The original version of the Vox Cougar bass was manufactured by Crucianelli in Italy.
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Crucianelli produced accordions in northern Italy as early as the 1880s. Their instruments were sold primarily in Europe until the end of World War II. The combination of a surging US economy and the post war "baby boom" opened new opportunities for Crucianelli to sell their accordions in North America. The ten year "golden age" of the Italian built accordion ended in 1957 after a truck driver from Tupelo Mississippi forever changed the face of popular music. After the arrival of Elvis Presley, the guitar replaced the accordion as the musical instrument of choice for a youthful America.
With their popular 1958 release, "That'll Be the Day," Buddy Holly and the Crickets became the prototypical rock combo. The Crickets featured lead guitar, rhythm guitar, bass guitar and drums. Their guitar based line up was soon adopted by the Shadows in England, the Ventures and Beach Boys in America, and even the Beatles among many others. Despite the post war popularity of the accordion, it found no place in rock and roll.
Accordion sales were seriously on the decline by the end of the fifties. Crucianelli soon learned that if they wished to avoid extinction they would need to produce guitars.
The earliest Crucianelli guitars surfaced in the early 1960s. Crucianelli manufactured and sold guitars under their "Elite" and "Tonemaster" brands. Crucianelli also supplemented their business by producing private labeled guitars for other manufacturers and distributors. One of those manufacturers was Jennings Musical Instruments, the parent company of Vox.
Vox had experience producing solid body guitars but had not mastered the construction techniques required to mass produce hollow bodied semi-acoustic guitars. Furthermore, there was little time for Vox to develop semi-acoustic production capacity. The demand for Vox guitars had become meteoric in the Beatle era and opportunities for sales were being missed. Unable to produce guitars quickly and in numbers to satisfy the burgeoning market, JMI turned to Crucianelli to build semi-acoustic guitars for Vox. Crucianelli produced two semi acoustic guitar models (Lynx and Challenger) and two semi acoustic bass models (Escort and Cougatr) for Vox in 1964 and 1965.
The Crucianelli produced Vox Cougar Bass was originally introduced as the Crucianelli 702B Tonemaster bass. There were two versions produced for Vox. The red burst bass shown above is the earlier version. It has the distinctive "bat wing" pick guard and was probably produced for Vox between mid 1964 and mid 1965. The later version of the Vox Cougar Bass fetaured a traditional pick guard and a slightly wider headstock, as shown in the brown sunburst bass above.
The relationship between Vox and Crucianelli was short lived. By 1966, Vox shifed their guitar production away from Crucianelli to Eko, another Italian manufacturer in northern Italy.
The Cougar bass was designed with a 29¾" scale. The bolt on, 20 fret "C" profile neck included block inlays and an adjustable truss rod. The bound neck was ~1 5/8" wide at the nutand ~2" wide at the twelfth fret. The arch topped body was 15¾" wide at the lower bout and featured white binding on the edges and f holes. The body of the Vox Cougar Bass by Crucianelli was ~1 ½" thick at the outer edge. The Cougar featured two single pole pickups with chrome covers and black plastic surrounds. In addition to a three way selector switch, each pickup was equipped with a volume and tone control. The Cougar also included a chrome plated stop tailpiece, a micro-adjustable bridge and four open gear tuner keys.
Many thanks to noted Vox guitar authority Roger Tessier for allowing me to take photos of his Vox Cougar basses.