Friday 10/7/2005 ~ Gibson bases,
EB0, EB1, EB2, EB3
Yesterday we were listening to
recordings from the recent London Cream Reunion show. My first
thought was: Wow, Ginger Baker sounds great on drums! Considering
he must be, like, at least 100 years old by now...
Then I thought: I don't really
care for the guitar and bass sounds. They were just too clean.
First of all, I know Eric Clapton has been a Strat man since
the post-Cream Derek and The Dominoes, but the warm, fat, rich
Cream guitar sound can only be produced by Gibson humbucking
pickups through a loud Marshall stack. (That combination, by
the way, is the *ultimate* overdrive sound...) The Strat he used
during the Reunion concerts made a very nice Strat sound, but
it was too pure to do justice to the old songs. And secondly,
for Jack Bruce: Same. The bass tone was too "nice."
Sure, sure, Jack's original Cream set-up was questionable. A
Gibson EB-3 bass through a Marshall stack is sonically unsettling
at both ends... but the buzzy, raspy, rumbling sound he got,
as he played 100 notes per minute, was a big part of the Cream
experience. (And it was as high-tech ...and as loud... as you
could get in the late 60s.)
I realize that technologically
things have changed since the`69 Cream Farewell Show. It just
seems to me that if you are going to get bactogether with the
original band members, to do the original songs, you should also
get back together with the original equipment.
Thinking about Jack Bruce's EB-3
reminded me of last week's email, and mispronounced musical instrument
words. Here's something that most guitar dealers don't even know...
(I'm letting you in on this "inside" information in
case you're ever at a dinner party with a room full of vintage
instrument dealers and you need some small talk... or, if you're
ever at a party with non-guitar players and you want to sound
like Cliff from Cheers...)
It all goes back to 1953...
Gibson was the leading guitar
manufacturer in the world. But they found themselves playing
"catch-up" when Leo Fender introduced the first successful
solid-body electric guitar, The Broadcaster, in 1950 (later re-named
The Telecaster). No sooner had Gibson launched their first solid-body,
The Les Paul, when Leo beat them again with the world's first
solid electric bass, The Precision Bass , in late 1951. The big,
major manufacturer, Gibson had to answer that young upstart from
California... and thus was born, in 1953, the Gibson EB-1 Electric
a picture of one from 1956.
Despite the fact that it was
a finely made, carved top, solid mahogany instrument, it was
not as successful as the Fender Precision. (Due in part to the
fact that there was not an amp in existence in the 1950s that
could properly handle the boomy sound of the EB-1 pickup...)
Then, in 1958, Gibson introduced
their new semi-hollow six-string guitar the ES-335. And in an
attempt to capture more of the growing electric bass market,
they put a bass neck on the 335 and called it the EB-2. Here's a picture of one of the six natural ones
they made in 1958.
By 1959 sales of the EB-1 had
come to a standstill and the model was dropped. So Gibson designed
a bass to match the look of the `59 Les Paul Junior. Since they
had already used EB-1 and EB-2, they called the new bass the
what it looked like in 1959.
And here's how it looked after it was
re-designed in 1961.
This bass was very successful
and Gibson sold thousands and thousands. It was manufactured
through 1972. However, almost immediately after its original
introduction in `58 people started calling it the EB-O, ("E
B oh") rather than it's original designation, the EB-0 ("E
So there you have it, little
known information about a popular Gibson Bass. Next
time you see someone playing one of these: say to the person
next to you, "You know, everyone calls it an EB-oh, but
it's really an EB-zero!" Your vast knowledge of guitar lore
will surely get you invited back to many more parties!!
See You Soon,
PS: When they changed the body
shape in 1961 Gibson realized that it might be nice to have a
second pickup as an option. The two-pickup EB-O was called the
EB-3. That's the model that Jack Bruce played.
PPS: Oddly, when they added a
second pickup to the hollow-body EB-2 bass in 1966 they called
it the EB-2D. The "D" stood for "double pickups."
(They did this because hollow-body six-string models that came
in both one or two pickup versions used the "D" designation
for two pickups. Example: the ES-125 and the ES-125D)
PPPS: And HERE'S something that
will REALLY go over big at social events: Even though it's commonplace
to refer to "a 1955 EB-1," EB-1 was not really called
the "EB-1" until 1958 when the EB-2 was introduced!
Before that Gibson merely called it the "Electric Bass."
History was re-written to refer to Gibson's first solid bass
as the EB-1!!!! Tell me THAT story won't go over big next time
you're tailgating before a Steeler game!!
PPPPPS: Customer Web Site:
Friday 10/14/2005 ~ Modifying
old guitars... before they were old
Yesterday a doctor came in and
bought his first guitar, a new Stratocaster. (We sell a lot of
guitars to doctors... I think it's because they recognize the
healing power of music.) As we were packing it up he wasn't sure
if he liked the white pickguard, and he said, "I guess I
can always get some black plastic and make another one."
What he didn't realize, of course, is that (a) cutting a pickguard
is extremely difficult, and (2) you can easily buy replacement
black pickguards. We have them hanging right on our parts wall.
