OK, I'll attempt to answer as much as I can.
Bernie was one of the first electric bass luthiers in the country (Wal, Status, Overwater being the others). Bernie started building basses in his shed at the bottom of his garden.
Out of the small startings of a hobby turned business, Bernie partnered Mike Freston (Managing Director) and Phil Harris (of Star Guitars, regular contributor for a guitar magazine and owner of a sizeable collection of vintage guitars) to form what would would become Goodfellow.
Following a run of protoypes (I believe 10-15 basses), the first Goodfellow basses (with serial numbers) were marketed. The protoypes were all slightly different in design as Bernie was still finalising what would become the Goodfellow shape, the selection being a mixture of passive and then later, active basses. The whereabouts of these original pre serial basses are unknown, they may still be with either Mike or Phil. If they were to surface, although they are without serial number, they do bear Bernie's signature. The marketed basses (i.e. the ones with serial numbers) were of two designs; the Player and the Classic.
The Classic is a Goodfellow that has pretty facings, usually quilted maple, elm burr, poplar burr which were all bookmatched to give the bass it's attractive front. This facing was flanked by another 2mm vaneer before being glued to the main core body. There are a few rare examples out there that have both front and rear facings.
The Player was a series of Goodfellows that had unusual vaneers and finishes. I'm sure anybody following the Goodfellows that have surfaced on here will realise that they belong to this range - the Harlequin has a multi-coloured wafer thing laminated top, with a subtle burst around the edges. Other finishes in this range include the Herringbone laminate, as seen on #003 above. Some of you may have seen the zebra burst, a grey white and black burst Player. All of the basses in this range have a mahogany core with front and back laminates. I believe Lowden stopped producing the Player series when they ran out of vaneers - but they may have kept calling the basses they were producing Players anyway.
The necks of both guitars are 5 core laminated necks, bolted on to the body.
When the Lowden era came, Bernie was employed for 18 months to 2 years but was out come 1989. That makes the start of the Lowden era to be 1987/8. So, what's the difference between the Lowden era basses and the original "Bernie era" (for lack of a better phase)? Well, there are a few telltale signs. What you have to remember is that these basses went from a small handmade operation to a more mechanised/automated assembly. When Goodfellow was initially taken over, there were numerous components that were inherited - such as pickups, half finshed necks and bodies, fascias, circuits etc.
There are numerous tell tale signs however that give a clue to whether a Goodfellow is a "Bernie era" or a Lowden era.
The obvious one is a low serial number. The lower the number, the greater the chance of a bass being a Bernie bass. It's estimated that Bernie made approximately 150 under the original Goodfellow company in Wandswood and Depford before production was overseen by Lowden. It's not clear what happened to the serial numbers during the transisiton period.
Looking at the headstock, the original logos were the big G logo with the Handcrafted England footer. When the production moved to Lowden, this footer was removed - however, due to the stock of parts that came as part of the Lowden deal, there is a chance that a Handcrafted England neck made it onto a Lowden era bass. With regards to a "sandwich layer", it depends if it is a new stock or old stock neck. On the rear of the headstock, the original Goodfellows have Schaller M4 tuners with the G insignia on the rear of the casing. Of course, the originals have the handmade wooden buttons - these have become a bit of a Bernie signature what with them being common place on the modern GB Rumour. Again, as stocks depleted, these were changed to cheaper metal buttons. In fact, I believe that the hardware, including the bridge were sourced elsewhere (Far East?) later in the later period of production due to lack of original stock and a bid to cut cost.
The milled bridge (with the Goodfellow wording across the rear of the unit) was a Bernie original design, but Bernie sought permission from Helmut Schaller and Rene Schaller to make use of Schaller saddles on those bridges and also use the alternative buttons on the M4 tuners. The keener eyed of you out there, may have recognised the Schaller saddle design. Like other pieces of hardware, alternatives were sought when stocks ran out.
