Kay Concert Bass

Bill with Kay Concert Basses* with the Starlite Wranglers and at the Hayride, 1954
photos© courtesy Scotty Moore and Louisiana Hayride Archives - J. Kent

The upright basses that Bill Black is pictured with as early as with the Starlite Wranglers and as late as their first appearance on the Louisiana Hayride on October 16, 1954 appear to be Concert model Kays made between 1937 and 1940.  The one on the right appears to have tuners which were made in Czechoslovakia.  

The Kay Musical Instrument Company produced a varied catalog of musical instruments. A primary division produced basses and cellos from 1937 to 1969, mainly intended for beginning students. The vast majority of the instruments were produced at 1640 Walnut St. in Chicago, Illinois.  From 1964 to 1969 the factory was located in Elk Grove Village, Illinois.

The basses and cellos were all manufactured with plywood bodies and maple necks.  The plywood on the front and back was five ply and the rib sections were three ply.  The surface laminate for the top was spruce and the ribs and backs supported a maple surface.  All dimensions were monitored very carefully to conform to the specs set forth by the Strings Teachers Association.   The earliest basses were of the Concert shape. The upper bout had none pointed corners where the rib section joined.  These basses were the most popular and were produced throughout the years of the Kay Musical Instrument Company.  There were quite a few variations of the Concert shape, however, the most popular variation was the Orchestra model.  Early Orchestra models came equipped with unusual distinctive tuners sporting wooden knobs and keys, stamped "Made in Czechoslovakia" or tuners manufactured by Kluson.  During and after WWII Kluson Manufacturing Company of Chicago, Illinois became the sole provider of tuning equipment.

The bass on the right has the Czech tuners and is quite likely a Concert Orchestra model Kay.  The bass on the left appears to be a little different than the bass on the right (look at tuners and the edges of the bass), but it still shaped as a Concert bass.

Roger Stowers
Kay Bass Registration and Information

page added June 6, 2003

*not having access to the actual bass to formerly verify the make and model by the ID label inside we've scrutinized as many photos as possible of the profile, shape, tuners and tailpiece to unofficially identify it as a Kay Concert


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