The holy grail of Maton basses.
My ‘Matons – More Than Mastersounds’ article has had a great response, with Maton collectors from all over Australia sending me photos of their rare collectors pieces. The Mastersound with a Fyrbyrd headstock was a favourite of mine, but then a few days ago a guy named Ron left this message on my Maton article:
Hello there. I have owned and played a Maton Big Ben bass since 1966.
I am now 60 years old and do regular gigs with it still.
They were a 3/4 scale and now I cant seem to get my fingers around the fretboard of a full scale one. I would be lost without it.
I would love to send you a pic. She is identical to the one you have a sketch of in the article above.
Ron (Ronny Bass)
To say I flipped would be an understatement… Up until then, the only image of the fabled Big Ben I had seen was an artists sketch from an old Maton catalogue.
I replied to Ron’s message and patiently waited a few days for the images. And all I can say is… wow. Here’s Ron’s story:
I bought it around 1967 when I used it for all the Hendrix stuff.
Ronny with band in 1967
Ronny in 1968
Ronny in 1969
I now play with Ernie Constance who is one of Australia’s finest Bush Balladeers.
You may have noticed the wear around the strike plate?
That’s because I got into the habit way back then to stick my plectrum behind the plate when not in use. Both the orange curly cord and the plectrum came with the bass when I originally bought it. I have repaired the lead only 4 or 5 times and it always gives up at the Amplifier end! I think now that it would be bad luck to split this group up so I am really careful. I have travelled back to a gig the next day because I left the lead there. Been lucky so far.
I have taken the bass back to Maton around 10 years ago to have the Nut replaced ( no more silver foil packing the strings up ) and they said that it was the only one they knew of at the time. It still has the original machine heads and pickups which I think were hand wound. I wouldn’t trade the tone with anything else.
Thanks for the opportunity to share my stories with you.
We now live at Dolphin Point near Ulladulla on the NSW south coast. We will be playing at the Tamworth Festival in January.
All the Best – Ronny Bass
A massive thanks to Ron for sharing his absolutely beautiful Maton with guitarnerd. It’s great to know there is a Big Ben out there that is so loved and still playing great music.
A week or so after posting this I found (and missed out on) this on eBay. Someone wanted it a lot more than me so I got outbid (grrr…) but at least I got some pics to share. This is the single pickup version of Ron’s bass, and was in Adelaide.
This one even had the original machine heads (and 2 strings).
Apart from the scratches and scuffs, it’s in pretty good nick. The only thing wrong is that it’s missing a bridge saddle, which by the look of it could be a little problem as they look a little unique.
So whoever outbid me… enjoy & take care of Big Ben.