Circuitwise, the preamp was only found in Goodfellow basses. The original circuits were all handmade, as they are with todays GBs. The original Goodfellow active circuits however, were much different to what we see now. They were small circuit boards that clicked into place to the loom that was conencted to all the control pots and switches within the control cavity. A smart idea, but a very labour intensive process. The stock of boards may have made their way into Lowden Goodfellow basses, it's hard to say but these were later switched out for alternative preassembled circuits. It's worth noting that the Bernie era basses have the disk around the most foward placed pot. Maybe some Lowden era basses too whilst stock was available but from the Goodfellows I have seen, they seem to be without this disk. I believe that some of the prototype basses have a pickup selector switch as opposed to a pan pot.
Finally, the pickups. The pickups are quite famous for having a thumbrest indent on the top surface and having a wooden grainy appearance. Often mistaken for wooden pickup covers, they are infact solid resin blocks with the pickup encased within. The reason they have a wooden grain appearance is the fact that they are cast from a mold that was made from a wooden master. The wooden master in question, was actually a piece of London Plane (Lacewood) that Bernie carved by hand in his shed in Forest Hill, SE London.
Of course, the mix of parts depending upon availability can mask a Lowden bass but a Bernie built Goodfellow will have all the components present. Its estimated that 100-150 Lowden Goodfellow basses were built before Bernie left Lowden. As the process became more automated, Bernie's role there was removed and Bernie was left without work.
Following Bernie's departure, the body shape did change somewhat, specifically with regard to shape of the horns. A five string was developed but again, was significantly different to the 5 string design in the plans that Bernie had drawn up.
With regards to the "kit" Goodfellows, this is true. Parts, or rejected parts for that matter, were "leaked out" and assembled outside of the Goodfellow production line. The quality of these basses cannot be guaranteed as the pickup routing, neck joint routing and cavity routing would all have to be done to assemble a complete product. As shown through various parts and complete examples turning up on the used market and eBay, the quality of the final product can be pretty poor.
After Lowden, Bernie set up Nightingale guitars with Neil McDonald and with a familiar Bernie designed shape, started producing basses. These basses notable included an early incarnation of the Bernie designed GB style circuit (comprehensive circuit board (for the time at least!) with PCB mounted pots) that would evolve into what we see in the GB guitars of today. Interestingly enough, the Lowden Goodfellow basses adopted this style of circuit. Whether this was coincidental or not, I wouldn't like to say.
After Nightingale, came GB Guitars, Bernie's latest creations. The modern Rumour bass definately shows a resemblance to the early Goodfellow design but they are two very different beasts. The electronics and pickups are unique to his GB instruments and help give the instuments a sound like no other. A Goodfellow bass is not a GB (Goodfellow Basses) guitar - buyer beware!
His current basses are certainly a mile away from the humble beginnings of the shed builds but I think the Goodfellow history is an interesting story.
A move from his Croydon GB workshop to Brighton followed and Bernie now has the chance to pursue both of his passions. His love of bass building... and his love of fishing.
Originally sold via the Bass Centre, the Classic has a retail of around £1250 and the Player retailed at approx £950. The more interesting examples of the "Bernie" basses, (e.g. made by his own hands) still sell on the used market for anywhere between £750 to £1500 depending upon it's fascias and condition (and whether it still has a Goodfellow branded Hiscox case.
Check the GB porn thread for a look at some of the early Goodfellows that have popped up... and check out Graham Gouldman playing a genuine Bernie bass on his TOTP appearance with Wax (with Andrew Gold)... also the bass on stage with the Style Council at Live Aid is certainly worth a look...
It's funny, there has been quite a lot of interest in the original Goodfellow basses in the last month. It seems they are pretty popular out in America!
Hope that somebody has found this interesting! All the best, Russ.
Thanks for that very I interesting insight, I owned at one time 001 Goodfellow bass, ( Bernie told me it was made in his shed)a passive bass. Wonder where it is now.