The Epiphone Eb 1 Bass, then known as the Electric Bass, was first marketed in 1953 in response to the runaway success of the Fender Precision Bass. Rather than using a body styled after an electric guitar, the EB-1 was shaped to resemble a double bass, and even had false f-holes painted onto the top of the body. Production of the EB-1 ended in 1958, when it was superseded by the EB-2 and the later EB-0. The Electric Bass was renamed as the EB-1 at this time.
The Epiphone Eb 1 Bass was reissued twice; once in 1968, and again in 1999. The 1968 reissue deleted the false f-holes. Other changes included standard right-angled tuning machines, and the addition of a chrome bridge cover. This reissue was discontinued in 1972. The 1999 reissue, by Epiphone (a subsidiary of Gibson), was manufactured in Korea. This version of the EB-1 uses a more cost-effective bolt-on neck construction.
Despite its relative unpopularity among players, the Epiphone Eb 1 Bass is prized among collectors for its historical value. It is not uncommon for original EB-1s to fetch prices of over $4000 US dollars.
The Epiphone Eb 1 Bass featured a solid mahogany body with raised pickguard, and featured a 30.5″ scale set neck rather than the 34″ scale of the Fender Precision Bass or the 41.5″ scale of the 3/4-sized upright bass, which was the scale favored by many upright bassists of the time. The pickup was mounted directly against the base of the neck, rather than the mid-body position used by the Precision Bass, giving the Epiphone Eb 1 Bass a deeper, but less defined tone than its rival. The EB-1 is fitted with planetary banjo tuners, rather than the right-angled tuners used by most other guitar and bass designs.
In order to appeal to upright bass players, the EB-1 featured a telescopic end pin that allowed bassists to play the EB-1 in both the upright and horizontal positions. False f-holes and purfling were painted onto the body in order to resemble the upright bass. The Epiphone Eb 1 Bass was only available finished with a brown stain.
This was the first electric bass from Gibson hence the name. However it was rechristened the Epiphone Eb 1 Bass after the introduction of the EB-0 in 1956. It was Gibson’s tradition of organising model numbers by their price that caused the EB-0 to undercut this designation because it was cheaper!
I guess I could complain about the stark white color of the plush lining that Gibson is now using inside their hardshell cases – as I’ve mentioned in earlier reviews, I suspect it will tend to get dirty over time and may not look as nice after a few years as it does now… but again, that’s a minor quibble. The Canadian-built case is rugged and well-constructed, fits of felix pappalardi bass sound the EB Bass like the proverbial glove Epiphone Eb1, and at this price, it’s nice to see a solid case included with the bass instead of a gig bag. Sonically, this is a really versatile bass. Rolling off the tone control and using the neck pickup results in a darker tone that is similar to what you’d hear on an old Motown record, while opening it up reveals much brighter and more articulate timbres that can really cut through; especially when using the bridge pickup. While the EB Bass can get big, beefy tones, it’s by no means limited to them. Both pickups have a lot more output than you might expect from passive pickups – even when coil-split for single coil sounds. Various combinations of the two pickups can easily be blended with the separate volume controls, and the coil tapping works wonderfully, giving you even more tonal options.
The Epiphone Eb1 is well-built, extremely comfortable to play, balances well (it doesn’t fight you when worn on a strap), and I think the new shape looks cool in a retro/modern sort of way. It’s definitely something a bit different than the earlier EB series basses from Gibson, and yet not too far out in left-field either. If players can get past some of the myths and misconceptions and give the EB Bass a fair try, I think a lot of them are going to be quite impressed with it – I know I was.
In 1970 I heard a hard rock band called ‘Mountain’ which just blew me away. The band consisted of an incredible lead guitarist by the name of Leslie West. Corky Laing commanded the drums like no other. Steve Knight on keyboards added subdued textures to the loud, “in your face” mix. Finally my hero, the late Felix Pappalardi. Felix had a degree in music from the University of Michigan but unable to find a suitable employment conducting an orchestra, garnered fame as producer for the supergroup trio ‘Cream’. In 1969 Felix met Leslie and formed ‘Mountain’.
Felix’s bassmanship and finesse on the Epiphone Eb1 was unlike anything I had heard before. His tone was unique and sounded like a buzz saw which complemented the bombastic sounds emanating from Leslie’s Les Paul Jr guitar. Felix developed his sound by playing a rather unpopular Gibson bass called the EB-1 (simply, the Electric Bass One). Rumour has it that Felix had this violin shaped short scale (32″) bass modified by Gibson with some sort of electronic circuitry (or perhaps just different capacitors) which when driven by his Sunn amplifiers, gave it that unique buzz saw sound. The violin shaped Gibson EB-1 should not be confused with the violin shaped Hofner Bass played by Paul McCartney in “The Beatles”. The Epiphone Eb1 can also be seen in action being played by the phenomenal Jack Bruce in the 2005 ‘Cream’ reunion DVD at Royal Albert Hall in London.
Looking far and wide I was able to locate an EB-1 in London England which a friend of mine was willing to pick up for me but I also found one in Lansing Michigan. I just had to have it so I scraped together my savings, my salary, yet being childless, I couldn’t offer my first borne – I made the purchase.I am the proud owner of a 1957 Gibson Epiphone Eb1 in pristine condition with all original parts.
The neck isn’t tiny, but it’s not a gigantic monster either. I suspect players with a wide variety of hand shapes and sizes will like it. Epiphone Eb-1 has a rounded profile, and it’s nice and thin from the fingerboard to the back of the neck (I measured .812″ at the first fret, .905″ at the 12th fret) and not too narrow or wide – the neck on the review unit is 1.650″ wide at the nut, and it widens out a bit as you move up the fretboard, measuring 2.185″ wide at the 12th fret according to my digital calipers. The satin nitro finish on the mildly-figured maple feels really good, and you can fly around this neck quite easily. Best of all, there were no noticeable dead spots to be found anywhere.
The neck of Epiphone Eb-1 violin bassfeatures a volute on the back where it meets the headstock. Volutes have been used on some Gibson models in the past (particularly from 1969 to 1981), and generally their purpose is to strengthen the headstock / neck joint to make it less likely to break. The headstock is angled back a few degrees, but it appears that there is no second piece of wood glued on to form the headstock; rather, it’s a continuation of the same single piece of maple that forms the rest of the neck. The face of the traditional Gibson “open book” shaped headstock is satin black, and adorned with a simple Gibson bell shaped truss rod cover and a gold Gibson logo.
The nut of Epiphone Eb-1 is Corian, and once again I must point out the excellent Plek assisted setup job on this instrument – it plays fantastic right out of the case, with great intonation, excellent buzz-free action, and no need for adjustments of any kind. Gibson’s set-up work on all of the instruments I’ve tried lately has been simply superb.The new EB Bass comes equipped with two humbucking pickups. There are two volume controls (one for each pickup) and a master tone control. No pickup switching is available; instead, the pickups can be used individually, or combined in various ratios by adjusting their individual volume controls.
The pickups in the Epiphone Eb-1 Bass, which were designed by Gibson luthier Jim DeCola, are really beefy humbuckers. They feature Alnico V rod magnets and have a thick, rich tone with great fundamental and lots of bottom; but there’s also great definition and brassiness to the mids and highs, and the rich bottom isn’t there at the expense of the rest of the sonic spectrum.