Email Specials from October 2005

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 Bass. Here's 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 EB-0. Here's 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 B zero")

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 doctor tools!)

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 exact replacements.


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 over $100,000.

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 good hands).

PPPS: Flashcat pictures....

PPPPS: Next weekend: Pittsburgh's Halloween Tradition!!
Night 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 Sunday's show:

"Night of the Singing Dead™ #13"
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, Elvis.

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

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