John Entwistle

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Today I am going to introduce someone who does not need any introduction. You want to know who? Well, he is from…….THE WHO! Yeah I am talking about none other than the legendary bass guitarist and one of the founding members of the famous British Rock Band, The Who – John Entwistle. John Alec Entwistle was born on October 9, 1944 in Chiswick, England. He was not only a bass guitarist but also an accomplished musician, songwriter, singer, film and music producer.

John Entwistle’s instrumental approach used pentatonic lead lines, and a then-unusual treble-rich sound (“full treble, full volume”) created by round wound RotoSound steel bass strings. He was nicknamed “The Ox”, as well as “Thunderfingers” – because his digits became a blur across the four-string fretboard.

Entwistle joined the Detours in 1961 which also included Roger Daltrey. Later Townshend and drummer Keith Moon came aboard and the group changed its name to the Who in the mid-1960s. The band quickly found chart success in both England and in the United States with songs like “My Generation.” Along with such groups as the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, the Who became one of the leading forces of the British Invasion in the ’60s.

His bass setup can be classified according to the years:

1960 – 1966

1960 – He built it himself on his grandmother’s dining table, a Fender Precision copy out of mahogany and painted mauve. The fret resembled the Hofner bass. Then he also built a Fenton-Weill bass at the Fenton factory.

Amplification: Vortexian 50-watt amplifier without tone control with a single 18″ Goodman speaker suspended on a six-inch nail inside an open-backed cabinet, covered with a red, green, turquoise and yellow curtain fabric.

1963 – In mid-1963, a 1961 Fender Precision, his first proper bass. He acquired it from Gabby Connolly, Detours co-vocalist, in 1963, for paying off his £50 HP debt. Later he sold it at Roger’s behest, who thought it kept blowing up speakers.

Amplification: Vox AC15, shared with PA. The Detours had two Vox AC-15s, one for Roger and Pete to share, and one for John and the PA.

1964–1966 – Bass guitars

Epiphone Rivoli EBV232 semi-acoustic bass (sunburst)

Rickenbacker Rose, Morris, Co. LTD, 1999 (4001S) Bass

Gretsch 6070 Hollow Body Bass

Vox (Mark IV?) Teardrop (black with pearloid scratchplate) bass

Gibson EB-2 semi-acoustic bass (natural)

1962 Fender Precision Bass – Originally sunburst in colour, John had it refinished white sometime around February 1966. This bass is distinctive in that it has the Rosewood fret board and the tortoise shell pick guard.

Danelectro Long Horn model 4423 bass – Bronze sunburst, two lipstick tube Alnico pickups with two concentric knobs; bolt-on necks with Brazilian rosewood fingerboards, masonite/poplar frame bodies; 24 frets, “Coke Bottle” peghead. It was used for the recording of My Generation:

1965 Sunburst Fender Jazz Bass – Bought in October 1965 for the recording of My Generation

1963 Fender Precision Bass

1966 Fender Precision Bass (slab) in White Blonde, with maple neck (three of this model) – John owned (and trashed) three of 20 total made by Fender, which were made specifically for the UK market. It had a Slab (squared off) body, split pickup, maple neck, black scratch plate. The Finish is called “White Blonde” by Fender, and “See-Through Blonde” or “See-Through White” colloquially. John describes it as, “…what looked like blue veins coming through the white paintwork.”

Gibson EB-3 bass: – For Substitute recording.

1963 Fender Bass VI

1965 Mosrite Ventures bass – Sunburst, single-pickup version. It was used on stage (unknown time period).It was reportedly used on The Who Sell Out studio sessions. Plus a white Mosrite Ventures two-pickup version, as seen in promo video for The Kids Are Alright.


Marshall JTM45 50-watt amplifier and the first Marshall 4×12 cabinet.

Two Vox T.60 solid-state bass amps and cabinets, each with 1×15″ Tannoy speaker for lows, 1×12″ Celestion “Bulldog” for highs.

Vox AC-100 amplifier heads driving two T.60 cabinets.

1967 – 1968 – Bass guitars

  • Vox Sidewinder IV V272 bass in a burgundy-grain finish (as seen on Smothers Brothers show, September 1967)
  • Fender Bass VI.
  • Fender Jazz bass (used first American tour, July/August 1967)
  • A 1966 or 67 model, Fiesta Red, on both body and headstock, bound rosewood fret board with block fret markers.
  • Fender Precision Bass, in black (used August to at least October 1967)
  • Custom “Axe” Jazz bass (used at least 19–22 Nov. 1967)
  • Custom-made “Spider” bass
  • 1966 Fender Precision Bass (slab) in Olympic White, with maple neck
  • Fender Precision Bass, sunburst with rosewood fret board (1968).


