Vintage Fender (Bass) VI: Not a baritone guitar?
Posted on October 24 2019
I'm always looking to buy vintage Fender VI guitars. Click the Contact Me button (lower right) to sell your vintage Fender.
Here's the latest from the True Vintage Guitar YouTube channel: 1961 Fender VI (also called the Bass 6!). It's a six string electric bass guitar and not necessarily a baritone guitar. Fender wasn't the first to market with a six string bass. Gibson’s EB-6 was made in 1959 and shipped in 1960, but Danelectro made a 6 string bass in 1956.
The earliest examples of the Fender VI I can find have neck dates of October 1961 - like this guitar :). This has another cool Fender feature: a clipped Fender logo. It doesn’t have the model name on the headstock likely because the stickers weren’t available yet. It just says “Fender”. I’ve had three custom color Black Fender Jaguars that also had clipped logos since they didn’t have stickers with white print. The black model name wouldn’t have been visible against the black finished headstock.
Version 1: of the VI is identified by 3 Stratocaster style pickups and three on/off switches with no strangle switch. The model was updated to version two in 1963 with an added strangle switch and Jaguar style pickups.
It’s also got cool early features like a slab Brazilian Rosewood fretboard, clay dots, and potentiometer codes indicating the 21st week of 1961. Everything is original to the guitar except the strings. The original Sunburst finish doesn’t appear to have had a clear coat applied over top of the Sunburst like later guitars. That likely accounts for the interesting checking and flaking pattern that almost gives it a pixelated look.
I acquired the guitar from the second owner. He said that he traded his Stratocaster guitar for it all the way back in 1962. He was this guitar’s only owner for 57 years.
Book Rec: Fender: The Golden Age 1946-1970 (https://amzn.to/366IYYu). Excellent book, breaks Fender history down by model.
One bone to pick with the VI description:
Why it’s not a baritone guitar: Ok fine, it’s just semantics, but Baritone guitars are tuned a fifth or a fourth below a standard guitar so A to A or B to B. Baritone guitar strings are in the .013-.062 range. The Fender VI is a 6 string electric bass guitar and is tuned a full octave below the guitar (E to E). It’s a bass guitar with a slightly shorter scale length (30”) with two additional strings added: the b and the e string. I’m using strings from the Gabriel Tenorio String Company that are .026”-.099”