A one-piece flat back, as is usual with these early 500/1 basses.
Note the hole at the top of the headstock and the modified nut, evidence that Ronnie had the instrument strung as a 5-string bass at some stage.
This Hofner 500/1 bass guitar was purchased new from McCormacks' Music Shop, Glasgow in 1957 by Ronnie Watts. Ronnie initially chose a Framus Star Bass guitar, but he returned to the store a week later and exchanged the Framus for this Hofner. Ronnie recalls that he found the Framus too heavy for comfort. The Hofner 500/1 Bass did not appear in the Selmer London catalogue until 1963, so this raises the question as to whether Hofner did in fact import a few Violin Basses in 1956/57, or perhaps McCormacks purchased the bass direct from Hofner.
The first claim to fame regarding this bass is therefore that as well as being one of the first Hofner Violin Basses made, it was certainly one of the very first (if not the actual first) bass guitars purchased in the UK. A musician sometimes accredited as being the first to play a bass guitar professionally in the UK is Jet Harris of The Shadows fame, but apparently Jet purchased his Framus Star Bass in 1958, the year after Ronnie acquired his Hofner.
Ronnie had his own band in Ayrshire Scotland called "Ronnie Watt and the Chekkers". On 21 May 1960, the "Chekkers" were booked as the support act for the Beat Ballard Show at the Northern Meeting Ballroom in Inverness. Headline at this dance was the recording star Johnny Gentle who's backing band was ........"The Silver Beetles" !
Ronnie can remember Paul McCartney, who in those days was playing rhythm guitar, admiring his Violin Bass and even saying that he would like to buy it off Ronnie. This did not happen of course, possibly because on that tour the Silver Beetles were stoney-broke and there are reports that they did not even have enough money between them to pay for food!
So..........the bass's second claim to fame must be that it was probably the first Hofner Violin Bass that Paul McCartney had ever seen. Paul purchased his own 500/1 bass in the following year whilst the band were working in Hamburg. Is it therefore possible that Ronnie's bass was the catalyst that sparked Paul McCartney's use of Hofner Violin Basses throughout most of his career?
Ronnie has now gifted his lovely old bass to his son-in-law, Kenny Green who together with his daughters also plays guitar. It is good to see it being kept "in the family".
Ronnie is at the right of the photos above and below, playing his Hofner 500/1 Bass. The guitarist on the left is playing a Hofner Committee fitted with floating pickup. Note that as well as the bass guitar, a double bass is also being used on the stage.