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1940s Gibson Bass

Discussion in 'Basses [DB]' started by TroyK, Jul 19, 2012.


  1. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    I'll fill you all in on more of this story later, but the short version is that this bass belonged to my uncle(s) and it's largely responsible for my initial draw to the bass. I haven't started researching it yet and obviously it's not currently in playable condition, but I wanted to share the photos and get impressions and opinions on it.

    Look forward to hearing from you all, especially Molly and Jake, both of whom, I think will have some thoughts on this bass.

    Troy
     

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  2. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    More photos
     

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  3. E.P. Miller

    E.P. Miller

    Nov 17, 2008
    Nashville
    Gibson produced basses for a very short time and therefore they are somewhat rare. Epiphone basses were hot sellers during the period when Gibson absorbed the company, and I think it was purely a business decision to continue producing Epiphone basses and halt production on the Gibson labeled basses.

    The rarity combined with the Gibson logo seems to drive the price up from purely a collector's perspective. Having played a couple of these basses over the years, I feel that the increased cost does not equate to a better playing or sounding bass than similar Kay or Epiphone basses that were being produced at that time. Tonally, they are quite similar.

    It's been suggested that some of the basses were prototyped in Germany, and that some carved versions made it to America. I have personally never seen or played a carved Gibson bass.

    Cool bass.
     
  4. MollyKay

    MollyKay

    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    Hey Troy…first off Congratulations on the bass and keeping it in the family. That is a very cool thing and adds to the vintage vibe.

    This would be a Gibson bass manufactured some where between 1939 and December 1941. Gibson made both Gamba and Maestro shaped basses (much to my surprise). As you can see the finish has been stripped but the over all condition is really quite good. The individual Kluson chrome tuners are correct for this bass. While I have only seen and played one Gibson in person, I do get a fair number of e-mails for information on Gibson because of their 1950’s purchase of the Epiphone Company. I place these basses in the same category as an Epiphone and feel they were made a slightly better then a Kay. While there are some that have German writing inside them on the tag, it would be logical that Gibson imported a few German basses to study and copy at the beginning of their production.

    Gibson introduced a full line of violins, cellos and basses in 1939 to which Epiphone fired back with five models of ¾ upright bass (Epiphone never made violins but Gibson did). The tag on the inside looks identical to the ones I have seen. In my opinion you have a great project bass that you should restore and play the snot out of it. Some folks feel the voice of a Gibson bass is slightly over built and heavy. Of the players that have contacted me most all are very happy with their Gibson bass and several have owned them for 30 years or more.

    I have not researched the Gibson bass but I have enough information that I really should add a page to our website with the little bit of knowledge I do have. There are not many of these basses out there. I am unsure if they assigned serial numbers separately to the basses or to the entire violin string family consecutively. Much like Kay number basses and cellos consecutively.

    I would be interested in seeing more of the neck joint as it looks more German then American.

    Enjoy the journey and I hope you make it sing again…very cool! (And thanks for the PM page) :D
     
  5. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Thanks, Molly, I knew you'd have some insight. My cousin Russ, who may be following this thread, is the current steward of this bass. Neither he nor I are crystal clear about it's origins, we grew up with it being at our grandma's house. My mom had 3 brothers, Russ's dad and 2 others. They were all musicians and it's unclear which of them or which combination of them bought this bass originally. My guess is that whoever it was may have been the 2nd owner. '41 would have been a little early for them to have bought this and they usually didn't have any money back then, so it was likely a pickup from someone they knew, maybe even another relative. My mom says they had a band that, among other things I'm sure, played on the roof of the drive in theatre during intermissions. I'd love to see how they got this big Gibson up there.

    It was in my grandma's house for years and I ran right past her and upstairs many times trying to play at it. I'm sure that it is the single biggest factor in the fact that I play bass today. My dad and my uncles in general get credit for the fact that I play music at all. Family gatherings were jam sessions. Oddly I don't remember anyone ever playing this bass at any of them, but they all talked about it.

    Our Uncle Luther took it and did the stripping and maybe something else before he passed away and it's been with Russ since then. He and I are several states apart (he and the bass are in Texas), but are collaborating on finding him the right luthier to get her put back together so she can have the snot played out of her. ... of course we'll have to have a 6 month discussion about strings in there somewhere too. :)

    Thanks for your input, Molly. I knew you'd want to see her and have some knowledge about them.
     
