Tea-Chest Bass

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The tea-chest bass player in The Quarrymen skiffle group from about 1956-1958 was Len Garry. The original tea-chest player was actually a fellow named Bill Smith but he never turned up for practices. So, Garry took over the bass duties. Old photographs reveal him playing a homemade instrument.
The tea-chest bass is a variation of a washtub bass that uses a tea-chest as the resonator for an upright stringed bass. The instrument is made from a pole, traditionally a broomstick, placed into or alongside the chest.
One or more strings are stretched along the pole and plucked. In Europe, particularly England and Germany, the tea-chest bass was associated with skiffle bands as it was an inexpensive substitution for an upright double-bass.
The Quarrymen’s tea-chest bass went through several versions. At one time, it was painted black with a treble clef and a couple of notes. A later version also had the group’s name painted on. At some stage, there was apparently a version with white wallpaper and brown lines.
However, the version most widely associated with the group is the black painted one with the treble clef and notes as prominently seen in historic photographs taken in the summer of 1957.
Our collection includes an exact replica of The Quarrymen’s tea-chest bass from the summer of 1957.
Skilled luthiers, Fred Marotta and Buck Van Laarhoven (of The Repair Zone) carefully studied old photographs and built this wonderful recreation. Jenna Schachtner did the painting.
Len Garry on the tea-chest bass performing with The Quarrymen.

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