Two Marshall 1959 JTM100 Super Lead amplifiers into Marshall 1960A (angled front) and 1960B (straight front) or 1982A (angled front) and 1982B (straight front) speaker cabinets.

One (with another Marshall amp) or two Marshall 1967 Major Lead (The “Pig”) 200-watt amps into Marshall Cabinets (as above).

U.S. Thomas Organ (Vox) V1143 Super Beatle solid-state amps and cabs (U.S./Canada tours only)  –  Used on North American tours and acquired through Vox deal signed in States by Chris Stamp.

Fender Showman amps and cabs (1967 U.S./Canada tours only; likely borrowed from Herman’s Hermits).

Two Sunn 100S amplifiers or, in 1968, two Sunn 200S amplifiers, with two or four Sunn 200S 2×15 cabinets (U.S./Canada tours only) – First known use 23 August 1967, Flint, Michigan, possibly purchased 15 or 16 August 1967 in Nashville. Additional amps purchased from Manny’s Music in New York on or about 27 Nov., 1967, and first used on 29 Nov., 1967, at Union Catholic High School Gymnasium in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. Some Sunn gear was abandoned at Canadian customs in July 1968.

Two modified Sound City L100 amps with four Sound City or Marshall 4x12s (UK/Europe tours only).

1968-1971 – Bass guitars

Vox Violin Bass – Used on Magic Bus

1965 sunburst (later refinished salmon pink) “Frankenstein” Fender Precision Bass.

Sunburst Fender Precision Bass with rosewood fret board.

Late ’60s black Fender Precision Bass with rosewood fingerboard (1970).

1967 Rickenbacker 4005 (“Model 31”) bass in natural Mapleglo – It is a round-top body with chequer binding, “slash” sound hole, bound fingerboard with triangular markers. Acquired late 1968/early 1969.Used in studio, including The Seeker. It was used in television promos, including Beat Club, 1969 (for Tommy) and I Can See For Miles (on Pop Goes the Sixties, 1969). It was sold in Sotheby’s auction, 2003. Estimated £1,200–£1,800. Sold for £7,200.


Sound City:

Two Sound City L100 amps customized to the CP103 spec, unbadged or badged as Hiwatt.

Two or four Sound City 4×12 cabinets with 50-watt Fane speakers.


Three Hiwatt DR103 100-watt amps customized to the CP103 spec (i.e., no “The Who” faceplate).

Beginning early 1970: three Hiwatt CP103 100-watt amps. Two Hiwatt DR201 200-watt amps and one customized Hiwatt DR103 100-watt amp.

Four Hiwatt SE4123 4×12 cabinets.

Two Hiwatt SE4151 4×15 cabinets and two Hiwatt SE4123 4×12 cabinets.

1971–1972 – Bass guitars

1965–69 Gibson Thunderbird IV bass (“Non-Reverse”-style)

1964 Gibson Thunderbird IV Bass, serial no. 160065.

1964 Gibson Thunderbird IV bass


John Entwistle began using the first iteration of his Sunn rig at this time, a 1,200-watt system, designed by Bob Heil, who also designed the Who’s first Sunn PA for the Who’s next tour. John’s rig was not miked through the PA.



One Sunn Coliseum Lead head

One Sunn Coliseum Bass head


Two Sunn 412L 4×12 cabinets or one Sunn with one Hiwatt SE4123 4×12 cabinet

Two Sunn 1×18 cabinets

Conrad Sundholm (of Sunn), on the Sunn Coliseum bass amp (from the Sunn Shack):

But the Coliseum series, that included the bass amp used by the Who, was a unique preamp circuit because each of the tone controls was a separate preamp. You could turn it all the way off, so you had ultimate control. A lot of versatility — you could turn the midrange off or turn the bass off or the treble, it used active filters.



One Sunn Coliseum Lead head

One Sunn Coliseum 880 head

One Sunn Coliseum Bass head


Two Sunn 412L 4×12 cabinets (center)

Two Sunn 1×18 cabinets (left/right bottom)

Two Sunn 3×12 cabinets (left/right top)

1974 – 1985

1974–1976 – Bass guitars

1974 Alembic Series I basses – One in natural finish zebra wood (the first one). It was sold in Sotheby’s 2003 auction. These Alembics featured active electronics and five-pin connector along with the standard jack.

Fender “Explorer-Bird” – Used in studio only, 1975 and 1978.  It had a Gibson Explorer-style body with Fender Precision Bass maple necks and machine heads; gold-plated hardware, two volume controls/one tone control.

1973 white Rickenbacker 4001 prototype 8-string bass – Used in studio only: Success Story, 1975. It has a reverse (low string/high string) setup.], wavy headstock, with four-a-side machine heads. It has a cream finish with chequered binding; through neck with rosewood fingerboard, dot markers.

Custom Peter Cook “Lightning Bolt” bass – Featured on The Who by Numbers album cover drawing. It has been used on many tracks. It is on display at Hard Rock Café, New York.

