Old School: 1959 Gibson EB-2 Bass

Eric Fortaleza with his 1959 Gibson EB-2 Bass

When our Instagram friend Eric Fortaleza posted a picture of his beautiful 1959 Gibson EB-2 Bass, we had to ask him to share his story with us.

In this edition of Old School, we get the scoop. Here’s the story…

How long have you owned it?

Since Christmas 2013. I decided to buy myself a Christmas present.

How did you come across it?

When it comes to vintage and classic instruments, Sydney has only one place that lives and breathes vintage guitars: Sunburst Music, Coogee NSW (run by Douglas Clarke).

I noticed it a few times hanging on the wall, and I fell in love with it the moment I plugged it in.

Stock or customized? Give us all the specs!

Everything is stock except that the original Banjo Tuners were changed to traditional-vintage clover tuners. It came with its original case as well.

Any special characteristics?

My favourite feature that I love about this bass is the “Baritone-Switch” or as Gibson called it the “Vari-tone” switch. This switch is like a massive sub-bass boost control. I love that tone so much that I always keep it on. Strung with LaBella flats and the occasional foam mute, this bass has NO CLARITY… And I love it!

What’s your favorite story about the gear?

I’m imagining back in 50s and 60s when bass amps didn’t offer a wide range of low frequencies. The switch compensated vintage amps, like the Fender Bassman, and it gave vintage bass amps their much needed bottom end frequencies. With more modern bass amps, like my trusty Aguilar amps and speakers, the bottom end explodes with this bass. I remember doing a bass solo in a little venue in Bondi Sydney. I was using my small Aguilar DB210 and as I was soloing, the glass casings for the lights, the walls and the roof shook. The EB-2’s tone doesn’t really cut through an audience or a band. I feel it’s like a giant warm blanket trying to envelop everything around it.

Any notable bassists play the same instrument/use the same gear?

Oteil Burbridge (he uses a 1969 EB-2) (named Tubby).

Tim Lefebvre (he uses a 1967 EB-2).

Any special history or story behind this instrument who made it?

The EB-2 was considered to be a failure in terms of marketing and sales. It was discontinued in 1961, and resurrected in 1964. The production of these basses stopped in 1972. Gibson recently released a Midtown Bass and a 335 Bass, which I feel doesn’t really have the same vibe as the vintage counterparts.

Do you use it on gigs?

Yes I do! But when I do use it, it’s normally a secondary instrument. My work horse is my Fender P Bass. I use the EB-2 mostly for ballads, hip-hop grooves and songs that require an upright sound.

What else do you want to share about your gear?

I recently used this bass during a performance with David Ryan Harris. I played it for the songs “Shelter” and “Things That You Are”. I knew he had a 335 with the same color, so I decide to bring the EB-2 to match his guitar.

Any other vintage gear?

My #1: a 1963 Precision Bass in Sonic Blue. It is named “Neil” after the man who I bought it from, who sadly had advanced cancer.

What did we miss?

The original case of this bass is packed away. Whenever I do need to use it, every time I open it up, it smells like old people.

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a session bassist, songwriter and musician based in Sydney, Australia. I am available for gigs and recordings… haha. I am a lover of vintage instruments.

I am endorsed by Fender, Aguilar Amplification & Mono Cases. (no shame) (ever.. haha)

I often play with four of the best singers (that I know.. hehe).. named:

  • Jess Dunbar & Matt Price (also known as Jess & Matt)
  • Michael Duchesne
  • Glenn Lumanta

(This is just a little shout out to them… love you guys!)

You can find me on Facebook, Instagram and Youtube.

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 protected].

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Share your thoughts

  1. Make a video with this bass please! I love those original bakelites. Played an early Epiphone Newport with one years back that just murdered.

  2. Splendidanomaly

    It’s all in the foam.

  3. Anaughtybear

    “No clarity” accurately describes every Gibson bass I’ve ever seen. You have to respect people who work through that bronze age hardware and mud-buckers.

  4. Steevo

    Only bass I regret selling, my 1968 Gibson EBO with slotted headstock. It too was all bass and no treble.

  5. I have a 65 Guild Starfire bass that looks just like the Gibson. Bought it new and played it through two B15 Ampegs with flip top and dual 15’s in each back in th he 60’s. Still play it periodically out.

  6. Ronn Roberts

    “My favourite feature that I love about this bass is the “Baritone-Switch” or as Gibson called it the “Vari-tone” switch. This switch is like a massive sub-bass boost control. I love that tone so much that I always keep it on.”

    The “sub bass” tone is the sound of the bass with the switch off. Turning it on cuts the low-end and boosts the mids.