Karl Höfner began making stringed instruments in 1887, in the little town of Schönbach. His company flourished into the 20th century and really took off one fortuitous day in 1961, when Paul McCartney ambled into a Steinway shop in Hamburg, Germany and saw a Hofner bass, otherwise known as the “violin bass.” McCartney later recalled:
Fenders even then seemed to be around £100. All I could afford really was about £30. Always teetering on the edge of not having much – so I didn’t really want to spend that much. So… I found this Hofner violin bass. And to me it seemed like, because I was left-handed, it looked less daft because it was symmetrical. So I got into that. That became my main bass.
As The Beatles Online notes, “The Hofner 500/1 bass became McCartney’s signature instrument,” and was eventually rechristened “the Hofner Beatle Bass.” 50 years later, they’re still making the iconic guitar, and you can watch the whole process unfold in just 16 minutes. It’s not a very styled video, a far cry from other guitar-making videos we’ve featured here before, but it’s worth the watch.