1960s Kay Value Leader Hollowbody Electric Bass Guitar

The moment I opened the case on this guy I thought: what a cool thing! It's got the wear and tear, it's got that lovely metal control plate/pickguard combo, it's lightweight, and it looks downmarket-slick in the tackiest way. There's a lot to like.

It is a bit of a weirdo, though! Unlike the "normal" Kay short-scale basses, this one is very short scale and uses the same scale as the Value Leader guitar models -- 24 3/8" -- which means that the strings are very bouncy and slack compared to a "normal" bass. This is an advantage in some ways (guitarists will find it slinky and comfy and it's fun to sit on a couch and play this for practice) but a disadvantage in others (bassists will find it a little alien to play at first as it's easier to put out of tune or "slop" your notes if you're expecting bass string tension).

It's a lot like the National/Valco "Pocket" basses that I see in the shop more often. I really like these as true basses, but I did sneak some used electric guitar strings (EADG) and tuned it up like a piccolo bass for a moment before finishing-up work on it. That was stupid-fun and if you run that through an octave pedal to get some sub-bass you immediately get a 4-string instrument that sounds a lot like the low-end of a bajo sexto. Yes, the obvious question is, "why not just play a guitar's EADG strings?" Well, my obvious answer is, "spacing!"

Suffice to say, post-repairs it's got a clean bill of health and both plays and sounds excellent. The neck is chunky like you'd expect, though.

Repairs included: a fret level/dress, added ground wire to tailpiece, mod to pickup mount, cleaning, side dots, setup.

Body wood: ply maple (hollow with center post)

Bridge: maple

Fretboard: maple

Neck wood: poplar

Pickups: 1x original single coil

Action height at 12th fret: 3/32” bass 1/16” treble (fast, spot-on)
String gauges: old strings, roughly 100w-45w

Neck shape: fat D

Board radius: 10"

Truss rod: adjustable

Neck relief: straight

Fret style: medium-wide

Scale length: 24 38"

Nut width: 1 11/16"

Body width: 13 1/8"

Body depth: 1 3/4"

Weight: 5 lbs 0 oz

Condition notes: it's entirely original except for the volume and tone knobs and a shoulder strap button I added to match the style of the endpin. The finish has small nicks, dings, various scratches, and discoloration (especially on the neck face) throughout. It looks glorious! I modified the pickguard/control plate to add two new screw-down mounts on the left side and added a hole for the pickup wire so I could jack the pickup a little higher/closer to the strings.

It comes with: its original chip case.