The first time Blondie entered my consciousness was at a Larry Joe Taylor festival in about 1992.
I’ll never forget her. I walked up to somebody’s campsite where musicians were standing in a circle and playing bluegrass. Blondie literally beamed in the sunlight. She looked like a painting. And her voice was as smooth and sweet as apple butter.
She made all the musicians around her sound better.
She had a big bottom end — and that’s a great compliment for an upright bass.
And now she’s gone.
Friends of local bassist Frank Kuban are spreading the word, searching pawnshops, and scouring the streets in search of the stolen bass, which was last seen in the Stockyards.
Kuban went to the White Elephant Saloon at 3 p.m. last Sunday to listen to friends perform at the Brett Watts Songwriters in the Round jam session.
Most guitar pickers jump at the chance to have a talented bassist sit in with them, and so Kuban, as usual, loaded Blondie into his Isuzu Rodeo and made the trip to the Elephant. He parked at the back end of the long and narrow parking lot just east of the saloon.
As is also typical of Kuban, he left his big bass in the car at first.
“I don’t like to just walk in with my bass,” he said. “I almost always leave it in the car, come check things out, and then if I can play I go get it. It’s kind of presumptuous to bring it in first.”
As it turned out, plenty of musicians were already on hand and Kuban decided to just listen and enjoy a cold beer. He felt like his car was safe — he’d parked in the same spot the day before when he attended a family reunion in the Stockyards.
After a few hours, the song circle ended and he decided to head home.
“As I approached the car I noticed there were no other cars there,” he said.
Then he noticed his driver’s side window was down. “Did I forget to roll up my window?” he asked himself.
As he got closer he realized the window was broken.
“I looked in the back and Blondie was not there,” he said. “I was in shock. I experienced anger at first, and then depression. I was totally unprepared. I started fidgeting around and stuttering to myself for three or four minutes. I finally came to my senses.”
He filed a police report but the instrument is still missing.
Kuban first ran into Blondie in the late 1980s when he was a regular picker at the Tanstaafl Pub Saturday afternoon jam sessions. He had an old upright bass that was hard to play and not very loud, and he fell in love with a blond beauty being plucked by a bassist named Ron.
Ron had named her Blondie.
Kuban asked if he could give her a test run. Blondie was so easy to play, so easy on the fingers. Her neck was thin. Her voice elegant. Her appearance pleasing.
A smitten Kuban traded his upright bass and $300 for Blondie, and they’ve been inseparable ever since.
“After that I gravitated away from the electric bass and started playing Blondie more and more,” he said.
He saw Billy Joe Shaver perform in 2001 and loved the sound being created by upright bassist David Carroll. They talked after the gig and Kuban ended up rigging his bass with the same Schaller magnetic pickup and metal strings that Carroll uses.
“Blondie and I became a unit,” Kuban said. “Wherever I go people say, ‘Where’s Blondie?’ I loved playing her.”
One year at Taylor’s festival, a Buddy Magazine writer was covering the event and conducted a long interview with Kuban about his distinctive bass.
When the story came out, Kuban had to laugh: “There was no mention of me, it was totally about Blondie.”
An upright bass is a huge instrument, and it’s a bit cramped getting to gigs while also hauling his wife, Janie, and their adopted little mutt, Killer.
But no way was Blondie being exposed to the elements.
“I always wonder whether I’m going to have a place to sit in the car or whether I’ll have to be strapped on top,” Janie Kuban said.
Killer is also heartbroken — the dog’s favorite spot is sitting atop the bass and staring out the window while they drive down the highway to gigs.
Kuban would appreciate any information anybody might have to help him find Blondie.
Blondie is a Kay model. Identifying features include a German-made Schaller silver magnetic pickup mounted at the end of the neck — an unusual pickup for this type of instrument. Kuban also stuffed gray foam window insulation between the neck and the pickup to reduce vibration, another unique feature.
A reward is being offered. Kuban can be contacted at 972-842-2868 or firstname.lastname@example.org