About Gibson Basses,
Without question Gibson is a world leader in building guitars, mandolins and other stringed instruments. When you think of acoustic guitars Gibson is one of a few brands that immediately come to mind as being the best quality big brand acoustics around. When it comes to electric guitars, two guitars are probably the most iconic guitars ever made. The first is the Fender Stratocaster and the second is the Gibson Les Paul. Gibson hollow bodies, like the ES-335 are also highly popular. And so is the Gibson SG.
But somehow, despite it’s incredible success with guitars, Gibson basses are much less popular for bass players. Without question the Fender Precision bass is the most popular bass ever made. But even while entering the market around the same time as Fender, and already being a well established company at the time Fender started, Gibson basses has never really been a huge force in the world of electric bass guitar. Perhaps this is simply because Gibson’s marketing gurus just never got it right to start with. In the early 50’s Leo Fender decided to make a bass based on the success of his early solid body guitar designs. He really hit the mark by designing something completely unique. It sounded good, played well, was easy to repair, and mostly bass players just got it. Even though it was radically different from the upright basses of the day, Leo’s design made sense to bass players.
Gibson, on the other hand, responded a few years later with a design that didn’t match the sound of the Fender’s, but more importantly it was confusing. Gibson tried to build a bass that would bridge the gap between the old and new paradigms. The first Gibson bass looked like a shrunken upright and even came with an endpin, so it could be played like an upright. Early electric bass players were probably confused by the designs of the early Gibson bass, but probably also saw the Fender bass as much more modern in appearance and its overall approach.
By the late fifties Gibson brought out another series of basses, this time modeled on their successful hollow bodied guitars. These Gibson basses were a good step forward, they looked liked guitars now, but from a sound perspective this still didn’t cut it. Gibson took it’s successful humbucker guitar pickup design and built a very large humbucker and placed it right up against the neck. The resulting sound gave the new bass’s pickup the nickname “The MUDbucker”. By the early sixties virtually all basses were Fender basses. So much so that bass players were called “Fender bass players” and record credits would list bass credits as, “John Smith – Fender bass”. Needless to say Fender had pretty much tied up the market.
Regardless, Gibson basses have still been popular and players like Jack Bruce with his Gibson EB-3 helped Gibson sales. But it wasn’t really until the seventies that Gibson started producing a few great sounding basses.
Today Gibson basses are part of a large pack of “trying to be number two” basses.
Still, there are lots of notable models and lots of interesting history for bass players.