On this day in 1968, country star Glen Campbell’s album Wichita Lineman began a run of several weeks at the top of the charts. The album spawned the Jimmy Webb-penned single “Wichita Lineman” which turned out to be a major hit both on home turf and abroad.
The song was tracked using a Fender VI bass guitar – an instrument that to this day remains a 'secret studio weapon'. By the mid-‘50s, session players and producers were already hip to the ‘tic-tac’ sound of the Danelectro baritone and Fender soon set about creating their own version.
Advertised as the “Fender VI bass guitar” the VI was a development of the offset solidbody style pioneered by the Jazzmaster in 1958. The offset Jazz Bass subsequently arrived in ‘60, followed by the VI in ‘61. The Jaguar then appeared in ’62.
The Fender VI’s unusual 30-inch scale length sits between the Jazzmaster’s 25.5 inches and the Jazz Bass’s 34 inches. Normally pitched an octave lower than standard six-string tuning its unique tension and string gauges help give the VI a tone that could be described as more taught and focused than a Jazz Bass but with more punch and power than a Jazzmaster.
It’s not so often that you see someone using a custom color Fender VI, but these lesser-known golden era classics certainly had their devotees. Check out this vintage clip of Campbell using a great-looking Fiesta Red model as he performs a rendition of "Wichita Lineman" live on national television in 1968.
“Wichita Lineman” is one of the more prominent examples of the Fender VI. And while Campbell tracked the middle eight/solo parts in the studio himself he worked alongside some of the best session players of the era to record the smash album, including Wrecking Crew members Carol Kaye, Hal Blaine, Al Casey, and Joe Osborn.
The Fender VI was eventually discontinued in the mid-‘70s although has been revived on several occasions since. Check out these Fender VI Custom Shop models at Guitar Center in Fiesta Red (opens in new tab) and Sea Foam Green (opens in new tab) custom colors.
Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World (opens in new tab), Guitar Player (opens in new tab) and MusicRadar (opens in new tab) in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.
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