Martin’s Maton Big Ben Bass

A great story on a bass that has been lovingly been brought back to life.

In the previous guitarnerd story on the Maton AX5, Greg mentioned that he travelled to New Zealand to buy some Maton’s from Martin. Well, Martin was nice enough to send in a story on a very special Maton (and one of my favourites…) the Big Ben.

Don’t you just love the Big Ben? I think it is the most beautifully crafted bass ever made – a delight to behold and to play.

Here I am in Jan 1969 playing one (I think it was cherry, like Greg’s AX5), appropriately attired with collarless shirt, Indian love beads etc.

At the time I was in a band called “The Titans”; we got to play in Queenstown over Christmas for a couple of weeks along with The Chicks and Mike Durney, for an entrepreneur called Richard Walls (later mayor of Dunedin). My own bass was an impressive looking olive green Burns Bison at the time, but for some reason a friend lent me his Maton Big Ben for the Queenstown trip. I was blown way by the punch it delivered – it was miles better than my Bison in spite of its shorter scale. I always regretted not trying to buy it, but I had no money in those days.

I had been looking for one of these for a while when this one turned up on ebay in 2007. I was pleased to win the auction. But dismayed when it arrived: the photos on ebay were hazy; the description was minimal; there was no clue that the pickguard was home-made out of plywood, the finish was home-done to look like a bit of tatty 60’s furniture, the tuners were not original and didn’t fit properly, and the pickup had been moved with a corresponding extra route! At least the electrics worked, the binding intact, the thumb rest was there in the original case, and all in all it was basically sound.

I would not normally restore a guitar, but with this one I felt I had nothing to lose. I am so glad I did, because it has been transformed into one of my favourites.

Impressively, Maton had a pickguard that fitted perfectly on my doorstep about 3 days after I spoke to them on the phone; I got some tuners that, though not original, fit well and suit well.

Likewise the control knobs; and the re-fin has finished it off beautifully.

Note that it is different to the one in the 1969 photo: mine only has one pickup, and the one in the 69 photo has no binding, something which I think just sets off my guitar perfectly. It is light, well-balanced, and sounds good.

It was great to meet up with Greg who is clearly more of a Maton fanatic than I am. He and I had met on ebay, when he bought my Maton Fyrbyrd bass within about an hour of the auction opening. In the course of conversation, we talked about our collections and started exchanging Maton photos. It is not everyday you get to meet someone who arranges a holiday around visits to some old guitars! And nice to see such beautiful photos on your site of the AX5 that used to sit under our sofa. Thanks for taking the trouble to maintain the site. It is good to read the stories of other Maton owners and share their enthusiasm.

Regards – Martin
Thanks very much Martin. I’m stoked that more and more of these forgotten treasures are coming out of the woodwork. If anyone else out there has an old Maton they’d like to share on guitarnerd, contact me at [email protected]