“I bought it from this bloke our drummer knew. I think it was the first fretless electric bass ever”: Bill Wyman on the origins of his famous “homemade” fretless bass

Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. 2nd June 1964
(Image credit: Getty Images)

For 30 years, Bill Wyman stood in the shadows of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, anchoring the titanic riffs and ramshackle grooves of the Rolling Stones. “Like it or not, the bass, in my view, is there to support the rest of the band and provide a good solid underbelly to the proceedings,” said Wyman in the May ’98 issue of BP. “It’s not there to hog the limelight.”

An early pioneer of the fretless bass, “I think it’s Japanese,” is all Wyman could offer as to the origin of his “homemade“ fretless. “I was playing in an R&B band in 1961 when I bought it from this bloke our drummer knew. Before that I’d been playing bass on the bottom two strings of a detuned guitar, so I was glad to finally have a ‘real’ bass. Unfortunately, it was horrible! The body was this great big wide thing.“

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Nick Wells

Nick Wells was the Editor of Bass Guitar magazine from 2009 to 2011, before making strides into the world of Artist Relations with Sheldon Dingwall and Dingwall Guitars. He's also the producer of bass-centric documentaries, Walking the Changes and Beneath the Bassline, as well as Production Manager and Artist Liaison for ScottsBassLessons. In his free time, you'll find him jumping around his bedroom to Kool & The Gang while hammering the life out of his P-Bass.