Old School: 1958 Fender Precision Bass

When we first met Phil Smallwood, he mentioned to us something about his old gear. The next day, he showed up at No Treble HQ with a 1958 Fender Precision Bass.

We tried to figure out a way to ask him if we could borrow it, but opted instead to get some photos and the story behind it so we could share it all with you.

Check out the photos of this beauty and read Phil’s story about it…


1958 Fender Precision

How long have you owned it?

I’ve had it about 8 years now.

How did you come across it?

A friend of mine told me about it being traded at Melody Music in Leesburg, Virginia. I didn’t waste any time to go see and bought it that day.

Stock or customized? Give us all the specs!

Everything on the bass is how it came from the factory except the finish. It was refinished by Bill Callaham of Callaham Guitars in Winchester, VA.

What’s your favorite story about the gear?

It is difficult to take this bass out and play in public due to musicians wanting to play it or borrow it for a gig.

Any notable bassists who play this make/model/year stand out to you?

Way too many to mention. This was and still is the standard by most bass players in the music industry.

Any special history or story behind this bass?

To the bset of my knowledge, it was played by older gentleman who was in many bands in the Washington, DC area in the ’60s and ’70s. His family sold the bass after his passing.

Do you use it on gigs?

Not usually. I like to break it out for jams on an occasion.

What else do you want to share about your gear?

Everyone needs one these in their closet. it is a beauty.

Any other vintage gear?

Yes: 39 Gibson-54 Telecaster, 2 Black Face Fender Twins, Black Fender Bassman, 61 Martin Archtop Electric and a few other pieces.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I own a booking agency with offices in Winchester, Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee. I grew up in the ’60s and worked in a music store in sales and as a guitar teacher while in high school. I played music in the ’60s and ’70s before becoming an agent. I love to collect vintage instruments.

If you own any vintage gear you'd like us to spotlight in "Old School", we'd love to hear from you! Drop us a line at [email protected].

Get daily bass updates.

Get the latest news, videos, lessons, and more in your inbox every morning.

Share your thoughts

  1. Thanks to No Treble for this article. Greatly appreciated.

  2. A Big Bird Dog Dawgin’ Diggin’ It!

  3. ok what’s so different about a vintage bass? I’m not being smug, I jst don’t understand it?

    • Usually the materials and craftsmanship are very excellent and then the vibe of an instrument that has history (many gigs, recordings and players). However, the flip side of the coin is the price tag, you can get a quality custom bass that is built with as good or better materials and construction for less than a vintage Fender P or J that is for sure.

      • Some of the old Fender basses do have a distinct sound. Not the more well defined sound of the newer basses, but the “growl” and old school thump is very cool. I own a 1960 J bass and it sounds great. My friend who is a studio bass player always tells me that the sound is the best he ever heard. A lot of low end growl. I own a lot of basses, but a few of the old ones sound just right. Can’t explain it. I take mine out on every gig!! It’s well worn.

        • Clay

          Got a 64 jass bass, the few bass players that I know here in the Midwest call that lo end growl “nark” like bark!
          Seems to fit…..

        • Clay

          Got a 64 jass bass, the few bass players that I know here in the Midwest that own pre cbs bases call that lo end growl “nark” like bark!
          Seems to fit…..
          No mention of the confidence and tone that comes from aged wood and old stock in the posts? Gotta play one for some time before you know the difference!

    • Look at a Lakland, Sadowsky or Mike Lull if you want a quality “Fender Bass”.

    • theres an interesting thread on TB about this very topic, check it out and chime in

  4. I have been using and owning Fender Precisions/Jazz from the very beginning. Over that time, I’ve had the opportunity to play and own some very old ones and yes, the early ones may not have the technological advances we enjoy now, but there was a level of craftsmanship you don’t see much these days. There is also something to be said for the history an instrument has. One might, as I would, pay a bit more for a bass that I knew was used by Marcus Miller to record Renaissance as someone might pay a bit more for a bass owned and used by Jack Bruce. It’s a personal thing. Also, we can discuss craftsmanship, materials and all that, but at the end of the day, what about technique, attack and all those things which seperates the average player from Stanley, Jaco or anyone like that? Practice, practice and more practice. Set goals and meet them. We then come to that point where we can truly appreciate that which we paid megabucks for.

  5. wow, even though I think it would look better sans-refinish, that thing still looks gorgeous!

  6. Completely Outta’ Sight…..I’m from Hagerstown, Maryland :-)

  7. Nice old one, reminds me of the one I had in the mid /late 60’s. Wish I still had it now, but then I did trade it in on a 72 Gibson Les Paul bass that I still have now!

  8. Strings are not mention?? strange in my opinion the p/BASS WAS TO SIMULATE Strange no mention of strings?Mr Fender made the p/b TO SIMULATE THE UPRIGHT HENCE THE LA bELLA 52-110 WAS USED LIKE jAMERSON and a bit of foam at the bridge. AND BINGO?? ALL IN MY OPINION?? PS THE WIDE c NECK IS BEST FOR THE TENSION TOO. ONE LUV AS USED ON BLOW BY BLOW JEFF BECK IRIE.

  9. Why doesn’t it have the raise A string pole pieces? I think the pickups may have been changed.

    • Phil

      Believe me, this is what it came with. The neck was an end of year 57′.

  10. John not all had a raised A , i do have a raised A and in my opinion was that the raised A way of making the note sound stand out and the A string become moore pronunce on the radio? hence the country players would double the bass lines to make it more audible?? this was picked up by the jamaican players and the bass was doubled on reggae songs by the muted guitar to pronunciate the line more?? but i could be wrong?/ its caled pick and roll in reggae terms?/ i was d king of pick and roll on reggae sessions in london.in the early seventies.?? one luv rasta .


  12. i have to say ;. she needs to be played ;. you should give her to someone who would treet her right let her out and let the world hear her ;.;. she can always be refinished since she wass already ;.;.

  13. how about a ‘sound’ file?!?!?!?!?!?

  14. I have played a few vintage basses by Fender (Jazz and P)- some are cool, but most sound a little weaker than the modern ones. Nice bass though. Yes there is some mojo to be had, but at the end of the day, you aren’t going to notice an iota of difference in a band setting.

  15. Gary Pate

    I bought a ’58 p-bass in high school 1968 for $325 w/ hang tags and a fender 600 amp and OHSC. I played it on the road for 10 years and sold it in ’79 to a famous bass player