(And, no, I didn't ask if he was planning on any using high-tech
It reminded me of my childhood...
Well, my guitar buying childhood... In 1975 I bought a Strat
in New York City. It was white, 1973-ish, and it had a broken
pickguard. Since that was years before guitar replacement parts
were readily available, I made one myself. And it was terrible.
Looking back, I guess I could have found a Fender dealer and
asked them to order one from the factory. It was a "live
and learn" situation. A few years later, "parts"
companies like Mighty Mite, Schecter, W-D Pickguards and DiMarzio
sprung up, and you could buy replacement parts for almost anything.
Now there's a parts company called Allparts, who get their parts
from the same foreign (and occasionally domestic) manufacturers
that supply Gibson and Fender. So Allparts' parts are usually
Thinking back to the "live
and learn" concept, I remember an even earlier "guitar
modification"... In 1974 I was in Columbus, Ohio and I bought
a 1968 red Gretsch Monkees guitar. Since I always wanted a Country
Gentleman like George Harrison's, and could never find one, I
decided to re-finish the Monkees guitar to look like his!! (Of
course, there's little defense for this concept... BUT, in 1974
the Monkees guitar was just a "used" guitar, not the
rarity it is today. It was six years old; The Monkees had broken
up and were off the pop-culture radar; and who'd have thought
that guitar would ever be valuable?) THEN, to add further error
to my foolhardy plan, I figured I would paint it black... since
I thought George's Country Gent was black!! (Again... I'd like
to mention that it sure looked black on black & white TV.)
(For you non-Gretsch fans, George's guitar was a dark-walnut
color.) Anyway, that spray-can-in-the-backyard plan was a bad
idea from the start... and as you might imagine, nothing good
came from that situation.
Now, you're probably wondering,
do I feel bad about this? Well, no. After all, life is a learning
process, and it was just a guitar. Sure, sure, nowadays vintage
guitars are worth a lot of money. And when I watch old videos
and see vintage Strats with added humbucking pickups (or worse,
Kahler vibratos) I sometimes say to myself, "Well, that's
a shame..." But if you look at the big picture, the vintage
guitars that are still around, and still all-original, are MORE
valuable because of all of the ones that were messed with in
the past. If you find an original Monkees guitar it's gotta be
worth at least $20 more because of the one I ruined in `74! See...
everything works out!
If you do want to change some
parts on your guitar, at least use the right stuff. We have lots
of parts here. This week's email special is an extra 10% off
our already discounted selection of replacement parts.
See You Soon,
PS: Mark and his band, Jill West and Blues Attack, are playing this
Wednesday, October 21 at a Katrina benefit at The Red Star Tavern
at Station Square. It's a star-studded event, with Pittsburgh's
best Blues bands and musicians on the bill, and it's sure to
be a great time.
Friday 10/21/2005 ~ Dreaming
of a Les Paul Sunburst
I had the nicest dream last night.
It started, as most of my dreams
do, with me dealing with some pre-gig dilemma with my band, The Flashcats.
We played a thousand gigs back in the 1980s, and in addition
to drumming I also managed the group. So I was always waiting
for a late band member to show up, or trying to fix the lights,
or get the truck towed, or some other mini-catastrophe. To this
day, I have dreams where I'm wondering where the soundman is,
or why the bass player doesn't have the right suit on...
Anyway, last night in my dream
I was in the band dressing room. I had just finished talking
to the doorman about ticket sales, and I sat down to relax before
the show. Then, on the floor I noticed a 1958 Les Paul Sunburst.
I picked it up and played it, and it was wonderful! Even in the
dream I knew that this model was the most valuable electric guitar
in the world, so I was curious about the quality of construction,
and the playability, and the sound. It lived up to all of my
expectations. I thought, "this guitar may be too expensive
to use in public, but it's such a work of art that it's worth
every penny." I don't know who the guitar belonged to in
the dream, but I was happy to just hold it and play a few chords...
(You would think that since it's
a dream, I'd be playing some great solos... but, no, apparently
I play just as bad in my dreams as I do in real life...)
A brief history: Gibson first
manufactured the Les Paul in 1952. Throughout the 1950s they
made almost yearly improvements. In 1952 and early 1953 the guitar
had a gold finish on the top, P-90 pickups and a large, trapeze
bridge/tailpiece. Since that bridge made it difficult to play
over the bridge pickup, in mid-1953 they changed to a wrap-around,
stud-mounted bridge/tailpiece combination. In 1955 they moved
the tailpiece back and added a separate tune-o-matic bridge.
In mid-1957 they replaced the single coil P-90s with the newly
invented double-coil Humbucking pickups. Then, in 1958 the gold
finish was changed to a cherry sunburst, which complimented the
figured curly maple top. So, six years after its introduction,
Gibson had modified the Les Paul into the perfect guitar. It
was beautiful in color, it had the new, improved pickups, and
with the new bridge you could accurately set the harmonics. It
was everything you could ask for in a guitar.
