Vintage Guitar - July 2018 - open - 58
COLUMN The (Way) Back Beat
Adam Faith and the Roulettes, 1964.
derbird aficionado - believes mahogany creates
a special response in many vintage Gibsons
regardless of their pickups or scale length.
Watt's modern signature bass, the Reverend
Wattplower, carries stylistic echoes of the EB-3.
Another spin-off is its barely remembered
Epiphone cousin, the Newport Deluxe. Introduced in mid '61 at $285, it was listed only two
years and fewer than 120 were produced. It was
not pictured in the catalog, simply mentioned
as an option to the single-pickup Newport
alongside six-string and fuzz-equipped versions. The Deluxe was gone by the September
'63 price list, supplanted by the Embassy Deluxe - a long-scale Thunderbird spin-off. The
Deluxe had the same symmetrical double-cut
body and 30" scale as the Newport, with the
small humbucker added at the bridge. It did not
have the four-position rotary knob or choke,
just a three-way pickup selector.
By the end of the '60s, the EB-3 was perhaps
less-elegant than when it started life, but it
was far more popular. With annual sales in
the thousands instead of a few hundred, it
appeared to have finally caught on. Like the
SG, the EB-3 went through design changes
to simplify production as the decade wound
on, which continued into the '70s. The
original deep-sculpted/coutoured body at
times became not much more than a slab of
mahogany with the edges rounded off. Several
variations on the neck joint came and went,
and hardware showed a number of variations.
Still, the instrument's basic character survived.
By '72, the quirky slot head modification disappeared as EBs underwent their most dramatic
overhaul yet. Responding to the perception that
the deep sound was a liability Gibson moved the
large "mudbucker" pickup to the middle of the
body, positioned more like Fender's Precision.
The '72 catalog promised "powerful humbucking pickups... with greater treble response."
It also gained a laminated maple neck with a
longer, solid headstock mounting heavier tuners, which did nothing for balance. Soon after,
sales began to slip.
At the same time, a new 34"-scale cousin
debuted - the EB-4L. It looked from afar like
a long-scale EB-0, but had changes under the
hood. Responding further to the "muddy"
complaints, Gibson created a new pickup which
combined their bass humbucker with the offset
Fender precision unit. This had a separate coil
for each string housed under a single large cover
with offset poles, paired with a three-way lever
switch offering different tonal options. "Gibson's
new solidbody basses really do your thing...
packed with cutting power," the company
promised, but the EB-4L lasted in the catalog
only a couple years, with just over 1,000 shipped.
Finally, after years of dwindling sales, the
EB-3 and EB-0 were let out to pasture by '79.
Though stragglers were still being shipped, by
that point their sales peak was years in the past.
Since then, EBs have remained a four-string
curio, beloved by some but ignored by most.
There has never been a correct reissue, though
Gibson currently offers the SG Bass - a shortscale variation with block inlay and simplified
controls sans Varitone. A long-scale Epiphone
EB-3 still carries the flag in the budget line;
the original pre-'66 has become a sought-after
collectible, still the Cream Dream machine 50
years on, despite - or perhaps because of - its
idiosyncratic design "faults."