Most people first saw Paul McCartney's violin shaped bass on The Ed Sullivan Show February 9, 1964 with The Beatles. It's hard not to think of Paul when you see a violin shaped bass. It's almost always the unique shape of a guitar that makes it identifiable with the artist. It doesn't look right to see anyone else playing Lonnie Mack's Flying V, Jack White's '64 Airline or Bo Diddley's rectangular-bodied Gretsch.
Whenever one sees a Fender Performer bass with it's radically angular shape, it's hard not to think of Mandolin Bridge's own Mike Willis. Mike has been playing this rare bird since the eighties when he was in Wizard. He played it so much he wore a hole in the back of it with his belt buckle so deep you could bury your fist in it. Mike eventually sold the bass and missed it so much he searched until he found a replacement in Australia minus the hole.
The Fender Performer bass guitar was only sold between 1985 and 1987. It was designed to be an elite version of the iconic Fender Jazz Bass. The idea was to help the conservative Fender line compete with Kramer, BC Rich and Jackson guitars who at the time were very successfully selling radically styled instruments. Even the Fender logo was changed for this guitar. During this period a lot of guitarists were switching to bass so they gave it a narrower neck to facilitate the "lead guitar" approach that was popular with the hot artists of the era like Billy Idol and The Cars. The Japanese models have a rosewood fingerboard while the American version comes in ebony. The Performer was also available as a six string guitar and there was a five string bass version for a short time in 1987.
Mike loves his bass and he enjoys telling about it. The next time you come to a show be sure and ask him about it on break. Just give him a polite nudge when the rest of the band is back on the stage.
PHOTO BY KATHY ABBOTT