owner whatever he was asking.Probably quite a bit. Great thing to do by a very nice person.

  6. Carlos G

    I met Jaco back in 1985, right about the time he recorded the now (in)famous bass instructional tape. I thought he was a funny, caring musician ..he left a lasting impression on me.

    Like many of my peers, I was broken hearted to hear of his passing and the violent way that it came about.

    I can only say, THANK YOU Robert for going well and beyond what needed to be done to set things right…

  7. An iconic instrument that is finally ‘home’ … now only if ‘The Funk Machine’ could be found … if she doesn’t wind up with the Jamerson family she deserves to be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum if not the Smithsonian! :)

    • David C Buchanan

      I worked on the funk machine in the early 70s. The truss rod in the neck was slack and had a bad compound warp. He liked it that way (JJ) I fixed it but he hated it so I put it back the way it was.

  8. Michael O'Boyce

    I have followed this story for as long as i can remember. So glad the bass is finally back with Jaco’s family. Robert,You are a man in a million.Thanks

  9. Without a doubt this “Bass Of Doom” is very encouraging! There are people out there who will do the right thing. I agree with the post that is still hopeful for the recovery of “The Funk Machine” to a point. It should be returned to the Jamerson family just as the “Bass Of Doom” was, and then the Jamersons should have say on what happens to it. The Funk Machine would fetch the highest price ever for a 1962 Precision at auction and maybe they would like the money. If it goes into a museum, maybe the Motown Museum at the old Hitsville Studios in Detroit would be the right spot for it.

  10. Jim

    “Although Trujillo currently owns the instrument, the Metallica bassist agreed in writing to relinquish the instrument to the family at any time for the same purchase price.”

    How did he rescue or rather buy a bass in litigation????
    This millionaire benevolent bass player will agree to sell it back to the Pastorius family for the same price????
    Why did he buy it and why wouldn’t he GIVE it to them???
    I must be missing something, the bass belonged to the Pastorius family for zero dollars….Jim

    • Chris

      Please do not spread false information. Trujillo DID return the instrument to the family.

  11. Steve

    A guitar store owner buys stolen property and then is able to go to court to keep property belonging to another. New York must have some messed up laws.

  12. Jim

    Yes Steve, that we do and it is baffling. But look at all of these articles saying Trujillo is a hero and “rescued” the bass. He bought the bass and will agree to sell it to the Pastorius for the same, exorbitant price, that they clearly cannot afford, or they simply would have bought it direct. Trujillo has the bass because he has money. Why are these articles teamed with altruistic nonsense.

  13. Joe

    He has plenty of money. Why not give it to the family as a gift in good faith. He has other plans as for keeping the bass for his self or he wouldn’t have got mixed up in this. He hasn’t done anything good as of yet.

    • Ed

      You’re an idiot for making assumptions you know nothing about. Had Robert not gotten involved at all, this legendary bass may not have ever been found or recovered.

  14. Lu Cifer

    It belongs in a Museum. Plain & Simple!

  15. What a craptastic article written of misinformation.

    • Trujillo is no hero…he bought this STOLEN bass because he has money, A LOT OF MONEY… played it on stage at Metallica concerts and wanted to SELL it back to the rightful owners (Jaco’s family) for some insane amount of money which was impossible for them to afford. The only reason the family has it now is because they fought over it in court…WHY would you need a lawyer for something that is the common sense thing to do? this sickens me!

  16. Sorry, Jaco’s ‘tale’ was that it was stolen off a park bench was a lie. He actually traded it to Jeff Andrews (google him, he’s a bass player) for dope. Andrews later tried to sell it to Manny’s Music in NYC – this was like in 1988-89. Jaco was strung out and living in Refrigerator Boxes in and around Greenwich Village before heading down to Florida where his fate was sealed by that ass hole that killed him.

    • Tod Shinerod

      Give me a break.

    • There is a conflicted history about that last year of Jaco’s life.

      I started playing bass when I was ten (1973) and Jaco was a hero to me. Around 1978-1980, I saw about ten Weather Report shows (not an exaggeration — we knew routes to sneak in to the Beacon Theater) and was in awe of his playing, and always apoplectic when he would end his solos by jumping onto his basses from the top of his cabinet — I couldn’t even yet afford my first “serious” bass at the time and he was trashing instruments with glee.

      Fast forward to 1987 an I had started playing jazz, become a serious player, and was mostly playing upright. There were all night jam sessions for serious players at the Jazz Cultural Theater, a hole-in-the-wall owned by Pianist Barry Harris. The ruels were simple — you paid to get in unless you had an instrument, and then they would call you up. I got called up for three or four tunes on upright, did okay, but it was a serious crew.

      A woman was called up to take my place after four tunes and (THANK GOD!) about 60 seconds after I sat down, Jaco walks in. He’s extremely inebriated and abusive. He sits RIGHT in front of the woman and just shouts at her the whole time. I don’t know how she could take it.

      “I am the greatest bass player IN THE WORLD!” (true statement)
      “I am the greatest basketball player IN THE WORLD!” (um, no, but he was at the time spending a lot of time at the West 4th St. Courts in NYC and wasn’t bad)

      He just railed on her and she went off stage. It was so sad to see a hero in such a sorry state.