Custom Peter Cook “Flame” bass – Yellow and red finish, flame-shaped body, and flame-shaped red plastic pickguard. It has gold hardware, bound neck with 24-fret rosewood fingerboard, dot inlays, and flame-shaped headstock with red plastic truss rod cover. It also has two pickups, three controls, gold bridge baseplate with four adjustable saddles.

Amplification: 1975


Two Crown DC 300 power amplifiers or two Sunn Coliseum Power Amp power amplifiers.

Two Alembic preamps


Two Sunn 412L 4×12 speaker cabs

Two Sunn 3×12 speaker cabs

Two Sunn 1×18 speaker cabs

Two Sunn W 1×18 reflex bins

1976 – 1985 – Bass Guitars

Alembic Explorer bass – Bird’s eye maple body featuring: Through-walnut neck, Spider’s web wire sterling-silver inlay, which later appeared to be brass as the instrument’s lacquer yellowed with age. Graphite-reinforced neck of laminated walnut and maple. Fingerboard with music-note inlays in mother-of-pearl Gothic script. LED markers on the top edge. Two master volume controls with a selector switch to choose from the presets, active lowpass-filter controls. Five-pin (Cannon) and standard jack connectors. Standard Alembic electronics.

1980 Alembic Explorer four-string with a “Vee”-shaped headstock – As seen on the cover of Too Late The Hero. Not used on stage with The Who.

Alembic Explorer 8-string – As used on Trick of the Light and You. Identical “Explorer”-shaped body as above, with “A”-shaped headstock.Used on stage ca. 1979 for Trick of the Light.

Hamer Quad Standard 12-string bass



Custom Gelf amp rack

Customized Alembic IN-1 pre-amp/splitter with electronic crossover, feeding mids/highs to one preamp, lows to another.

Two German-made Stramp 4120 stereo preamps, which split their outputs to one power amp each.

Four Sunn Coliseum Slave 300-watt power amps (two for low frequencies, one for mids, one for highs/full-range).

At least three of these Gelf racks built by Kenny Flegg of Gelf.

Speaker stacks:

Two Sunn 412L 4×12 cabs (outside top)

Two Sunn 312 3×12 cabs (inside top)

Two Sunn W 1×18 reflex bins (inside bottom), with 18″ Vega speakers

Two Sunn 1×18 cabinets (silver-grille), with 18″ Vega speakers (outside bottom)




Custom Gelf amp rack, as above

Three or four speaker stacks:

Four Sunn 412LH 4×12 cabs (top)

Two Sunn W 1×18 reflex bins (bottom), with 18″ Vega speakers

Two Sunn 1×18 cabinets (silver-grille), with 18″ Vega speakers


Custom Gelf amp rack, as above

Three or four speaker stacks:

Sunn 412LH 4×12 cabs (on top)

Sunn W 1×18 reflex bins (on bottom)


Custom Gelf amp rack, as above

Speaker stacks:

Three Sunn 412L 4×12 cabs (top)

Three or four Mega 1×18 cabs (bottom), with Gauss drivers

Miked with Sennheiser 421 microphones



1986-1989 – Bass: the “Buzzard”

Modulus Buzzard graphite basses (two; for which John paid full retail) – One in green, which John used on the Ringo Starr tour. Prototype, arabic numbers on fretboard, no serial number. From Bass Culture:

Warwick Buzzard – Designed by John, featuring: Long-scale neck, 2 EMG P-bass split pickups (note: later reissue versions used MEC pickups) and weighed approximately 12 lbs.

Warwick 8-string basses – Bartonlini electronics


Amplification: 1989

John’s rig consisted of three-way-split signal, bass-mono, bright left and bright right.

Description 1 (from Guitar World)

Treble/high-end signal

Bass into Alembic splitter, into

TC Electronic 2290 multi-effects processor (has five external effects loops, which allow it to function as MIDI controller)

Loop 1: Linked to a Gallien-Krueger GK2000 CPL preamp;

Loop 2: Connected to TC Electronic 1128 graphic equalizer;

Loop 5: Linked to Yamaha SPX1000 stereo multi-effects unit;

SPX1000 stereo output to the left and right channels of a Trace Elliot RA500 power amp

Power amp feeds four (two each channel) A.S.S. 212 2×12 cabinets loaded with Fane speakers.

Bass/low-end signal

Bass into Alembic splitter, into:

Trace Elliot MP11 graphic equalizer, sending a mono signal into:

Trace Elliot RA500 power amp.

Power amp drives four A.S.S. 1×15 cabinets with Fane speakers and horns.

