Around 1970 a different type of aural shading started to appear on 'The Band's' studio releases and on the concert stage. The 1970 LP Stage Fright is the first noticeable recipient of Danko's 1968(?) Ampeg AMVB-1 fretless bass, the subject of this Tools of the Trade.The instrument was actually recently auctioned off in late 2014 and its date of build was recorded as 'around' 1968 serial number M120. The opening song from the aforementioned LP, 'Strawberry Wine' burps buoyant bubbles because of Danko's slippery fretless slides to the notes. This is the first 'official' appearance of Danko's new instrument which he reportedly received from Ampeg along with a new fretted bass as well as a stand up.
The red burst fretless bass soon became Danko's 'go to' instrument in both recording and performance. Like previously stated the bass started to make an impact around the release of Stage Fright. The custom scroll top bass would later be finished black by Danko and outfitted with two Fender precision pickups. Danko used flat wound steel strings and most of the time played with a heavy pick for as he stated, 'clarity, punch and definition'. The bass also contains two 'f holes' one of the special defining characteristics of the instrument.
The new found finger freedom allowed Danko to conjure the cascading bass line that closes 'Just Another Whistle Stop', to create the weeping willow string sway of 'All La Glory' and to close Stage Fright with the profound and foreboding bass introduction of 'The Rumor'. On stage Danko also pushed air with the Ampeg bass as can be witnessed on the existing footage from the 1970 Festival Express concert tour. The entire Rock of Ages live set contains the Ampeg in all its glory. The iconic opening do the famed song 'Don't Do It' was drawn from the wood of the Ampeg and that alone is enough to cement its legendary celebrity and legacy.
Another fine example of the instrument in action in a unexpected place in on Neil Young's 1974 album On the Beach. The song 'Revolution Blues' features 'The Band' rhythm section and spotlights Danko's bounding and excitable bass lines. An admirable and amazing display of Danko's peculiar approach to the instrument as well as expressing the singular personality of the bass.
Rick Danko Teaches the Bass
Last of the Blacksmiths
The Band-Don't Do It (Video)