In Memoriam: Bill Conklin

Bill Conklin

It’s another sad day in the bass community as we mourn the loss of Bill Conklin of Conklin Guitars. The renowned luthier was an innovator and pioneer in the world of extended range instruments.

Conklin began as a bass player when he was 12 years old. His imagination led him to start sketching radical guitar bodies and he built his first guitar in high school. Playing it live garnered so much attention that others wanted him to build one for them, so he started Conklin Guitars in 1984 – just three years out of high school.

He first focused on repairs and modifications but switched to solely focusing on building his own original instruments in 1988. Aside from his own unique designs, customer requests led to Conklin designing extended-range basses including seven, eight, nine, and even eleven-string basses. His work also included incorporating exotic woods, onboard parametric EQs, and other forward-thinking elements. In addition to all his custom work, the company teamed with the late Jack Westheimer to create an import line called Groove Tools by Conklin that incorporated many of his designs into more affordable packages.

Conklin’s signature artists include Shaun Munday, Jozef Bobula, Jason Everett, Ron Pacheco, and more. Check out one of Conklin’s more exotic basses with Everett’s OM Bass:

Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Bill Conklin.

Get daily bass updates.

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

Share your thoughts

  1. Greywoulf

    Beautiful looking, beautiful sounding 7 string bass! -Makes me think of Sitars…

  2. Eric

    OMG! NO! Not Bill? Great innovator of the 7 String bass. My late teacher had the Bill Dickens 7 string and that bass sounded AMAZING! I’m sure a lot of Conklin owners are going to HOLD on to them Now! My condolences goes to his family and friends. May he R.I.P.

  3. Amalia Saldivar

    My condolences to the family,, may he rest in eternal peace ,,

  4. So sad to hear of Bill’s passing, I was a long time admirer of his work and finally got to meet him and become professional friends a couple years ago at a summer NAMM. Sad when you lose one of your predecessors. RIP Bill.

  5. Ian

    I’ll never sell my Groove Tools n I still plan to get a Custom from them some day. RIP King

  6. Nick van Dyk

    I am a proud Conklin endorser and have played these instruments exclusively for 15 years and used them almost exclusively for 7 albums.

    The last two Conklins that I bought (I have seven) were designed after more than a decade of working together on these instruments, and they are the two best guitars I have ever played.

    Bill was a gifted luthier, and a kind and gentle soul. I was lucky to know him even a little.

    So saddened by this news.

    Nick van Dyk

  7. Cesare Dott. Bianco

    See You later, Bill…!!!

  8. Brett

    I imported my red wine GT5 from the US in 2005 and it’s such a great bass. I won’t sell it as it can’t be replaced easily. I’d love to play a USA build one day.
    Vale Bill.

  9. Stew McKinsey

    Bill was a rare individual, especially in the music industry. A gifted luthier and an absolute artist, he was also one of the most genuine, kind and down to earth people I have ever known. Had he and I not connected back in the 90’s I probably would have quit playing music. After trying for more than a decade to get someone to incorporate some of my ideas into a bass, and had been met with condescension as much as anything else, Bill was enthusiastic about the project and proceeded to build me the most incredible bass I’ve ever had. It was the first of several. This is hard news but I am a better person — and a better musician — for having known him.