1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Early popularity of Gibson/Fender basses?

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Zuhzuhzombie!!, Dec 10, 2008.

  1. Zuhzuhzombie!!


    Jun 4, 2008
    Just kinda looking for a history lesson here.

    I suppose Rickenbacker was around then too.

    But in old videos, and I mean really old videos, it's either something like an upright or it's a Fender.

    Any reason why Gibson got a cold shoulder? I know they caught on a bit in the sixties. Jack Bruce used one tons, but most of my favorite players from back then were pretty much Fender (John Whetton, Hugh Hopper who has gone strictly Peavey now).

    General pop bass history posts would be welcomed here.

  2. RickenBoogie


    Jul 22, 2007
    Dallas, TX
    Fender was the first electric bass, the Precision. That accounts for much.
  3. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    Gibson/Epiphone hollowbodies were popular basses with the British Invasion.
    Ric basses didn't really become popular til the 70s, when they were very popular.
  4. Barkless Dog

    Barkless Dog Barkless to a point

    Jan 19, 2007
    If you look back Gibson EB-3 & EB-2's was used heavily in 60's to 70's rock with bands like-

    Just a few off the top of my head-

    David Bowie
    Wishbone Ash (tbird)
    Jethro Tull
    Suzie Quatro
    Ozzy & The Blizzard Of Ozz
    The Animals
    Lynard Skynard (Tbird)

    I believe that in the 80s, the bass sound changed to more of the forefront, with clearer, brighter sounds & slap, tones which early Gibsons did not possess. The Tbird probably comes closest to that sound along with the Maple Gibsons of the lat 70's. Gibson refused to follow the Fender formula for which they suffered and were unaccepted by the majority. Then the active high fi sounds of Alembics, MM came in that doomed them, till recently when that "vintage" tone became cool again. Look at Justin Meldal Johnson.

    Gibson tried during the late 70's & early 80's, but never caught on so they kind of gave up it seems.

    The JC is the last really good bass they have come out with in recent memory and that was an Epi.
  5. RED5


    Jan 14, 2008
    Suffolk County,NY
    I can fall back on my own experience with this one.....Gibsons were in a word? Expensive. Compared to Fenders, they also came across a tad overwrought. I mean this as a compliment. They were pretty, and well made and nice to look at, but when I went to buy? I went with what I could afford, thinking that someday..I'll get that really nice looking Gibson. As it happened? that 70 Pbass out lived my desire to go upscale. Imagine that.
  6. Zuhzuhzombie!!


    Jun 4, 2008
    Can you recollect the general price difference between a P and whatever Gibson offered?
  7. Baryonyx

    Baryonyx Banned

    Jul 11, 2005
    Marathon Man
    I guess it was just down to the jazz bass sounding better!
  8. KPAX

    KPAX Banned

    Mar 22, 2005
    Gibson got punked by Fender for the 50's and 60's. Fender developed the P-bass in the 50's then quicky refined it to near perfection and released the Jazz shortly after. Those two basses are incredibly balanced, versatile instruments that span Motown to Live at Leeds to Elton John; Hendrix to King Crimson to James Taylor to Jaco.
    The Gibson EB series were limited by short scale (except for the later -L) and the crazy muddy neck humbucker pickup. Gibson continued to "refine" the EB series in the 70's by basically wrecking what was good about them (sleekness, action, looks and quality) and keeping all that was bad (short scale, pickups). Jack Bruce popularized what I consider the best EB - the mid-60's EB3 which had that cool bridge pickup. The T-bird was a more versatile bass but its acceptance was slow - maybe it looked too long and radical. The Ripper and Artist basses (70's) were really great but by then Gibson was way deep in Fenders shadow. All that time and for decades after, the P-bass and Jazz stayed the same because they've been near perfect since the beginning.
    Here's another factor - by the early 70's, players became aware of how Entwistle got his great twangy, growly sound: Rotosound Roundwounds (the first available roundwounds), which he helped develop. Those strings sounded great on Fenders and brought out a whole new dimension to their tone but on the Gibson EB, and especially the inexplicibly mass-produced EB0, you couldn't even tell the difference. That muddy pickup buried the tone.
    Opposite to Gibson, the Rickenbacker 4001 really took off with the advent of roundwounds. The 4001 was around in the 60's and sounded good with flatwounds on Beatles (and other) albums but in the early 70's players like Chris Squire and Roger Glover put roundwounds on the 4001 and the sound was RADICAL. Where the Gibson EB buried the roundwound tone, the Rick ACCENTUATED it and Rickenbacker shot up in popularity. Of course, Geddy Lee was also there with radical Rickenbacker/roundwound tone from the mid-70's onward.
    It's funny to me how slow the bass manufacturers were to catch on to roundwounds. This makes me feel old but I remember when ALL basses were sold with flatwounds on them. Roundwounds had revolutionized the tone of electric bass and created a windfall for Fender and especially Rickenbacker and they didn't even realize it. I got a job at the Rickenbacker factory when I was 18 in the late 70's (after all the British prog, during the heyday of Rush) and they were shipping 4001's with flatwounds! In fact, they were DISCOURAGING roundwounds, saying they will eat up the frets (which they do), etc. Players didn't care, the first thing you did was throw away the flatwounds. We wanted the tone. The designer of the 4001 hadn't been around since the early 60's and Rickenbacker's management didn't really know why they were suddenly selling so many 4001 basses in the 70's after selling relatively few in the 60's. All they knew was there were some famous guys in Yes, Deep Purple, Genesis, Rush, etc. that popularized them. They hadn't made the roundwound connection. It's funny. They were riding pure dumb luck.

