Vintage Vault: 1958 Gibson EB-1
Gibson’s first solidbody bass guitar.
Gibson introduced its first solidbody bass guitar in 1953. Named simply the Electric Bass, it was Gibson's response to Fender's Precision Bass, which was released in late 1951. With its elegant violin-shaped solid mahogany body and short-scale neck, Gibson's EB was constructed very differently from the Precision.
The 1956 Gibson catalog reads: “With 20 frets on a scale length of 30 1/2", the Gibson Electric Bass has the same range as the standard bass 'fiddle'—and the same pitch. The Gibson Electric Bass has an adjustable end pin, and also a shoulder strap, and thus may be played either in a standing position or like a guitar."
from the Precision.
The Electric Bass had one very large single-coil pickup in the neck position, which delivered strong, deep tones. Even though it was reasonably priced, the Electric Bass did not sell well and was discontinued during 1958 in favor of the semi-hollow EB-2 (1958), and the double-cutaway solidbody EB-0 (1959).
The bass pictured here has most of the typical features expected of an EB from between 1953 and 1958. These include, as stated in the 1958 Gibson catalog: “Solid mahogany, violin-shaped body and carved top. Mahogany neck with Gibson Adjustable Truss Rod construction. An important factor in the outstanding performance of this instrument is the Gibson-designed metal bridge, adjustable for string height and lengths."
To accommodate two different playing positions, the solid mahogany body sports both a strap button
and retractable endpin.
The headstock has a Gibson logo set in pearl inlay and two banjo tuners on each side. The only unusual characteristic is that this bass with a 1958 serial number has a factory stock humbucking pickup—not used until 1959. The pickup was developed by Seth Lover to be used on the EB-0 and EB-2. It was the same size as the original enormous single-coil, but was split into two coils. A possible explanation is that this bass was nearly finished and stamped in 1958, but for some reason, not completed until at least 1959. The Gibson Shipment totals for 1958 indicate that 45 EB-1s were shipped that year. It's difficult to know whether this bass is one of those, or one that slipped through later without being counted.
The EB-1's banjo tuners give the headstock a sleek look when viewed from the front.
The 1958 list price was $235, plus $45 for a hardshell case. The current value for one in excellent all-original condition is $5,000.
Sources for this article include: Gibson Electrics—The Classic Years by A.R. Duchossoir, The Fender Bass: An Illustrated History by J.W. Black and Albert Molinaro, Gibson Shipment Totals 1937-1979 by Larry Meiners, and Gibson's 1956 and 1958 catalogs.