Maton Barry Sullivan/JB4 Bass

Maton’s bringer of thunder.

Maton in the 70’s, along with making great electric & acoustic guitars also made a solid as a rock bass called the JB4. I’ve seen a few of these at gigs through the years, the last being in the hands of the scarey as hell looking bass player, Grant (lovely dude, tho) from Geelong band ‘Speed Demons’.

When I asked him about his bass, like the other JB4 owners I’ve met he swears it’s the best bass he’s ever played and he’d never get rid of it.

I honestly don’t know much about these basses. My bass tastes are more in the old school Fender category, and to me the JB4 was kind of Maton’s weird stunted version of a P-Bass. But through guitarnerd, a major JB4 fan named Greg sent me a bit of info to help inform me on this forgotten Aussie bass.

The genesis of the JB4 design started with a bass player called Barry Sullivan, from Australian blues legends ‘Chain’ who also had in it’s ranks guitarist Phil Manning who as we know had the brilliant Maton Phil Manning Custom Stereo signature guitar. Barry and Maton started working on a signature ‘Barry Sullivan’ bass of which 6 were made. Here’s Greg’s example.

Here’s the info Greg sent me: “In 1975 Barry was asked by Maton to help design a new bass for the working musician. At that time Maton were producing the Wildcat Bass.

Barry took that concept and started to adapt it and change it. What he ended up with was a bass that was refined into what was then called the JB4 (Jumbuck).

This is what Maton wrote in one of their catalogs from when the JB4 was released:
Captures the “old” sound without the old problems. MATON have developed a number of electric Basses over many years, in both solid and semi-acoustic  models. The J.B. series is the result of background development work of the latest electronics, and exclusive wood curing technology. The design is an original concept with simple sculptured body contours, and featuring a natural brown wood finish. It is now possible to offer one of the world’s most advanced bass instruments to suit the critical needs of first rate musicians.

And here’s the JB4 bass…

As you can see, they Fender-ised the pickup configuration, probably to appeal to a wider market. The headstock is still that of the original Wildcat design, and unusually for a Fender type bass, it’s a solid as a rock set neck.

I’ve only played one of these basses and I was impressed with it’s sustain and typical comfortable as hell Maton neck. maton also sold a number of these as a fretless version, which come up quite frequently for sale on eBay. Here’s Greg’s fretless which he sold recently.

As you can see from this closeup, the workmanship is fantastic. Maton electric’s from the 70’s were just fantastic. The use of Australian woods and the craftsmanship puts these above a lot of the USA basses of the time.

The JB4 then evolved again into the MGB bass, which was made into the 80’s. Here’s Paul’s custom fretless MGB bass that he sent me a photo of a while ago. The body shape was refined a little and the headstock look more like the classic maton acoustic shape. My friend Bryce has a beautful blue example which I’ve had a quick go on and I have to say they’re lovely instruments.

Now, I’ve heard from a reliable source that Maton is possibly thinking of releasing a modern version of the JB4. I have no idea if this is still happening or not… I got told the release date was late 2010. Might happen, might not. I’ll keep you posted when I find out more.