1960 Gibson EB-0 Bass

George Gruhn
Guitar Player Rare Bird, 1/83
EVOLUTION--a phenomenon of the world of nature--occurs in the guitar world as well. But whereas nature favors gradual change, the mutations in guitar design can be abrupt and radical. So, the story of this month's rare bird really begins with its predecessor, the EB-1; the contrast between the two was as night and day.

The EB-1 followed on the heels of the first "Les Paul" guitar, issued in 1952. It was marked by a distinctive violin-shaped body made of solid mahogany with printed f-holes and double purfling painted on. The mimicry of an acoustic double bass was carried to the extreme of including an adaptable extension pit that made it possible to stand the instrument on end. To complete the picture, the EB-1 had a one-piece mahogany neck with a 30-1/2" scale (shorter than the Fender bass of the time), and was fitted with Kluson banjo-type tuning gears with handles extending out from the back of the headstock rather than the sides. The EB-1 was originally called simply the "Electric Bass." It was renamed in 1958 when Gibson added another electric bass to its catalog--a semisolid thinline christened the EB-2. (Incidentally, the EB-1 was reissued in 1970 but was not particularly successful.) At first it seemed like the EB-1 had a future--105 sold in '53, 125 in '54, 127 in '55--but in 1956 the figure dropped to 65, and the designers were sent back to the drawing board.

The problem, then, was to come up with an attractive new concept. The solution, as seen by the designers from Kalamazoo, was to have the successor to the EB-1 borrow from another Gibson great. Thus the new solidbody EB-0 retained some features of the EB-1--such as the mahogany body and neck, 30-1/2" scale, and banjo-type tuners--but it adopted the same double-cutaway body shape as the late-1950s Les Paul Jr. and Les Paul TV. Like the Les Paul Jr., the EB-0 came only in a cherry red finish, and had a large, black pickguard made of non-laminated plastic covering the lower half of the body.

The EB-0 shown here was made in 1960, and its specifications are typical of the model at that time:
Body: double cutaway, solid mahogany; width, 13"; length, 16-1/2"; thickness, 1-3/4"
Neck: one-piece mahogany with adjustabie truss rod; width, 1.723" (nut), 2.112" (12th fret), .997" (12th fret); joins body at 17th fret
Fingerboard: unbound rosewood; 20 frets, with inlaid dots at frets 3, 5, 7, 9, 12, 15, 17,19
The back of the headstock is stamped with the serial number 00443 in black ink. and the front has the name Gibson inlaid in pearl with a crown-shaped pearl insignia beneath it. The truss rod cover is black plastic. The Kluson banjo-type tuners have white plastic handles.

The one-piece combination bridge and tailpiece does not allow for individual string adjustment, but like the bridge on the Les Paul Jr., it can be raised or lowered at both ends to change the height of all the strings. Intonation (a function of string length) can be adjusted by changing the tilt of the bridge, which has a recessed Allen-head screw at either end.

The pickup is a multi-magnet, double-coil humbucker with adjustable polepieces mounted in the middle. The winding on the two coils has a total of 25,000 turns, an unusually large number compared to the Gibson PAF humbucker (which has 10,000 to 12,000 turns) or to other bass pickups. This makes the pickup unit larger than usual: 1.875" wide, 2.56" long, and .925" deep. The black plastic pickup cover is 2.324" wide and 3.275" long.

The EB-0's hefty pickup evolved from the one used on the 1953 "Electric Bass." Designed by Walt Fuller, that pickup had only one coil with 25,000 turns and the polepieces were mounted on the side of the unit facing the bridge. When it was later changed to two coils, the same number of turns was retained, and the polepieces were moved to the middle of the pickup.

The bass pictured here features one tone control and one volume control, each with a black plastic, high-top knob. The sidemounted input jack is positioned on a square of black/white/black laminated plastic, and the rear access to the controls has a black plastic cover secured with a screw at each end. All the hardware is nickel-plated.

The EB-0 was part of a program prompted by the rising demand for guitars in the late '50s. In this period Gibson enlarged their Kalamazoo plant and undertook a plan to offer a new line of economy models produced in the expanded facilities. The Melody Maker guitar, introduced in 1959, was one of these. Priced at only $99.50 for standard or 3/4 size, it was less expensive than the Les Paul Jr., which had previously been Gibson's lowest priced solidbody guitar. In the 1960 catalog the EB-0 listed for $195. while the EB-2 bass, a semi-solid thinline model with a body like the ES335 guitar, listed for $285 with sunburst finish, and $300 with natural finish.

The original EB-0 remained in production from 1959 through 1961, and during this period about 500 of them were made. In '61 its body shape was changed to the then-new SG style which had been adopted for the Les Paul guitars. Sharply pointed cutaways were the hallmark of the SG. However, despite this radical change in appearance the EB-0 retained the model name. (Gibson frequently changed the specifications of models without changing their names.)

The SG-shaped EB-0 remained in production from 1961 through 1972 and was offered in several variations during that period, including the EB-0F with built-in fuzztone, made from '62 through '64, and the long scale EB-0L, made from late '69/early '70 through 1972.