One of the great things about a brand like Wal is that a mix of two inquiring minds and a laissez faire attitude to “standard models” throws up a whole load of interesting basses to scratch your head about. One such bass cropped up recently in an online discussion on Basschat. The then owner, Gary Mackay, offered up his 1983 reissue Passive Pro bass as an unusual example of the model. The history of the Pro Series deserves, perhaps, a little unpacking as its history isn’t necessarily straightforward.
The original Pro Series was the first standard model of Wal bass and was offered between 1978 and 1981. They offered four options – single or dual pickups and active or passive circuitry – solid ash, paddle headstocks, contoured bodies and large black scratchplates. These basses were superseded with the introduction of the Mark 1 Custom in 1981. The Pro Bass was no longer offered for sale.
However, realising that their new Custom Series were effectively luxury models Electric Wood saw that there was a space in the market for a budget Wal. But how to cut costs without cutting corners? The Reissue Pros feature a more or less standard laminates Wal neck but a slab, solid ash body and a single passive pickup (either in the bridge or neck position – the position changed over time) controlled via a small, tear drop-shaped control plate.
As a little extra bling they were often finished with a fairly plain flamed or birdseye maple veneer (and a sunburst finish to hide the veneer’s edge). Gary’s Reissue Pro, however, if the only one I’ve ever seen with a rather tasty, pale rosewood top and clear varnish. All in all a rather classy set of appointments for a supposedly “budget” bass.
The bass was originally supplied to the south London store, Gig Sounds, in June 1983 (26/6/83 to be precise thanks to Wal’s legendary orders log book). It lived a full and active life with its first owner before being purchased by Gary around 1990/91 – according to him, “It had very obviously been fairly heavily gigged and not exactly treated gently. It's had a much more sedate lifestyle since coming in to my possession. These days it just gets played at home, as although it's very light for a Wal, these days I need to gig with instruments that are well under 9lbs.”
“A previous owner did not treat it with kid gloves, so it does have some dings and signs of wear. There is an area of wear by the pickup and a couple of holes, presumably from a thumb rest and a couple of cracks within the lacquer on the rear of the head stock – this is fairly typical, I believe, on Wals of this vintage. There are also a couple of areas to the front of the bass that periodically fade. Not sure what has caused this but a quick wipe with Lemon Oil every few months keep it looking good.”
Finding that it wasn’t getting used in anger as much as either bass or owner would have liked Gary decided to move it on towards the end of 2015. One thing is for sure, whoever now owns this rather unique bass has got themselves a thing of beauty and a bass which will be a joy to play.
What a lovely rare beast. Enjoy some more photos of it below...