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For Sterling, From Leo

When Sterling Ball's engineers took apart the original Old Smoothie Stingray to spec out these reissues, they found a note in the neck pocket that read "For Sterling, From Leo." That gives you a rough idea of the incredible pedigree and history behind these 40th Anniversary Old Smoothie Stingrays.

So, how did such a note find its way to the neck pocket of such a historic instrument? Well, in the mid-seventies, before Sterling Ball was the CEO of Music Man, he was a teenage bass fiend gigging around California. His father, Ernie (who also knew a thing or two about the music industry) had been a beta tester for Leo Fender back in the day, Sterling was also Music Man co-founder Tommy Walker's godson! So, when Tommy and Leo started building a line of Music Man basses, Sterling was the first guy they called to field-test their new four-strings.

Leo and Sterling had plenty of arguments about these new thud staffs should sound. According to Sterling, Leo had suffered significant damage to his hearing by the mid seventies. So, he voiced his instruments to sound really bright, because it sounded normal to him. The first few prototypes Leo built were a little too harsh for Sterling's tastes, so Sterling brought in his trusty '58 Precision and said "make it sound more like this."

After some careful pondering, Leo had an idea. What if he used ten polepieces instead of the typical eight in the Stingray's humbucking pickups? After some a few days of engineering, Leo plopped one of his new pickups in a 3-Tone Sunburst body and gave it to Sterling. Sterling loved the way the new electronics rounded off the harsh edges of the basses powerful, punchy high-end. Leo wanted to give it a nickname to reflect its slightly warmer, smoother tone, and thus the legend of Old Smoothie was born.

Smoothie King

The Stingray was, of course, a runaway success. Sterling gigged the heck out of his prototype until his father, Ernie Ball, bought Music Man in 1984. Realizing that Old Smoothie was an important piece of history, Sterling eventually stopped using it as his live workhorse and stuck it in a vault in the Ernie Ball factory. He would occasionally break out Old Smoothie to blow the minds of people touring the facility, but he was always a little hesitant to reissue the iconic instrument.

A Sting Ray that Slays

However, when the fortieth anniversary of the Sting Ray rolled around, the timing seemed right, and the Old Smoothie became a permanent part of the modern Ernie Ball family. This should be cause for delight for bass players everywhere, because the new Old Smoothies are the sort of terrifying thud staffs that bestow unimaginable low-end power upon all who wield them.

I'm being facetious, but only slightly. These reissues have a custom humbucking pickup and a custom active preamp, and they have a sound unlike any Stingray out there as a result. The trebles have the same smoother quality as the original vintage example, but they still punch through the mix with the force of the Kool-Aid man breaking through a living room wall.

The low end is similarly forceful, but it has a slightly different character than what you'd expect from a Stingray. Typically, Stingrays have a huge, brassy low end brimming with fat-sounding overtones. The Old Smoothie reissues still have a massive low-end footprint, but you hear more of the fundamental than the overtones. So, if I had to sum up the sound of Old Smoothie's low E in two words, they would be "muscular vintage."

In fact, that's a pretty good way of describing the sound of these basses in general! Though they have the massive punch of a modern Stingray, they have the woodiness and clarity of a great vintage bass. Sterling and his team have sanded down the sharp edges of the Sting Ray sound to give these basses a sweeter, warmer overall tonality that fits a new sonic niche within the Ernie Ball Music Man family. Make no mistake, though: this is still an in-your-face bass with the classic Sting Ray sound embedded in its DNA.

Smoothie Sailing on Fretboard Built for Wailing

The last time I encountered something as smooth as these necks, I was listening to the sweet sounds of the Grammy Award-winning smash single "Smooth" by Carlos Santana featuring Rob Thomas. It has a crazy-fast feel, and flying up and down the fingerboard feels utterly effortless thanks to a few inspired design decisions.

Old Smoothie's neck radius measures 7.5" instead of the typical 11" and it has low-profile narrow vintage-style frets. This allows you to "feel the wood" when you fret, and it encourages expressive playing while also making it easier to fly up and down the neck (double-stops are a breeze, too!).

It also has just the right amount of taper--it's thin by the nut and fatter up high--and it has a 1-5/8" nut width, which is just a hair wider than most vintage Jazz basses. As far as bass neck profiles go, it's pretty ideal: fat in all the places it needs to be fat and skinny in all the places it needs to be skinny. I could certainly see myself playing a four-hour gig with this bass, because its superb ergonomics reduce fatigue while simultaneously making it easier to engage in fretboard pyrotechnics.

All About That Bass

We are proud to showcase such an inspiring instrument with such a legendary pedigree. Leo's gift to Sterling is now a gift to all purveyors of low-end thunder, and its spectacular feel and sound will bring oodles and oodles of inspiration to any bassist craving the Sting Ray sound with a little extra vintage flair. We've fallen in love with Old Smoothie here at Wildwood, and we're sure you will, too


BrandErnie Ball Music Man
Model40th Anniversary Old Smoothie Stingray
Finish ColorButterscotch
Finish TypeHigh Gloss Polyester
Weight9.38 lbs.
Body WoodAlder
Neck WoodSelect Maple
Neck FinishHigh Gloss Polyester
Neck Dimensions.820 1st-.970 12th
Neck AttachmentSix-Bolt
FingerboardSelect Maple w/Skunk Stripe
Fingerboard Radius7.5"
Scale Length34"
Width at Nut1-5/8"
Frets21 Low Profile Narrow
PickupsCustom "Old Smoothie" Humbucker with 10 Elongated Alnico Magnets and Split Cover
ControlsCustom "Old Smoothie" 2-Band Active Preamp; Vol, Treble, Bass
BridgeMusic Man Chrome Plated, Hardened Steel Bridge Plate with Vintage Stainless Steel Saddles and Adjustable Mute Pads
TunersSchaller BM
Pickguard5-Ply Black
CaseMolded Plastic Hardshell

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Serial Number: E98897

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