Old School: 1969 Gibson Les Paul Bass
Emre Kayaalp reached out to me with one beauty of a bass – his recently acquired 1969 Gibson Les Paul.
According to the Wikipedia artcile on the instrument, the Gibson Les Paul bass “is a bass guitar first manufactured by Gibson in 1969, just after the relaunch of the Les Paul guitar in 1968.”
That bass didn’t sell well, and was replaced two years later with a redesigned and renamed bass, the Les Paul Triumph.
But for Emre, this bass is “the one”. Here’s his story behind the instrument…
How long have you owned it?
About one year.
How did you come across it?
I had been looking for one since I was a kid (more on that below). Never came across one that was just right. Found this one at a local guitar shop in Brooklyn, NY called Main Drag Music. As soon as I played it, I fell in love. The neck was wonky and the strings were dead, but there was something special about it. I could tell this was “the one.”
Stock or customized? Give us all the specs!
The bass is 100% stock. I took it to my trusted tech, Darrell Gilbert, to sort out the neck: the truss rod was maxed-out and the neck needed to be heated and re-set. He also did a fret level and dress, as well as a complete set-up. The bass now plays as it should: delightfully low, light, action. A real pleasure to play.
Any special characteristics?
The bass has some significant weather-checking, as you can see in the pics. The finish on the back of the neck has worn smooth. Feels terrific. Most important, the bass is very lightweight for what it is. Most Les Paul Basses (and especially the later Triumphs) are boat anchors. This one is light enough that it balances perfectly on the leg; no dive at all.
What’s your favorite story about the gear?
I played bass in the middle school band back in the mid-’80s. The band room had an old upright bass and a beat-up Gibson Triumph for us to use. The strings were dead, the action was mile-high, and it weighed more than I did. I can’t honestly say I liked it, but there was something about it that struck me as cool. Years later, I started looking for one. I was sure the right example would be worth having, even if the one I used to play was a dog.
Any notable bassists (other than yourself, of course) play the same instrument/use the same gear?
A couple of guys have been known to use the later Triumph bass: Paul ‘Guigsy’ McGuigan (Oasis) and Robert Kearns (Cry of Love) come to mind. But the only guy I know of with a first-generation Les Paul Bass like mine is Mike Watt.
Any special history or story behind this instrument?
It was designed by Les Paul himself as a companion to the Les Paul Personal and Les Paul Professional guitars. The intent was to make a bass specifically for studio recording. It featured low-impedance, humbucking pickups so it could go straight into the board without a DI. It was clearly built without regard to cost or weight. From what I’ve read, there was some debate about the scale length. They eventually built it with a 30.5” scale, which was probably a major contributing factor for its relative lack of popularity with players.
Do you use it on gigs?
I don’t really gig, so I haven’t had the chance to try it.
What else do you want to share about your gear?
This is a very versatile and great-sounding bass. I think people avoid them because think of short-scale Gibsons as muddy messes. But the Les Paul Bass has a very well-balanced tone with plenty of midrange punch. It takes a bit of time to get used to the EQ, but even traditional Fender-style tones are all there if you want them.
Any other vintage gear?
- 1956 Gibson Les Paul Junior
- 1956 Gibson Melody Maker
- 1966 Fender Jazz Bass
- 1974 Fender Jazz Bass
What did we miss?
I think the Les Paul Bass is an under-appreciated classic. While the Triumph is also cool, these earlier models hold a special charm. I hope other bassists will read this and try one for themselves.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m a 40-year-old doctor living and working in NYC. I’ve been obsessed with the bass since before I can remember.
If you own any vintage gear you'd like us to spotlight in "Old School", we'd love to hear from you! Drop us a line at email@example.com.