The Vox brand is synonymous with “that chimey sound” that provided the canvas for British rock and roll. Amps like the AC-30 have stood the test of time and are at once timeless and timely. Yet, in their heyday, Vox was a full service company for all types of guitar gear. Some of their lesser known, though now highly sought after items, weren’t famous amps, wahs, or guitars. This is the untold tale of Vox basses.
By the early 1960s, Fender had already pinned down the corner on electric bass guitars. With the near instant success of the Precision Bass, who could contend with California’s freshest brand? Well, it would take a bold new look, design, and feel from a brand built out of an empire.
Though the Vox bass catalogue is surprisingly deep and diverse, few designs stand out as much as their teardrop style guitars. Vox explored this body style in a number of designs throughout the 1960s, including the Constellation IV and Singer IV. The earliest venture, however, was the Phantom Mark III. The bass version drew its inspiration from the companion guitar lineup that Vox launched six, nine, and twelve string variations.
But if the eye catching body shape of the Vox teardrops weren’t arresting enough, perhaps putting in the hands of the right player would help make their mark. As Vox evolved their bass lineup they did so with a signature model developed in partnership with Bill Wyman, the bassist of the Rolling Stones. The instrument came in both solid body and semi-hollow variations. What truly sets this instrument out among all of Vox’s guitar and bass creations is that it was the only one to bear the artists name atop the headstock. Rather then the company name “Vox,” you’ll find the mid-century modern script reading “Wyman Bass.”
But not all variations of the Vox teardrop were soft and curved. Some adopted the more angular visage inspired by the six-string Phantom IV lineup. With fewer hardware appointments and distractions than the six string, which included a Bigsby-style bridge and whammy, you might say the bass looked a little to stream-lined.
While these teardrop-style body shapes are distinctly 1960s Vox, in the decade they also took more direct aim at their Fender competition with what might be considered more traditional designs. The clearest analogies include the Vox Symphonic Bass and Clubman, both of which bear some resemblance to Fender designs.
By the end of the decade, the Vox empire was spread too far and too thin. With guitar plants in the UK and Italy closing in rather tight succession, the Vox guitar and basses became a time capsule of the 1960s. The company reoriented around its core tube amp lineup, meaning that Vox shed its tear drop lineup of iconic guitars and basses. As a result, these never reissued instruments are among the more sought after vintage items on the Vox used market.