1978 Music Man Stingray Bass

CRAVE Guitars says…

Pluses: Genuine all‑original pre‑Ernie Ball Stingray straight from the factory! Hugely flexible array of sounds due to the humbucking pickup, 2‑band EQ and active electronics. Overall condition and originality

Minuses: The somewhat flat wood grain and colour is very 1970s. Eats batteries. Heavy weight

Verdict: The Stingray evolved from an established classic and deservedly became a classic in its own right. Thanks to Mr Leo Fender

Model Description:

Music Man was Leo Fender’s first post‑Fender venture, following a 10‑year exclusion clause that prevented Leo from making musical equipment after he sold Fender to CBS in 1965. Music Man Stingray guitars and basses started appearing on the market in 1976. The earliest Music Man Stingray Basses featured white pickup covers and traditional knobs, which rapidly changed to black pickup covers and Telecaster‑style knobs. Tensions in the company led to change from 1979, resulting in the massive Ernie Ball Corporation taking over Music Man in 1984, leaving Leo Fender to concentrate on his next manufacturing company, G&L from 1980. Music Man is, though, much more than just Fender Mk 2. The Stingray Bass, designed by Leo Fender, Tom Walker and Sterling Ball, had many similarities to the Fender Precision such as the double cutaway solid body and 34” scale length neck, although it featured many distinctive innovations such as an 8‑pole humbucking pickup, 2‑band EQ, active electronics and a 3+1 tuner arrangement on the headstock. The Stingray Bass became popular for the slap bass of 1970s soul, R&B, funk and disco bassists as well as powerful heavy rock. The Music Man Stingray has continued in production under the Ernie Ball umbrella (as EBMM – Ernie Ball Music Man) to the current day and has built up a strong reputation amongst professional musicians. The original pre‑Ernie Ball Stingrays (1976‑c.1981) have become very collectable with vintage market prices to match.

Bass Description:

Here, we have a VERY impressive instrument. One of the earliest Music Man Stingray basses to come into the UK. The pickup cover is black, rather than the earlier white and the knobs are the later ‘Tele’ style, so it isn’t from early production models. This is all‑original and owned by me from new, selected direct from the distributor’s original imported stock, so it has never hit the streets. In hindsight, I should have chosen one with a stronger grain pattern for the body (as on CRAVE Guitars’ Stingray guitar), as the wood on this one quite plain and not highly figured. The Stingray Bass is Music Man’s finest creation and this pre‑Ernie Ball example is one of the reasons for its rapid adoption and reputation. The teardrop scratchplate and chrome control panel have become iconic over the decades. The Precision‑like characteristics are familiar and the design lineage is clear. However, the humbucking pickup and active electrics were new innovations at the time, as was the 3+1 tuner layout. Sound‑wise, you can understand why its snappy, tight resonance became popular with funk, soul and disco artists, especially ideal for the ubiquitous ‘slap‑bass’ technique of the late 1970s and early 1980s (for example Brothers Johnson). It isn’t, though, a one‑trick pony, it has a wide variety of tones available thanks to that battery powered 2‑band EQ providing both boost and cut at low and high frequencies. Just dial in what you want and go for it. The Stingray can wield an assertive, punchy powerful sound, so probably not one for the wallflower bass player. Condition isn’t quite mint but not far from it. Weight‑wise, it is on the heavy side at spot on 11 pounds (4.99 kilos) and those active electronics eat batteries for breakfast. Is it a Fender? It sure is, but nothing like those that CBS‑owned Fender was making in 1978.


  • Made by Music Man in Fullerton, California, U.S.A. in 1978
  • Original double‑cutaway non‑contoured ash solid body
  • Transparent natural polyester finish
  • Maple bolt‑on neck joint (3-bolt) with mahogany skunk stripe
  • Maple fingerboard with 21 frets and black dot markers
  • Nut width: 15/8” (41.5mm)
  • Scale length 34” (863mm)
  • Original Music Man tuners in 3+1 layout
  • Original chrome hardware
  • Original 3‑ply black scratchplate with separate chrome control plate
  • Original single humbucking bridge pickup
  • Original active electronics with 2‑band EQ, powered by 9 volt battery
  • Original pots, knobs and jack socket
  • Original bridge assembly with 4 individual string mutes and through‑body stringing
  • Vintage non‑original hardshell case (one‑off custom made by Strings & Things, specifically for this bass)
  • Weight: 11lb (4.99Kg)


  • Tim Commerford (Rage Against The Machine, Audioslave, Prophets Of Rage)
  • Kim Deal (Pixies)
  • Gail Ann Dorsey (David Bowie and session musician)
  • Bernard Edwards (Chic)
  • Flea (Red Hot Chili Peppers)
  • Randy Jackson (Journey)
  • Louis Johnson (Brothers Johnson)
  • Pino Palladino


Music Man Stingray guitars and basses were among the first production instruments to use active electronics to boost or cut levels in selected frequency bands. In order to prevent competitors from reverse engineering the circuit, the on‑board preamps – powered by a 9V battery – were originally coated with epoxy resin.

Music Man introduced a sister bass in 1978 called the Sabre with dual humbucking pickups. After relatively slow sales, it ceased production by 1991 The ‘Classic’ Sabre was, however, reissued in modified form by Ernie Ball in 2013.

See also:

Why not take a look at CRAVE Guitars’ 6‑string Music Man Stingray guitar?

1976 Music Man Stingray I

Detail Gallery:

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