Fender Bassman Amp

Bill Black with Bassman and Elvis in Tampa, FL - Aug. 5, 1956
Photo Bob Moreland courtesy Ger Rijff's The Cool King

Fender Bassman onstage in Tampa, FL  - Aug. 5, 1956
Photo courtesy web (credit unknown)

Early on the band was dependent (hopeful) on the venue providing a PA system with one microphone for vocals and one for Bill's bass.  If not he was required to play as loud as possible.  As the crowds grew larger (and louder) and with the addition of DJ on drums that was naturally not sufficient.  Early in 1956, reputedly May 24, a Fender Bassman Amplifier was obtained by the O.K. Houck Piano Co in Memphis for Bill for $355.50.  At some point he also got an Ampeg microphone to amplify his bass.

Elvis' payroll and expenses for Nov/Dec 1956
Photo Nancy (nee Black) Shockley

Entry for payment to O.K. Houcks for a Bassman for Bill - #BM00816
Photo Nancy (nee Black) Shockley

A page from Elvis Presley's 1956 payroll and expense fund for November and December show an entry on November 29th of $355.51 to OK Houck's for a Bassman for Bill. The serial number associated with it of BM00816 puts it in the range of a 5E6 or 5E6-A from 1956. Note though that this is just specifies when the amp was paid for. H may have in fact had it sometime prior, as is evidenced by photos from August of that year though one is pictured onstage as early as April 20, 1956 in Fort Worth.

Fender Bassman on stage with the band in Kansas City, MO - May 24, 1956
Kansas City Star Photo courtesy Ger Rijff's Faces and Stages

Bill would be pictured with a bassman on most dates at least from May 24th in Kansas City through his final performances with the band in Hawaii in 1957, except for the first tour that year in the the Northeast and Canada.

1956 Fender Bassman
Photo Guitar Center

The narrow panel Fender Bassman amplifier was manufactured from 1955 to 1960.  The 5E-6A model was made from 55-57 (most likely Bill's).   For controls it had a Ground Switch, Fuse (3A), Power Switch, Standby Switch, Pilot Lamp, Presence, Bass, Treble, Volume, Volume, Normal In and Bright In.  It was equipped with 4 x 10"/2 ohms (8 ohms each in parallel)" Jensen P10R or Jensen P10Q speakers, 2 x 12AY7 and 12AX7 preamp, 2 x 6L6G power tubes,  2 x 5U4GA rectifier, a 12AX7 (split-load)  phase inverter and produced 40-50 Watts output watts in a narrow panel, closed back w/ 2 ports, 23" x 22" x 10" (58.4 x 57.2 x 26.7 cm) solid pine cabinet.  It weighed 47 lbs.

page added June 2003
updated March 2013


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