Unfortunately, not many people
were asking for it. Sales of the Les Paul Model peaked in 1953
with 2245 guitars sold. The figures steadily declined, and in
1958 only 434 of the new cherry sunburst models were sold. Things
rebounded slightly in 1959 and 1960 with 643 and 635 sold respectively...
but by the end of 1960 Gibson gave up. They decided to redesign
the guitar into what we now know as the SG body shape. The Les
Paul was not manufactured again until 1968.
Today, we are obviously far wiser
than the late 1950s guitar buying public. Those 1712 1958-1960
cherry sunburst Les Pauls are the most sought after electric
guitars of all time. Prices on them have skyrocketed to well
In the 26 year history of Pittsburgh
Guitars, I've sold a handful of late 1950s "Sunbursts."
Unfortunately, I don't own one now, and it's been a few years
since I've even played one. I'm not sure what sparked this dream.
I know the guitar didn't belong to me... I was just appreciating
it... And I was struck by how nice it was. I woke up happy. I
wonder what this all means?
Well, in this dream I found the
guitar laying on the floor. That's generally not a good plan.
This week's email special is for guitar stands.
See you soon,
PS: When Gibson introduced the
thin, contoured-body SG in 1961 they tried to call it a "Les
Paul." Even though it was an extremely different design,
the 1961 and 1962 SGs have a "Les Paul" silk-screen
on the headstock. Everyone complained, even Les Paul himself.
Gibson stopped this name game by 1963.
PPS: It's been a loooooong time
since I owned a real "Sunburst." Here's picture: (though it did end up in
PPPS: Flashcat pictures....
PPPPS: Next weekend: Pittsburgh's
Of The Singing Dead, XIII
An irreverent musical comedy, with Larry Richert, Steve Hansen,
Susie Barbour, Monty & Zeke, Carol Lee Espy, Pete Hewlett,
Rob Rogers, John Moran, Deanna Dean, Phil Harris, Ron Moondog
Esser, Rich Dugan, Joey Murphy, Kerry Kost, Greg Matecko, Leo
DiLeonardo, Eric Glassbrenner, and Maggie Stewart
**The Rex Theater, Sunday, October 30, 7PM**
Friday 10/28/2005 ~ Night Of
The Singing Dead, Part XIII
I'm spending the day building
props, painting scenery and running over the set list for this
Sunday's "Night of the Singing Dead, Part XIII"
show, so I won't be able to do an email special this week.
I must say, though, that it has
been a LOT of fun rehearsing for this event. It is SO much fun
to play music with your friends! We put on this big production
each year at Halloween, but it's really just an excuse to get
together with fun folks and play songs from our childhood.
If you're getting this email,
you probably already play an instrument. So call some of your
friends and get together and play some tunes. You won't regret
it. If you don't play an instrument, it's not too late to start.
(We, of course, recommend the guitar.) And until you learn to
play, there's always the tambourine! Give it a try. Music is
good for the soul.
See you soon,
PS: How to play the tambourine:
First get a feel for the tempo... until you can count 1-2-3-4
during the song... then just hit the tambourine on "2"
and "4". Da, da! You're in the band!
PPS: Here's a press release for
"Night of the Singing
Sunday, October 30, 2005
The Rex Theatre, South Side, 7PM
Thought you'd never see Johnny
Carson again? You must have forgotten about Night of the Singing
Dead! A Pittsburgh Halloween tradition now in its 13th
year, Night of the Singing Dead is an irreverent musical
comedy starring local musicians and media personalities as the
world's greatest non-living legends. Always up-to-date in the
obituary department, Night of the Singing Dead is completely
rewritten every year to include the newest celebrity passings.
This year's theme, "The
Tonight of the Singing Dead Show" features KDKA's Larry
Richert as Johnny Carson, along with his sidekick, Dead McMahon
(Steve Hansen, also from KDKA). Carson's guests will include
"dead" newcomers Luther Vandross, Sandra Dee, Star
Trek's James Doohan, Bob 'Gilligan' Denver, as well as old favorites
like Judy Garland, Buddy Holly, Tammy Wynette, and, of course,
Starring as these 'late greats'
will be Monty & Zeke from Y108 Radio; nationally syndicated
cartoonist Rob Rogers; WQED's Carol Lee Espy; Maggie Stewart
from the Mister Rogers Show; Ron Esser, owner of Moondog's bar;
vocalist extraordinaire Pete Hewlett; KDKA's Steve Hansen, Larry
Richert, and Susie Barbour; and many more! They'll be backed
by the Not Ready For Death Band.
"As always, we'll be adjusting
the script up to the last possible moment to include any new
'late' arrivals," says producer Carl Grefenstette. "Last
year we were thrilled to have Christopher Reeve and Rick James
join us at the last minute. I believe people are actually dying
to be in this show!"
This year's performance will
be at 7PM on Sunday, October 30th, at The Rex Theatre on the
South Side. Night of the Singing Dead#13: With music and
humor and rock stars from beyond, you never know what to expect!
Sunday, October 30, 2005
Doors open at 6PM
Showtime is 7PM
Tickets are $13 and can be purchased
at the door
or in advance at Pittsburgh Guitars on the South Side, Dave's
Music Mine, also on the South Side or at The Rex Theatre