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1961 Gibson EB-3

1961 Gibson EB-3 bass, cherry finish

The first SG bass

The Gibson SG - in all it's variations, began in 1961. And this is one of the very first; a great early Gibson EB3, with fat neck, wide-spaced controls, nickel hardware, and bakelite neck humbucker cover. Listen to this bass

1961 Gibson EB3. Body detail1961 Gibson EB3. Humbucker pickup with Bakelite cover1961 Gibson EB3. Nickel bar bridge1961 Gibson EB3. Volume and tone knobs, input jack1961 Gibson EB3. Solid headstock with above-center crown inlay, and inlaid Gibson logo
1961 Gibson EB3. Body detail1961 Gibson EB3. Body detail1961 Gibson EB3. Nickel hand rest1961 Gibson EB3. Serial number on the back of the headstock, above Kluson 538 tuning keys1961 Gibson EB3. Solid headstock and Kluson 538 tuners

Short scale strings suitable for the EB3 bass

Rotosound RS77S Jazz Bass Strings Short Scale (Rotosound - Bass Strings - RS77S - Jazz Bass)

Fender 5250XL Short Scale Bass Extra Light Strings (Fender short scale Nickel Steel roundwounds)

Rotosound RS88S Trubass Standard Gauge Short Scale Strings (Rotosound - Bass Strings - RS88S - True Bass (Black Nylon))

Thomastik-Infeld JF324 Jazz Flatwound Short Scale 4-String Bass (Thomastik-Infeld JF324 Jazz Flatwound Short Scale)

D'Addario EXL160S XL Regular Short Bass String Set (D'Addario Bass Strings Nickel Wound Short Scale - Regular)

Model Gibson EB3
Year 1961
Serial Number 288**
Scale short, 30 1/2"
Body Solid mahogany body. Approx dimensions 17" long, 13" wide, 1.37" thick. Total body length 41".
Neck One-piece mahogany, set neck. Rosewood fingerboard. 18° (17°?) headstock angle
Frets 20
Width at nut 43mm
Weight 3.7kg
Dating a vintage Gibson bass guitar can be tricky in some cases, but for this early EB3 it is actually a simple matter. The potentiometers and serial number both date to 1961, and it has all the period correct hardware for 1961...

An early EB3

Gibson produced almost 15 thousand EB3 basses over the 18 years of production (1961-1979); two thirds of which were shipped between 1969-73. It took a while to gain popularity, with just a tiny fraction (just 132 EB3s) shipped in the first year. (See the full Gibson EB3 shipping statistics).

1961 EB3 features and components

This bass has all the typical early 1961 features and is typical of the EB3 shown in the 1962 and 1963 Gibson catalogues. Starting at the top: inlaid Gibson logo, with open o and b and dotted i. The inlaid crown inlay on the headstock is raised above centre, (rather than being centered a little later), and the headstock angle seems to be 18°; although it is hard to measure this angle with precision. Gibson guitars at this time had a nominal 17° angle, and it may be that 18° is within normal variance.

The bridge is the nickel two point bar bridge, which would have been fitted with an under-bridge string mute, though this part is now missing on this bass. The screws in front of the bridge are still present. Another part often missing is fitted to this bass; the nickel hand rest. Later EB basses had the same rest, but chrome-plated. The neck humbucker has a black bakelite cover; this was originally metal-plated, as was the surround of the bridge pickup, but this was very poor-wearing, and finding these with any real amount of plating on them is rare. Finally, the tuning keys are Kluson 538 type, as fitted to Gibson basses throughout the 1960s.

1961 Gibson EB-3 wiring loom, installed in the bassWiring

The picture on the right shows the wiring loom. Three pots are identical; Centralab 500K audio taper, part number BA811-1053, all dated week 39 of 1961 (September/October). The neck pickup tone pot is different; 250k part BA811-1831 and is dated week 18 of 1961 (May). Click the image for a larger version, and a circuit wiring plan.

John Birch modification

At some point in the 1960s/70s this bass was modified to a left hander, by luthier John Birch. Birch was famous for his work on the instruments of Slade, Deep Purple etc, and a decal with his name was applied to the back of the headstock. The John Birch changes have all been reversed now, but included a left-handed nut, different tuning keys and an intonatable bridge.

1961 Gibson EB3 with John birch customisation; lefty nut, intonatable bridge and new tuning keys. Note the John Birch decal on the rear of the headstock

Listen to this bass
Circuit image
More about the EB3 in general


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There are 2 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
SWLABR Comment left 14th August 2012 12:12:31
A stunning bass. I'd really love to get hold of one like that again. I had a 61 EB0 that I added a bridge pickup to. Great wide neck. Sounded incredible, even without the tone choke. Played incredible too. Stolen from my pickup years later. Theres really something special about the oldest Gibson EBs, even the late sixties ones aren't the same.
DJWard03 Comment left 2nd September 2012 06:06:07
I'm looking for a black (or silvered) plastic pickup cover for an early EB3. Does anyone make a replica, or is finding one on ebay my only hope. I've been watching for months now. Anyone have one for available?

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