1996-2002 – Bass

Status Graphite Series 1 and Series 2 Buzzard basses – One-piece, all-graphite body with Graphite neck (with slimmer profile than the Warwick Buzzard’s neck). It has a 26-fret phenolic fingerboard, Hipshot Bass Xtender (for instant drop-D tuning). Five 9-volt batteries (two for the 18-volt preamp; three for the LEDs in the neck). It weighs approximately 9 lbs. All fitted with different coloured hardware so John and techs could tell them apart (e.g., one gold tuning key with three black; all gold; black with chrome; all chrome; etc.)

October 1999 Bridge School Benefit shows: Taylor AB-1 acoustic bass




Top rack

Korg/Tone Works DTR-1 digital tuner

Tech 21 SansAmp NYC model PSA-1

TC Electronic TC1128 programmable 28-band graphic EQ/Spectrum Analyser

Two Yamaha SPX 1000 Professional multi-effects processors

Trace Elliot MP11

Alembic IN-1 input module

Middle rack

Same as top rack, with only one Yamaha SPX 1000; for backup/spare.

Bottom rack

Three Trace Elliot RA 600 SX output stages.

TC Electronic TC 0133 Serial Remote Controllers, to split the mono signal into two frequency ranges.

Low range sent to TC1128 Graphic EQ > RA600 SX output stage > driving two A.S.S. 115 1×15″ horns

Upper range sent to SansAmp > TC1128 Graphic EQ > SOX 1000 > RA600 output stage > driving two A.S.S. 212 2×12″ cabinets.

  • Speakers

Two A.S.S. 212 2×12″ reflex bass cabinets.

Two (with The Who) or four (with the John Entwistle Band) A.S.S. 115 1×15″ flared bass bins.


Ashdown Engineering RPM-1 preamps

Features: tube and solid state preamp section, flexible 7-band EQ, a subharmonic processor as well as onboard crossover.

One Ashdown Engineering PM600 Power Amp

Three Ashdown Engineering PM1000 Power Amps (one as spare)

DigiTech 2120 Artist Series Valve Guitar System programmable pre-amp processor, fed into RPM-1 preamp’s effect loop for chorusing and overdrive.

Distorted highs run from the PM600 into two Ashdown Engineering ABM ASS 212 2×12″ reflex bass cabinets, designed for John (

PM1000’s lows sent to two (with The Who) or four (with the JEB) 600-watt Ashdown Engineering ABM ASS 115 1×15″ flared bass bins, designed for John (see


One Ashdown Engineering RPM-1 preamp

Features: tube and solid state preamp section, flexible 7-band EQ, a subharmonic processor as well as onboard crossover.

One Ashdown Engineering PM600 power amp

Three Ashdown Engineering PM1000 power amps (one as spare)

Trace Elliot V8 400-watt amp (for midrange)

Line 6 POD Pro guitar unit (for distortion), fed into RPM-1 preamp’s effect loop for chorusing and overdrive.

Distorted highs run from the PM600 into two Ashdown Engineering ABM ASS 212 2×12″ reflex bass cabinets.

Midrange sent to two Ashdown Engineering ABM ASS 212 2×12″ reflex bass cabinets.

PM1000’s lows sent to two 600-watt Ashdown Engineering ABM ASS 115 1×15″ flared bass bins.

Two Ashdown Engineering ABM 810 8×10″ cabinets laid on side.


Four Ashdown Engineering ABM ASS 212 2×12″ reflex bass cabinets

Two Ashdown Engineering ABM ASS 115 1×15″ flared bass bins

Control rack mounted in flight case consisting of:

Furman PL Plus Power Conditioner & Light Module

Korg Tone Works Large Display Tuner

Digitech 2120 Artists Series Valve Guitar System programmable preamp processor

Digitech Studio Quad 4: 4-in 4-out multi-effects processor

TC 1128 programmable 28-band graphic EQ/spectrum analyzer

Ashdown Engineering-Klystron Bass Pre-Magnifier

Custom-designed input router.

(Another) Furman PL Plus Power Conditioner & Light Module

Four Trace Elliot PPA 600 Professional Power Amps

Furman Power Conditioner AC line regulator model AR-Pro

5 flight cases for speaker cabinets and Control/Power rack


Strings, Pickup and Action:


Early ’60s:

Flatwound strings of various manufacturers, including Fender and La Bella.


Rotosound Swing Bass roundwound strings (.045 – .105), developed with John with James How of Rotosound, and changed daily.


Maxima Gold gold-plated handmade strings, changed daily.


Rotosound Swing Bass strings, changed daily.






Herco heavy gauge (.80mm)

Purple Dunlop 1.14mm Tortex picks.

Action: John’s basses were always set up with the lowest possible action.

John Entwistle has been a big influence in many people’s lives and has been one of the most successful guitarists to have ruled the music world. However, unfortunately he passed away on 27 June, 2002 due to a heart attack while he was in Las Vegas for The Who’s 2002 US Tour.


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