BootHill is the brainchild of Dave Wolfe and Bill Philipp, two working musicians and luthiers with a fascination for unusual instruments, a love of the esoteric and musical influences from punk to bluegrass. It all started in the mid ‘90’s when Dave saw a beat-up 1800’s coffin bass in a repair shop in St. Paul. Keep in mind that coffin instruments have been around for centuries – “coffin” referring to just about any box shaped instrument made by people who didn’t know how to bend wood. These were usually pretty crude, crappy sounding, hard to play and downright ugly. But this funky old bass was amazing and we wanted one.
Drawing from art and culture movements like Dada and Bauhaus, Dave and Bill set out to design an instrument that was both aesthetically beautiful and acoustically sound, while staying true to the concept of “coffin”. A work of art that felt, played and sounded as good as a traditional upright bass. This wasn’t going to be just some novelty either, but a serious workingman’s instrument that could stand up to real-world gigs and life on the road.
We started with a full-sized masonite mock-up which worked so well that we decided to go ahead and build the real thing. And so began ten years of prototypes, redesign and seeking out sources for materials. We needed things that didn’t exist, and what did exist we didn’t like, so we sought out suppliers who could manufacture to our specs. We found a maker of aircraft grade plywood to laminate the exact thickness of wood we wanted for the body. We searched globally for sources of maple for our necks and rosewood for our fingerboards. We designed our own bridge, tailpiece and endpin, had tuning machines built to our dimensions and had premium gut strings custom made in gauges that played and sounded the way we knew they should.
Originally, this was all just for ourselves- we just wanted cool coffin basses to gig with. But along the way we crossed paths with a lot of people and an amazing thing happened- pretty much everyone who saw this thing wanted one. So we filed for patents and set out to get these monsters into production. We pulled our name from a place synonymous with the black box coffin- the graveyards of the old west, commonly referred to in slang as “boot hill”. Dave started developing logos, graphics and a marketing plan while Bill worked to design the manufacturing process that would allow us to bring this amazing bass to you.
So, here we are. Not quite ready to sell basses, but loaded with some of the coolest bass accessories you’ll find, and packaging some killer strings you can’t get anywhere else. Check out our products pages and see why we say:
BootHill. See it… Play it… Love it… Buy it.