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Article by Alan Morgan in 'Melody Maker', November 28th 1981
(original scan)

Thanks to Mikael Jansson for finding the original article (and the photocopy before we located an original), and JB for the pictures.
The Shakin' Stick
Alan Morgan, bass guitarist and double bass session man, runs his hands over a new Shergold.

Shergold stick bass: £430 including VAT.

Front view of Upright Electric Bass Side view of Upright Electric Bass With the recent upsurge of rockabilly bands the good old upright double bass is being seen on more and more stages. A major problem, however, is that the instrument was never designed to produce the volume levels needed to match today's drums, guitars and vocals.
If you use a conventional microphone, the movement of the bass is restricted and no genuine acrobatic rockabilly rebel will accept this. There's also the age old problem of acoustic feedback to contend with.
A solution has been to fit various transducers in different places on the bass - on the belly, bridge and side of the neck - to enhance the mandatory slapping sound. And there have been Stick or Pogo basses on the market for several years - Framus, Hofner and Burns spring to mind - but they have been little more than a neck on an end pin and because they use a magnetic pickup they tend to sound more like a bass guitar.
The alternatively designed Van Zalinger - a hollow body stick bass fitted with a ceramic pickup, gives it the most authentic double bass sound, but its £800 price has kept it beyond the reach of most musicians.

But fear is at hand from Shergold Woodcrafts. Their new stick bass incorporates the better points of other makes, coupled with some original ideas of their own and it sells at about half the price of the Van Zalinger, making it ideally suited to the up and coming, out of pocket, rockabilly muso.
Constructed with a birch ply back and belly, that bass features a centre core made of obeche wood and has two hollow chambers to help obtain the acoustic tonal qualities of the double bass. The scale length is 41 inches with a beech neck and a stained black beech finger board.
A hand-carved maple bridge in the style of the conventional string bass bridge enables the fitting of a Polytone double bass pick-up which is supplied as standard. Alternatively the wing slots on either side of the bridge will accept what some people consider to be the ultimate double bass pick-up - the Underwood - as an optional extra.
Upright Electric Bass headstock The four single machine heads are traditional quarter plate style in fine gold plating and operate quite smoothly. They are mounted on either side of the head which is of an original semi-scroll design. At the other end the strings are terminated by a black stained maple tailpiece of traditional design.

And now for the playing. Apart from the rockabilly market, the instrument serves the jazz or classical player equally well - the rake of the bridge makes it ideally suited for finger style (pizzicato) or bowing (arco), a point which has not been so with most other stick basses apart from the Van Zalinger.
Being a player used to the full body size of the traditional double bass, it took me a little while to become comfortable with the slim shape. There is a bracket which fits to the back of the instrument and extending to the side which can be adjusted to a player's most natural position.
The neck feels and plays better than a lot of lower priced double basses currently on the market with good even response throughout the finger board. My main difficulty was playing on the G-string above the high G octave, and not having the customary shoulder on the left side to rest the forearm on.
Given time you could get used to this with a bit of determined practice, and a player who is used to playing in a seated position would find it less of a problem.
I used a Polytone pick-up with a Polytone Mini 1 Amp, and the sound was very acceptable, much closer to the conventional double bass than any bass guitar that I have played.
Shergold have come up with a winner for the gigging jazz player with transport problems who does not want to sacrifice the natural double bass sound because of its size. For rockabilly bands, the bass can be slapped and pulled to get that old original "Rock-Around-The-Clock" sound, and can also be manhandled on stage a lot easier than a full size bass.
Bearing in mind the price of this instrument, I think that we are going to see and hear a lot of them appearing in bands in the near future.

For loads more information on Upright Basses see Bob Gollihur's Upright Bass page and The Electric Upright Bass Database.