About Lea Bass Guitars

Lea Bass GuitarsI grew up seven miles outside Greene, New York, a town with a grand total of two stoplights and zero fast food joints.  I ran on my high school cross country and track teams, and I rode my bicycle all over the county on the hilly upstate country roads.  As a teenager, I developed an obsession with airplanes.  I dreamt of being a pilot, flying over the hills and between the clouds.  After graduating from high school, I gained acceptance to the United States Naval Academy, and my march toward realizing my childhood dream began.  At the Naval Academy I continued to run almost every day, and I joined the cycling team. 

After graduating from the Naval Academy with a degree in Systems Engineering, I headed off to flight school.  Two years later my beautiful new bride Christina was pinning a shiny gold set of Naval Aviator wings on my chest, and I was headed to my first duty station in Mayport, Florida, to fly the mighty SH-60B Seahawk helicopter. 

I continued to run and race bikes.  I traveled the world with the Navy, visiting dozens of ports in Europe, Africa, the Black Sea, and the Middle East.  I flew on exciting and occasionally dangerous missions, and I loved every minute of it.  I earned the nickname “Slinky” in my first overseas port….I’ll save that story for another day.

Lea Bass GuitarsThrough all of that, I had always felt that music was an important part of my life, although I had never seriously considered learning to play an instrument.  I liked rock and metal, especially the heavy bass undertones.  Christina knew this, and one day in 1998 she surprised me with one of those bass starter kits all the music stores sell.  It was horrible, but I didn’t know that at the time.  I had a blast making noise, and I joined my ship’s band on deployment, playing flight deck parties in foreign ports and even playing out in a couple clubs in Malta.  I was terrible.  I think sometimes I wasn’t even playing the same song as the rest of my bandmates.  But I was hooked.

Eventually I also got into woodworking, making jewelry boxes and TV stands with oak from the local hardware store.  I found I was actually quite good at it, particularly at visualizing the process from rough boards through to completed project.  I branched out into more complicated, high-end projects.  One day it hit me….why not build myself a 5-string bass?  I mean, how hard can it be??  Man, was I in for a surprise!

And before I even got my bass project off the ground, another surprise….one that turned my world upside down.  I was diagnosed with an inoperable genetic heart condition and had an implantable defibrillator installed in my chest.  I lost my flight status and was medically retired from the Navy with little notice.  I could no longer run or race bikes, as, believe it or not, sustained high heart rates from running and cycling throughout my life had exacerbated my condition and led to the damage in my heart.  I suddenly had to find a new job, and I could no longer do the things I loved.

Lea Bass GuitarsBut I had a plan to build a bass.  Just one bass.  And that kept me in high spirits.

I contacted Randall Fullmer, owner of Wyn Guitars near Los Angeles.  I had seen his ad in a magazine, and I loved his work.  His story in the ‘About’ section of his website resonated with me.  It turns out Randy is the nicest guy in the world, and he encouraged me to build that bass.  He walked me through the process from afar, sending me building tips and photos of his works in progress.  He told me I would make mistakes and that I should embrace those mistakes as valuable lessons for my next build.   And when I completed one bass, he said, “Go build five more”.  I completed those, and he said, “Build five more and you’ll be ready for business”.  I never imagined myself building more than just one bass, one 5-string for my own enjoyment.  I blame Randy for getting me to this point, finding something I loved to replace what I had lost.  All of my love for flying and cycling was redirected to luthiery.  And I can’t get enough of it.

Lea Bass GuitarsA few years ago, I met Anthony Wellington.  I had heard of him, as he is a world-reknown bass instructor and a member of the Victor Wooten band, as well as a noted collector of fine basses.  But I had no idea that his studio was only 45 minutes from my house.  I started taking lessons with him, and he was intrigued by the bass I brought to my first lesson – I think it was the fourth bass I had built.  He has proven to be a wealth of knowledge regarding design and style elements desired by elite players.  I do much of his tech work and he has several Lea basses in his studio. 

In 2016 I started Lea Bass Guitars, giving the company my wife’s middle name, as I credit her with starting me down this musical path.  I feel very fortunate to have discovered my true passion, my life’s work.  I obsess over every instrument I build, and I believe this is plainly evident in the quality of my basses.  I like to think that my story just goes to show that there is a plan.  Everything happens for a reason.  It’s been a long and interesting journey, and I wouldn’t change a thing.