Wandre Framez Naika bass | From the Top Shelf | Scott Freilich

Wandre Framez | Naika bass | 1960 | SN:unknown

1960 Wandre Framez Naika Bass. Instrument database

Luthier Scott Freilich has been owner of Top Shelf Music since its inception. Scott currently authors the monthly “Oddballs” column for 20th Century Guitar magazine and is a past member of the price guide staff for “Vintage Guitar “magazine. He has contributed to such books Epiphone, The House of Stathopoulo, Washburn, 100 Years of Fine Stringed Instruments and ‘Burst 1958-’60 Sunburst Les Paul. Scott trained at Gibson’s old Kalamazoo plant, and his clients have included the Goo Goo Dolls, The Black Crows, Ani Di Franco, 10,000 Maniacs and Melissa Ethridge. He is also a member of The Buffalo Musician’s Hall Of Fame and an active bassist currently performing with the jazzabilly group The Headers.Scott is now a regular contributor to guitarbench and will be authoring a monthly column on pawn shop finds.

1960 Wandre Framez Naika Bass. Instrument database

H i folks. Welcome to this months From the Top Shelf. Actually this particular item is not something that you’d lightly find on a top shelf. It’s a little to big. It’s a 1960 Wandre Framez Naika bass. It’s number 5 of only 25 ever made, and every one of the 6 or so I’ve seen has been unique and different.

The genius behind this unusual bass was Antonio Pioli. Born in Cavraigo, Italy in 1926,  he started out his career as a mason. He reportedly received the nickname “Wandre” from his dad due to his inquisitive nature. The nickname stuck, and it became the name he signed on all of his work.  An amateur musician, he was frustrated with some of the problems associated with the instruments he bought.

1960 Wandre Framez Naika Bass. Instrument database

Bodies cracked, necks warped and broke at the headstock and heal, and neck angles changed over time rendering the instruments unplayable without major work. By the mid 1950s, this true Renaissance man set out to build his own factory to construct instruments of his own design that addressed the problems he found with the available guitars. The factory was made in the shape of a doughnut and high on a hillside to take advantage of as much natural light as possible. There work began on a series of instruments with fiberglass over plywood bodies and removable aluminum necks that ran all the way to the bridge. Each instrument featured Wandre’s Salvador Dali inspired artwork.

By 1958 Wandre had formed a relationship with the Meazzi Brothers, who since just after WWII had been producing and selling instruments under the Framez (derived from Fratelli Meazzi) name. This partnership would last until about 1961, and the Naika bass is one of the products of the relationship. (Some of my friends thought that the Framez name was some combination of Framus and Ibanez, but there is absolutely no relationship. There is an interesting coincidence that the Framus company in Germany was one of the few other manufacturers to include a cutaway and white binding on upright basses. According to my research, their design predated that of Wandre’s. Whether he was inspired by this is not known.)

“Each instrument featured Wandre’s Salvador Dali inspired artwork”

The Naika features some but not all of Wandre’s design improvements. While the neck is removable, it is made of wood and not aluminum. Wandre did make some use of aluminum on the instrument. The bridge, and the now missing original tailpiece, were both aluminum. It does feature the obvious cutaway and white binding on a fire engine red fiberglass over plywood body. This particular bass is sparsely adorned with gold leaf designs over the entire body. Others I’ve seen have smoky sunbursts, fireworks displays, impressionistic scenes of towns in Italy painted on the back, and headstocks carved to look like an old man with a long beard.

I’ve seen several photos of Wandre playing the upright basses he designed, so I assume he was at least somewhat of a bassist. Along with the Naika bass, he built 2 or 3 different aluminum necked electric uprights and a stunning thin bodied acoustic electric cutaway upright called an Ovalbasso that could be disassembled and put into a rectangular case the size of a large artists portfolio. I’d love to come across one of those in a pawnshop, but considering it took me close to 10 years to find my Naika, the prospects of locating one are not good.

That’s about all for this month’s From the Top Shelf. I welcome any questions or comments.

Scott Freilich guitars@topshelfmusic.com

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Photos ©2009 Scott Freilich.