One of the Most Beautiful Basses Ever
A Unique 'Prototype'
1967 Micro-Frets Rendezvous Bass (Style 1)
This ca. 1968/9 and almost certainly unique bass weighs just 8.80 lbs. and features a double-bound,14.00 inch wide, just under 1 3/4 inches deep, 'two-piece' carved maple thinline double-cutaway body with a single leaf-shaped f-hole edged in red and with a blue cloth backing. One-piece, yellow finished maple neck with a nut width of just over 1 5/8 inches, a short scale length of 30 inches and a medium-to-thick profile. Unique Micro-Frets, 2-piece red and white plastic nut. 'Hockey-stick' shaped headstock with "Micro-Frets / Rendezvous" decal in black. Micro-Frets aluminum "M" mounted just below circular string-tree. Two-on-a-side, closed back Grover bass tuners with metal 'cloverleaf' buttons. 'Slab' rosewood fretboard with 20 original medium frets, inlaid pearl double-dot position markers and small red side-dot markers. Micro-frets "Patent Pending" neckplate with five screws engraved with serial number "1381". Two (closely situated at the neck position - just like Paul McCartney's Hofner Cavern Bass) Micro-Frets [DeArmond] single-coil bass pickups with metal surrounds and perfectly matched outputs of 5.84k. 'Raised' four layer white over black plastic pickguard secured by three screws. Two controls (one volume, one tone) mounted into body. Red plastic top-hat shaped control knobs with fluted sides and metal tops. These two controls are mounted on a four-layer white over black plastic circular base. Combined Micro-Frets four-saddle, height adjustable bridge/tailpiece mounted on a specific shaped red plastic base which in turn is mounted on another (different) shaped base in four-layer white over black plastic. This unique and quite wonderful bass is in near mint (9.25) condition with just the bare minimum of light finish checking. Housed in the original? three-latch, rectangular black hardshell case with black leather ends and dark blue plush lining (9.25).
**There is a small black plastic (fluted with a metal top) rotary knob on the bass-side of the top which has no function. On the back of the body is a specific shaped four-layer white over black plastic control cover secured by one screw. This is in fact a 'factory' covered extra control cavity - and being a prototype was most likely for a battery or FM transmitter. The 'no function' control on the top was built-in, assumedly for this feature.
Outrageous Foam Blue/Green to Yellow [Martian Blueburst] finish with matching headstock. It's an outstanding "Deco" color complimented by its Red & White plastic parts & pickguard. This unique bass features two D'Armond pickups placed close together like McCartney's Hofner Cavern Bass... it must have been the 'hip' thing to do at that time! It has an 'f' hole covered in a matching blue/green screen. Also it has factory Grover tuners. We love cool & unusual basses & this is the wildest bass we have seen in many years. This is a cool one of a kind Micro-frets Rendezvous Bass... the only one we have ever seen or heard of.
Ralph J. Jones. Micro-Frets guitars were the brain-child of a self educated genius, Ralph J. Jones, who got into the guitar business with financial backing by his former employer, a successful Maryland real estate magnate. Jones served as company president and treasurer. F.M. Huggins was vice president and general manager and A.R. Hubbard was the secretary during Jones' hegemony. When Jones passed away, Huggins became president of the company… It's probable that Jones began making prototype Micro-Frets guitars at his Wheaton, MD, workshop in around 1965 or so. In 1967, the decision was made to go into production and a factory was opened at 100 Grove Road in Frederick, MD, where it was listed in the telephone directory until 1975. By 1968, Micro-Frets - "the personal guitar" - was exhibiting at the NAMM show. Jones and his wife, Hazel M. Jones, were pictured in The Music Trades holding up a Micro-Frets Orbiter guitar. Ralph Jones was responsible for the concepts that informed Micro-Frets guitars, designing the electronics and hardware innovations, while other handled the woodworking aspects of design. Except for such things as tuners and fretwire, and in the early days, pickups from outside suppliers, virtually all components were made in Maryland by Micro-Frets."
"Hollowbody innovations. What kinds of innovations? Well, for one thing, most Micro-Frets were hollowbody guitars with the insides of the fronts and back carved out of two solid slabs of wood, and joined at a seam around the sides (an idea that would turn up later on Kustom guitars made in Kansas). Not only did Jones patent this "Tonesponder" construction, but he designed and built the carving equipment to produce his design."
"Wireless transmission. Two other innovations must be noted. First, Jones may have invented one of the first wireless transmitting system for electric guitars, which micro-Frets began promoting in 1968. Reportedly the early versions of these were called Telecasters, but there was an obvious trademark conflict, and the name was quickly changed. These wireless guitars were described in ads as "ALL-NEW! STARTLING! NO-CORD solid-state Teleguitars and Telebasses." Jones apparently got the idea from garage door openers, which had only recently been invented and were being marketed heavily at the time by Sears!. in any case, Jones used an FM transmitter to get the guitar signal to an FM receiver hooked into an amplifier…"
"More than twenty models. Micro-Frets offered some twenty-plus different six-string guitars and basses between 1967 and about 1974 or 1975… Almost all Micro-Frets guitars and basses had two pickups. Some guitars had a leaf-shaped f-hole, while others had none; this is not always consistent within a given model. Also some examples featured cloth backing in the f-hole, but not all. The Micro-Nut was standard… All Micro-Frets guitars were made of solid woods, with no veneers or ply-woods, and were offered in standard colors including walnut, black, maraschino cherry, sunburst, Martian sunburst (green sunburst), and natural. Custom solid colors were available by special order…"
"Style 1 circa 1967-69. Style 1 characterizes the earliest Micro-Frets guitars built from the beginnings in 1967 and lasting at least through 1968, and possibly into 1969. Style 1 guitars feature a side gasket on the two body halves…
"The long and the short of it… Rumors have abounded that Micro-Frets basses came standard with a short scale and that long scale basses were special orders. There is no evidence to support this, and Micro-Frets apparently made both routinely. Actually short scale basses are somewhat unusual, so the company is clearly distinguished by emphasizing these in line… Micro-Frets guitars did feature serial numbers for warranty purposes. These were four digit numbers stamped on the neck plate. As with all manufacturers, stamped neck plates were purchased in lots and sat in a box on a shelf. The person doing neck-plate duty would reach in and grab one as needed, so neck-plate serial numbers usually provide only a rough guide to chronology."
"Rare birds. As is evident from the discussion of serial numbers, Micro-Frets guitars are relatively rare. No one knows exactly how many Micro-Frets guitars were made, but David Sturgill, who purchased the Micro-Frets assets at the end, estimates that there were fewer than 3,000 total." (Vintage Guitar Magazine. The Different Strummer. October 1995, pp. 22-25 & 132-133). (#2134)
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