  6. Steve Boisen

    Steve Boisen Your first second choice™ Supporting Member

    Dec 3, 2003
    Tampa Bay, FL
    Jay Leonhart has one. It used to belong to George Duvuvier and I had a chance to play it a few years ago when Jay was kind enough to let me sit in on his duo gig. He had just gotten it back from David Gage and it was a pleasure to play. Jay told me it was a prototype for Gibson's laminated basses, but I recall that it was made by a luthier in the US, although I could be mistaken about this. Maybe someone could e-mail Jay to confirm this.

    Kolstein had a carved Gibson prototype too, but I don't see it on their website any, although they do have a laminated Gibson bass.

    - Steve
     
  7. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    Some neck and neck joint photos to follow. Doesn't look to me like it broke, just separated.
     

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  8. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    More
     

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  9. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    More Photos
     

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  10. TroyK

    TroyK Moderator Staff Member

    Mar 14, 2003
    Seattle, WA
    And the scroll

    Looks like it's had a repair somewhere in it's past.
     

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  11. james condino

    james condino Spruce dork Supporting Member Commercial User

    Sep 30, 2007
    asheville, nc
    There are three of those in my local area that I've seen. All are ply and all have that three piece laminated neck. One is in very similar condition to yours and the other two are functional. The voice is your average heavy plywood bass sound, but if I recall the necks had some heft to them that was nice. Value wise, they tend to trade and show up every so often at the local vintage instrument shows for about the same price as a Kay.

    Get that thing back together and in use again!

    j.
     
  12. dukeorock

    dukeorock Owner BNA Audio Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Authorized greenboy designs builder/Owner of BNA Audio
    That looks so cool! Just bought a 1948 Epiphone...can't wait to pick it up and try it out!
     
  13. MollyKay

    MollyKay

    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    Congrats on the Epiphone. :hyper: Once it is in your care please e-mail me the serial number, serial number location and model number and I will catalog it in the Epiphone database. Thanks!
     
  14. dukeorock

    dukeorock Owner BNA Audio Supporting Member Commercial User

    Mar 8, 2011
    Nashville, TN
    Authorized greenboy designs builder/Owner of BNA Audio
    You got it! Need to have it delivered to Nashville from Milwaukee first :)
     
  15. MollyKay

    MollyKay

    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    Does not look broke to me; it is a pretty clean joint.

    Can one of the board luthiers identify the neck joint? It is not like a Kay, Epiphone or AS. I have seen the neck block and neck joint on all three of those brands. They all have slightly different versions of a dove tail joint. This Gibson is different. I would like to know what type of joint this is and its origins. This bass looks like a good candidate for a modern removable neck conversion. :bag:

    As james mentioned, the three piece neck is common to the Gibson’s I have seen. A three piece neck was also used on the very earliest Epiphone’s (#103, #122, and #125) and on some early Kay’s as well. It seems in those early days before WW2 this market was very competitive and manufactures were copying and coming up with one ups man ship daily.

    Great thread…thanks!
     
  16. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Molly, that's a regular mortise and tenon as used on European basses. Its a much better way of mounting double bass necks. With the French dovetail (Kay and American Standard) you have to leave a space in the neck block. This is one of the major reasons that Kay necks break through the heel so frequently. I have a '52 S-8 in the shop right now with a broken heel and I'm going to convert it to a mortise & tenon.

    Gibson and other manufacturers were laminating mandolin and banjo necks with ebony and fibre shim stock before the first world war: its only natural that they'd extend the practice to their basses.

    And while we're talking things technical, double basses have 'Gamba' corners (as in viola da gamba) or 'Violin' corners (as in, um, violin)! ;)
     
  17. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
  18. Well, provenance.

    Troy, good luck with this one. The absence of a button will be an issue to overcome. When I reset the neck on my King, whose button was sawn off in a fit of sundazed shade tree lutheirie many years ago, I had to resort to replacing the old bolt through the neck butt to prevent the heel from kicking up under tension.

    Do I see a bolt through the heel, perpendicular with the fingerboard?
     
  19. MollyKay

    MollyKay

    Sep 10, 2006
    Southern PA
    Bass Hobby'ist
    That is so way cool. I had no idea Gibson made a gold bass like Kay did (or vise versa). If Gibson stopped production with WW2 and never resumed this would be a pre-war bass with a 1950’s paint job? We still own one of the two Kay TV-1 basses we had with the Les Paul Gold finish. We plan to restore it to original gold finish. We found a source for the bronze powder to use in the finish. Seeing this gold top Gibson makes me want to get the TV-1Kay restored.
     
  20. Jake deVilliers

    Jake deVilliers Commercial User

    May 24, 2006
    Crescent Beach, BC
    Owner of The Bass Spa, String Repairman at Long & McQuade Vancouver
    Hey Wendy, if you need some, I have a stash of old bronze powder, etc. around here somewhere. ;)
     

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