      A few months later he was dead. And, while the bouncer in Florida who killed him obviously did us all a disservice, it was hard for me to imagine how a bouncer wouldn’t have thrown someone behaving like that out of a club. (Just not on his head.)

      All I’m saying is that he was a legend, a creative genius, the best ever on electric (I’ll still salute Milt Hinton and Ron Carter on upright), and a tremendous loss to us all. But he also had a serious addiction problem and took it out on others, on his family, on himself.

      RIP, Jaco

  17. It belongs to me , me thinks, lol.

  18. Probably the most legendary bass of all time. His or Bill Blacks upright.

    • Robert Altfeld

      Although not a fusion bass.. I feel Paul McCartney’s Hofner bass will bring in the most $$ over any other bass, or guitar. IMO

  19. I would add Charlie Hadens bass to the list of legendary basses. One of only I think 3 existing in the world today, made by a french craftsman I think a couple hundred years ago. That and Mr. Haden’s enormous contribution to jazz bass pretty much make his axe a living legend.

  20. I was in the room with Jaco when he took his frets out the infamous day. Although you are correct about most of how he took his frets out he did not take them out with a butter knife but needle nose pliers. Here is a radio interview where I tell the “TRUE” story of that day…..

  21. […] ties to Jaco have been growing over the last four years, starting with obtaining Jaco’s famed Bass of Doom back in 2010. Stolen in 1986 resurfaced in 2006. A long and frustrating legal battle ensued before […]

  22. Rob gave money to get the bass back, is now the legal owner, but lets the family have it. It went to court, a guy who had it refused to give it back to the family, it was settled (paid for) after two years because Rob stepped in and gave money away. He did it privately at first, then some people thought he took the bass for himself, but he did pay so that the family could hold it. He did a nice thing.

  23. Patton303

    The Pastorius kids are a bunch of drunken fuck ups and Trujillo feels it’s in safer hands with him. And that way it won’t end up in a pawn shop or e-bay.

  24. I just got back from the terrific show “Play It Loud,” at the Met Museum in New York City (2019). It’s a great review of the history of the electric guitar (and a nod to other instruments) and includes some iconic guitars — including those played by Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Keith Richards, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Prince, Jerry Garcia, Les Paul, Don Everly, Jimi Hendrix, Prince and more.

    They made some odd choices with basses, though. There weren’t a lot of them. And they chose to have *all* the instruments for Metallica, lined up (which is just fine, I know there are metalheads out there) but that means that Robert Trujillo put his own bass on display.

    It’s a perfectly fine bass, but Trujillo also happens to own Jaco Pastorius’ “Bass of Doom” — and why on Earth would you have a show on guitar history and show Page and Van Halen and Prince and Springsteen and Richards guitars, but fail to show Jaco? It was an absence missed by this bassist.

    Or James Jamerson? John Paul Jones? Larry Graham? Verdine White? Sting? Bootsy? They could have done a better job with Bass Curation.

  25. David Boyce

    What about Jaco’s 1960 jazz bass ? Whatever happened to that ?

    • Joe C.

      Are you talking about Jaco’s 1966 Sunburst Fender Jazz bass with block inlay and binding? He used that with the Las Olas Brass Band, and never sold it until he used it to make a Fender Precision with a Jazz Bass neck to help somebody out. It was in November of 1985 he had several conversions with the owner of a bass shop about his hand accident. Jaco wanted to encourage him to play. In Early April of 1985, Jaco and his friend from Florida who brought it up by bus took it to the shop as a gift, but asked for a delivery fee while his friend waited across the street. The shop owner gave Jaco all the money in his wallet and cash drawer. On July 4th 1986 the shop owner was invited to a Jam session on the corner of Sullivan and Bleeker street. It was not the morning concert that had been well covered. Jaco was periodically crashing in a truck at that location (a white step van with Colorado plates). The owner of the truck was guitarist, Lenny Charles, from Colorado. That jam session was performed by the duo on top of the truck. An amplifier was used for both guitar and bass. It was plugged into the base of the light pole using jumper cables. The jam session occurred during two or three intervals in the afternoon. Jaco used that bass the entire afternoon. That bass was offered to be returned by the new owner to Jaco in the early evening after Ingrid who had taken a plane up from Florida on Jaco’s insistence, who had met him at the opposite corner. Ingrid had told the new owner not to, that he would only sell it again and convinced Jaco to give it back, which he did. Somewhere someone has the body of Jaco’s 1966 Fender Jazz bass, and a 1965 Precision neck. The FrankenFender 66/65 J-P bass is in a vault

  26. Juan Howard

    I’m glad the stolen bass was returned to jaco’s family. Robert Trujillo to the rescue!

  27. Stephen C Harvey

    I’ll have the frets from the Bass of Doom up for sale soon on Reverb. As an added bonus I will toss in the butter knife.

  28. […] know, he was responsible for ensuring that the Pastorious family got back Jaco’s famed Bass of Doom. Along with spending the past 20 years holding down the groove for Metallica, Rob’s career […]

  29. Stephen C Harvey

    Hey they just found Paul McCartney’s first Hofner bass so they can find anything. Let’s start looking for Franny Beecher’s black Les Paul that disappeared at an Army base in the 60s.