Why I Love My… Bill Wyman & The Flying Penge

The legendary Rolling Stones rhythm king on the home-made bass that he brought back from the dead to provide the bedrock of some of the Stones’ earliest recordings.

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1. I love my…

“It’s a home-made bass. I love it because this is the instrument I made from a tattered old instrument with a big ugly body I bought from a jazz musician in 1961 for £8, as I couldn’t afford a real bass guitar at the time. It can now be seen in a glass cabinet on the wall at my London restaurant, Sticky Fingers.”

2. How I got it…

“The fretboard was tattered and all of the frets rattled… it was unplayable. I turned it upside down and drew a new small body shape, and had it cut out with a friend’s fretwork machine. I then took out all of the electrics and replaced them, together with a new Baldwin pickup and flatwound strings.”

3. It’s special because…

“I removed all of the frets, as they rattled, intending to replace them with new ones – but I never did. I’ve realised in recent years that it was the first fretless bass ever made – and that I had inadvertently invented the ‘fretless bass’, as they were not to be made until about five or six years later.”

4. It’s perfect for…

“Anything slightly bluesy – as it ends up, with a little coaxing, to sound rather like a double-bass if it is played right. I was also able to do slides, which became part of my playing style – something other bass players couldn’t do well at the time, owing to the sound of the frets on their instruments.”

5. It sounds best with…

“A large speaker set-up! I made a bass cabinet with a 18-inch Goodman speaker to go with it in 1961, and the sound was unbelievable, and I performed with it throughout my early times with the Stones – throughout the London clubs, and Richmond, Twickenham and Windsor gigs – and into the early ballrooms and on all of our TV shows – until September 1963 when I changed to the Framus Star bass.”

6. Hear it on…

“The first Stones single Come On and I Want To Be Loved. It was also used on odd Stones recordings from then on, and during the Exile On Main St sessions in France and there are photos confirming this. I also used it on the Montreux Jazz Festival concert with Buddy Guy, Junior Wells and Muddy Waters, as you can see on the Messin’ With The Blues video. I continued to use it on the odd Stones recording on and off until and including the Black And Blue album.

“It was named by the Stones piano player and roadie Ian Stewart as ‘The Flying Penge’, as that’s where I was living at the time.”

Bill Wyman’s Rhythm Kings’ new album, Studio Time, is out now.


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