Washington invents a lot of stuff. But some of our inventions are could-haves instead of should-haves. Such is the case with the electric bass guitar.
While Fender likes to claim all the fame for inventing the bass guitar, the credit really goes to Paul Tutmarc, a Seattle native. He came up with the Adiovox Electric Bass guitar in 1936. Fender’s design came along 15 years later, for those keeping track of who thought up what, when.
There are only four known copies of the Audiovox 736 left. And one of the last ones that weren’t already in collector’s hands or museums sold today for $23,850.09 on eBay.
Paul was the son of a big band leader as well as a tinkerer. He always felt sorry for the bass player in big bands because they couldn’t be heard easily over the blaring horn sections.
Inspired by the electronics in a telephone that turned voice into signals, Paul built his own horseshoe-shaped magnet and wrapped it around a grapefruit-sized contraction. The resulting bass and its new sound were too far ahead of its time, so sales were flat, and without a national level marketing strategy, the Audiovox 736 faded from the annals of music history.
In the case of the last remaining Audiovox not in the hands of museums or collectors, it still plays amazingly well, even though the couple who owned it hadn’t tuned it in 40 years. Local musician Randy Hansen took it for a little test drive recently, and it seems to be working just fine.
The electric bass guitar is just one of the many inventions Washington State has cranked out over the years. From the butter cutter to the the jumbo jet, we’ve helped change the world with our bold ideas, revolutionary innovations and our amazing inventions. Check out our Innovations & Inventions timeline to see what else we’ve come up with over the years.
Read more about the guitar, its owners and the auction in The Seattle Times.