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What is a Music Man Radio Knob Stingray Bass?

In 1976 Leo Fender and George Fullerton launched what would become a revolutionary design for the bass guitar known as the Music Man Stingray Bass.  In 1976 many of the Stingray Basses and guitars featured Radio Knobs instead of the knurled metal knobs that became standard later on.  Many believe this is due to Leo Fender being a radio repairman and a passion that he had for those knobs.

There is much dispute on this topic and many collectors believe it was pure chance.  There is even a George Fullerton interview where he claims that the radio knobs were used simply because they found them in parts bins at local repair shops.  An interesting point that seems to counteract this claim is there were also radio knobs featured on some of the earliest G and L guitars which were made by George Fullerton and Leo Fender in the early 1980’s.  That would be some coincidence that they found these radio knobs in parts bins in not only 1976 but also 1981.  Further that would have been a very unusual move for people with the type of marketing experience that Leo Fender and George Fullerton to make.  Guitar builders know that the way an instrument is released will have an effect on the popularity and it seems strange to assume that they would risk their business over saving a few dollars on knobs.

The Radio Knob Stingray Basses have slightly longer bodies than Stingray Basses that are not radio knobs.  When comparing the spacing between the pickup and bridge on a radio knob it is apparent that there is slightly more space on a Radio Knob bass than a standard Stingray bass.  It is believed that the Radio Knob bass was something of a prototype an when looking at the bridge to pickup space it is at least apparent that the Radio Knob basses are slightly longer in size.

In addition the Radio Knob Stingray Bass pickups feature the “John Holmes” Long Pole pickup magnets and the magnets are also noticeably longer than the magnets found on even early 1977 Stingray Basses.  These longer pole pieces do impact the tone and many players absolutely believe the Radio Knob basses sound better than any other Stingray bass.

In early 1977 the company that made the opp amp for the Stingray Basses went out of business and Music Man had to start ordering the opp amp elsewhere.  All of the 1976 Stingray Basses featured the original opp amp and all of the Radio Knob Stingray Basses were made in 1976.  This is another example of a subtle difference between a Radio Knob Stingray and the Stingray Basses made later on.

The Radio Knob Music Man Stingray Bass is one of the most desirable Bass Guitars ever made.  There is a noticeable difference in sound and the knobs look super cool.  They also only made a couple hundred of the Radio Knob Stingray Bass so they are rare.  If you have a Radio Knob Stingray Bass you are holding onto Bass Gold!

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