  9. Zuhzuhzombie!!


    Jun 4, 2008
    Can't stand a T Bird.

    Take your hands off it and the headstock hits the ground.
  10. iamthebassman


    Feb 24, 2004
    Endorsing Artist: Phantom Guitars, Eastwood Guitars
    And then snaps off.
  11. GeneralElectric


    Dec 26, 2007
    NY, NY
    Some corrections.
  12. RED5


    Jan 14, 2008
    Suffolk County,NY
    Actually as I worked for Sam Ash at the time? I paid $175 (Employee price) for my custom color P in it's gig bag. It was that off whitish color, and I immediately put a white PG on it so it looked real Jimi!. the Gibs were in the $500 dollar range as I recollect, and the Rics were pretty much not on our shelves at the time. We did have a Peter Tork/Monkees signature Gretsch though. that one was a real board. Mind you, I haven't done the cash conversion but I was lucky to get that price, and the Gibsons were also at employee rate. Does anyone know how that translates to 2009 $$$$?
  13. Baryonyx

    Baryonyx Banned

    Jul 11, 2005
    Marathon Man
    And then you realise it sounded awful!
  14. Zuhzuhzombie!!


    Jun 4, 2008
    Let's go by 1975 time.

    $175 in 1975 would have cost $667.47 in 2007, the latest year on the calculator.

    $500 in 1975 would have cost $1907.04 in 2007.

  15. RED5


    Jan 14, 2008
    Suffolk County,NY
    What he said. Also Gibson tried to catch up with the Long Scale EB's in the early 70's They just didn't have the voice with that big ol' thumbsucker p/u. I personally passed on Rics because they seemed too delicate for lack of a better word. You could drive nails with a P bass (London Calling) and still be in tune, but you could bend notes on your hip with a Ric. Not for me. They were really beautiful works back then with the checkerboard binding and the flat nameplates. Shoulda/coulda/woulda......
  16. Barkless Dog

    Barkless Dog Barkless to a point

    Jan 19, 2007
    Glen Cornick -

    With Wild Turkey

    I read that Pete did play a thunderbird in UFO, but I was thinking of Golden Earring with Rinus Gerritsen. He used an EB-3 for a time and used it on the song Radar Love.

    "Leon Wilkeson used a P-bass"
    looks like a non reverse T bird here?

    Chris Squire


    I am not saying thats the only basses they used but they certainly did use Gibsons and played on a lot of classic rock songs. They have their place in rock history. Nobody can take that away. Yes, Fenders outnumber Gibson's probably 100 to 1, but it does not mean they have nothing to offer.
  17. thesteve


    May 28, 2007
    San Diego, CA
    Interestingly, I was talking to a music shop owner locally a few months ago and he was telling me that during the days when Fender really dominated the bass market (the 50s and 60s), their guitars were generally considered to be vastly inferior to what Gibson had to offer.
  18. Fender guitars were much cheaper than Gibsons back in the day. If you were a Gibson dealer in those days, you had to combat the price hurdle when competing with Fenders. Fender also used a lot of high profile endorsers...everybody from Eldon Shamblin to Dick Dale.
  19. Glenn Cornick also played an EB-2 and EB-3. In 1972 I saw him with a Rickenbacker with his group, Wild Turkey.

    Entwistle of the Who used a Thunderbird for awhile.

    Allen Woody of Gov't Mule used a T-bird a lot.

    Felix Pappalardi of Mountain used an EB-1.

    Greg Lake (Emerson, Lake, and Palmer) used a Ripper in the early 70's.

    The bass player in Nirvana used an RD Artist, getting into the more modern era.

    Gibson's of the 50's and 60's were short scale basses (30.5") and I remember there was a lot of prejudice expressed toward the short scales and things said like they had no sustain, they were thumpy, couldn't intonate them (which was a function of the Gibson bridge design, not the neck scale.

    But there was one clear advantage---an example from my high school days from 1970-73 when I had an EB-2. In addition to having a reputation for being able to improvise like nobody's business, the word was (through the grapevine) that I was the "fastest" bass player in the area. The other players were on Fenders.