The EB-3 is a real classic sixties bass. From it's introduction at the Summer NAMM show of 1961, until the very last few instruments shipped in 1979. Jack Bruce, the bass player with Cream is famous for his EB3 bass playing in the mid to late 1960s, and it was also used by his friend Felix Papilardi of Mountain, Chris White of the Zombies, Bill Wyman of the Rolling Stones and Andy Fraser of Free. Peak production years were 1969-1971, with around 2000 guitars shipped in each of those years. It really was a flagship model throughout the 18 years of its production.
The sixties basses were solid mahogany with one piece necks. This design evolved, going to a three piece neck with split headstock and finally a three piece maple neck, but still with a one piece mahogany body. This was the big-brother to the single pickup EB0; the extra bridge pickup on the EB3 granted greater tonal possibilities, and consequently this bass found favour with many late sixties and early seventies musicians.
Like most vintage Gibson basses, the sound is characterised by the deep mellow tones of set mahogany necks, short scale (30½ inch) and the very heavily-wound Gibson EB neck humbucker. More about the Gibson EB bass pickup and Gibson bass pickups in general.
The neck pickups of two Gibson EB3's; the actual coil unit did not change significantly over the period of production, but it's cover and means of mounting did. Left: the bakelite-covered 1961 EB3 pickup has no means of height adjustment; right: by 1970 (this example is a 1972 EB3L) the pickup had a black platic surround allowing it to be raised or lowered relative to the strings.
A selection of EB3 bridges, from (clockwise, from top left) 1961, 1965, 1969 and 1968. The EB3 bridge pickup always had a metal cover, and (unlike the neck pickup) was height adjustable from the beginning, i.e. they had the black plastic surround only later added to the neck pickup. This surround was silvered in early examples. Note the difference between the nickel plated hardware of the 1961 bass and the chrome of the rest.
EB3 controls consisted four pots (a volume and tone for each pickup) and a 'chicken head' varitone switch. The four settings were: neck pickup only, both pickups, bridge pickup only, neck pickup with tone choke.
1960s EB3 necks were typically single piece mahogany (left), briefly changing to three-piece mahogany, before ending up three-piece maple (right). The 1960s necks were somewhat fragile, and breaks/repairs where the neck meets the headstock are commonplace. Note the serial numbers placed at the top of the headstock. Basses produced after 1970 also had the phrase 'MADE IN USA'.
Thanks to Fly Guitars.com for the following clips. Files are approximately 150kb, and each clip features the introductory 4 bars of rescue me (Fontella Bass) played on the EB3, and recorded directly into a computer sound card. My favourite is the last; listen to that rumble!
position 1, treble turned to 0
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