A History of Broadway Guitars
Broadway 1925 Bass & 1857 Bass (c.1961/2)
Broadway 1925 Bass
Many thanks to Guy Mackenzie, whose website can be found at http://www.theguitarcollection.org.uk with Paul Day's account of this bass, to be found there.
"Broadway was a brand name belonging to UK importers/wholesalers Rose-Morris and appeared on a wide range of musical instruments and related equipment. This comprehensive catalogue naturally encompassed electric guitars, which were added when demand increased dramatically at the start of the '60s. The majority of Broadway-branded solid bodies were imported from Japan, but Rose-Morris augmented the range with some British-built examples and these home-grown alternatives included a couple of bass guitars, introduced around 1961/62. The cheaper of the two carried the Rose-Morris catalogue designation 1925 and it was actually the UK-made equivalent of an earlier, Far Eastern-origin four-string that had been sold under the Star brand banner as the 1869 model. Similarly styled, but slightly different from its predecessor, the British-built 1925 still targeted the beginner bassist, while the appropriately simple format also stayed the same.
The slab mahogany body is scaled down in size and its offset shape hints at the Fender Jazzmaster. The headstock is equally Fender-ish and carries Van Gent-made guitar-type tuners, which were a common component choice at that time. The glued-in neck is also mahogany and carries a rosewood fingerboard, although earlier examples employed maple and this material change mirrored other UK-made electrics of the era. Frets number 19 and are spread over a short (27.5") scale length that was also a popular preference back then.
The body and headstock are finished in dark cherry red cellulose, while the neck is black, and this contrasting combination was also seen on electrics from makers such as Burns and Fenton-Weill. In fact, while not conclusive, all available evidence indicates that this compact four-string was indeed built by the latter company, as various aspects of construction, components and cosmetics provide appropriately strong links to this UK maker.
Like the distinctive metal strap buttons, the chrome-covered single-coil is certainly from Fenton-Weill, sitting in a shallow recess near the neck end and screwed straight to the body front. The partner controls comprise volume and tone pots, plus a somewhat optimistic rhythm/solo slide-switch. Along with the output jack, these are carried on a thin, white plastic scratchplate that runs the length of the body's right side. A small, separate section up on the left horn provides a distinctive visual touch, echoing the appearance of the Japanese-origin original.
Strings anchor in a combination bridge/tailpiece that's the same as the type used on some equally inexpensive Vox basses of the period. Mounted on a chunky black plastic plinth that provides necessary height clearance, the rather basic, bent steel baseplate features two adjustable bridge saddles and is topped by a clip-on, chromed metal cover.
Although Rose-Morris literature suggests otherwise, the 1925 bass guitar actually carried no brand logo or any other ID indicator. Despite a shortlived production span lasting only around two years, it proved quite popular with beginner beat groups in the early '60s, as the £35 selling price made this quite stylish, four-string solid more affordable than some of the contemporary competition.
This particular instrument had been subjected to a few owner-perpetrated, misguided modifications, but these have now been rectified as part of a thorough restoration and the end result now represents an ideal example of one of the lesser-known, but equally important, entry-level British basses.
Paul Day (April 2012)
Left: The Naturals, a London based group from 1962. The bassist has a Broadway 1925 bass
The photos on the left were kindly provided by Gary Davis, of the Broadway 1925 bass that he owned,
Gary wrote " Model 1925: mahogany body, Van Gent-made guitar-type tuners. There is a glued-in neck which is also mahogany and with a maple fingerboard, with crazy orange position dots. A short (27.5") scale length.
The chrome-covered single-coil is typically Fenton-Weill sitting in a shallow recess near the neck end and screwed straight to the body front. The controls comprise volume and tone pots, plus a rhythm/solo slide-switch. Strings anchor in a combination bridge/tailpiece that's the same as the type used on some equally inexpensive Vox basses of the period. Mounted on a chunky black plastic plinth that provides necessary height clearance, the basic, bent steel baseplate features two adjustable bridge saddles and is topped by a clip-on, chromed metal cover.
I really like the orange position dots! It has a serial number of 1933. I think both of these things mark it out as an early model".
Marketed by Rose Morris, the Broadway 1925 bass proved a popular, wallet-friendly four-string
Broadway 1857 Bass
The early advertisement ,shown below, for a UK made Broadway 1857 Bass, which was kindly supplied by Guy Mackenzie. This is a solid electric bass, made in the Uk of English sycamore and with a reinforced neck.
The advert tells us that the bass had pickups with adjustable pole pieces, with a volume control for each pickup. A rhythm switch, a three-way selector switch for each pickup, or both and a treble cut tone control completed the circuitry. It was available in natural finish only.
The elusive Broadway 1857 bass isn't just a rare bird, it's quite possibly extinct. Apart from the Bell Music Instrument catalogue entry, we have no actual photo of one or confirmation of it's production - until now. Alex Chapunoff sent in this great photo of a very young Ronnie Wood of The Rolling Stones, from his copy of 'Rolling Stones Gear', showing Ronnie with a 1857, with a blonde body (no walnut stain) and a black pickguard with white mini-pickguard (the reverse of the colors shown in the catalog). At the time the photo was taken, he was in a band called the Birds. The 1857 belonged to the band's bass player, Kim Gardner.
Many thanks to Alex for this positive confirmation.