Fender Jazz Basses with Dark Star Pickups

A long time ago, in a bass galaxy far away, there were two basses made for me that had the Fred Hammond Dark Star pickups in them. Here, for the first time, are those basses’ stories. Although those basses of mine are not featured on here, you can hear my friend Oz’s basses which, in fact, sounded better than mine ever did.

I tell some of the story of the Dark Star basses I owned in the video but what I didn’t mention is a lot of the history that went into these beautiful looking pickups. That history starts with old Hagstrom and Guild basses that had some pretty wild pickups installed in them.

When this massive pickup first hit the market, they could only be found on Hagstrom basses. Hagstrom, hailing from Sweden, put them on their Coronado IV basses, then Guild had them commissioned and had them installed on some of their basses, most notably the Starfire hollowbody made famous by Jack Casady of Jefferson Airplane.

Now Jack Cassady has thousands of fans from his innovative and constantly progressing career and one of them in particular, Fred Hammond, decided to make pickups that he remembers having seen on Jack’s Starfire bass. Fred managed to authentically recreate the great pickups of this instrument, and I just so happened to hear a bass that had them installed. From that point on, I was absolutely obsessed with them.

Above is a pic of the Lakland bass that started this whole idea. I never ever saw this bass again.

After owning three basses with these pickups in them, I scrapped the notion, having never really achieved the balance of the very first bass I played with Dark Stars (that bass had already been purchased but I spent several hours in the store playing it!). I really loved the look and the idea behind them but after some unsuccessful bass builds, I never looked back…until now.

Cut to my friend Oz, who has been featured on Pedals And Effects before, and he comes to 5starr Sound Labs with not one, but two great sounding Fender Jazz basses with Dark Star Pickups! I was not only blown away by his basses, but I am now on the search for some Fred Hammond Dark Star pickups for a hollow body bass I own. Or, maybe this guy will sell me his bass:


You should not leave the ” Tractor bass” out of this story. It belonged to the bass player of the Allman brothers. Who later died because of a motorcycle accident. Berry Oakley. He is important because he was able with using two jazz pickups behind the darkstar to give that particular bass the oempf of the darkstar and the cut of the jazz bass. And this sound is remembered and sought after by many bass players who play in rockbands. Berry played Fender bassman amps and later acoustic. On both those amps the “tractor” would sound like it’s name…

Now fast forward. The Hagstrom pickups were called bisonic. Being a child from the ” 50’s. Big single coil pickups with a big chrome steel frame around them. Dressed to impress. Fred Hammon recreates the pickups. And takes great pride in copying the construction, chromed steel and all the impressive outside. But he winds them hotter.. Somewhere between 2011 and 2013 He seems to dissapear from the scene.

Curtis Novak receives many requests for this pickup wich stirred the pot at http://www.talkbass.com . A online bass players community wich proves minds alike can unite… Curtis Novak wasn’t Curtis Novak if he didn’t spot the winding difference between the bisonic and the darkstar. So now his pickup has 4 connections. So you can choose to have the bisonic sound or the darkstar sound…..

Now what would happen if I’d put a varitone in a Curtis Novak bisonic equipped bass……. Hmmm….. Like a hotrodded tractor….. A bisonic darkstar tractor…… I could fly thru rock & roll sky…..