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tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:21 pm
by TruckinThruTennessee
I love the sound Phil gets at the Fillmore West and Fillmore East shows in 69, I'm wondering can anybody tell me anything they know about that bass, I've read all the post concerning Phil's SG bass, but I'm not looking for any one thing I'm looking for just everything in general about that bass. also feel free to put anything you know about Phil 69 rig just so I can figure out how to get those tones a little easier. amplification, strings, anything at all will be greatly appreciated thanks in advance guys.

Thanks,
TruckinThruTennessee

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Mon Apr 14, 2014 12:50 pm
by zambiland
TruckinThruTennessee wrote:I love the sound Phil gets at the Fillmore West and Fillmore East shows in 69, I'm wondering can anybody tell me anything they know about that bass, I've read all the post concerning Phil's SG bass, but I'm not looking for any one thing I'm looking for just everything in general about that bass. also feel free to put anything you know about Phil 69 rig just so I can figure out how to get those tones a little easier. amplification, strings, anything at all will be greatly appreciated thanks in advance guys.

Thanks,
TruckinThruTennessee
Bass: Gibson SG (maybe EB-0, maybe EB-3, there is some debate)
Pickups: Hagstrom BiSonics with preamps. Probably similar to Alembic Blaster.
Strings: Pyramid Gold
Amp: 4 Fender Showmen with milspec 6L6 tubes. The ones to get are the Philips 7581As. NOS. It makes a difference. Back in those days, the crew used to go down to LA and go to military auctions and buy them by the palette. At some point I might try the 7581A reissues.
Speakers: 4 Sunn 200S with JBL D140s. They are actually identical to K140s except for the cones. K140s are an acceptable substitute to my ears.

That's the classic rig with the SG. However, in '69, it could be you are hearing the Starfire, which at that point was fairly stock with the addition of upgraded wiring and buffers built onto the bottom of the pickups powered by 9 volts. I'm not exactly sure when the switch over to the SG happened, but the earliest I can find a picture with any reliability is June 21st:

Image

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Tue Apr 15, 2014 10:27 am
by TruckinThruTennessee
Thanks so much! The albums I'm referring to are 2-11-69 at the Fillmore east and Fillmore west 1969 the extended album that Live/Dead was taken from I believe. That tone is just ringing in my head. Thanks again!

-TruckinThruTennessee

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:41 am
by zambiland
TruckinThruTennessee wrote:Thanks so much! The albums I'm referring to are 2-11-69 at the Fillmore east and Fillmore west 1969 the extended album that Live/Dead was taken from I believe. That tone is just ringing in my head. Thanks again!

-TruckinThruTennessee
Ah, those are both Starfire. You can see lots of pictures on the net from the Fillmore Feb/March gigs that Live/Dead was taken from.

It is a great tone, indeed.

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Tue Apr 15, 2014 2:04 pm
by Rusty the Scoob
Bass: Gibson SG (maybe EB-0, maybe EB-3, there is some debate)
My 2 cents on that debate: in 1960 an EB0 and EB3 were identical except that the EB3 had a little extra routing for the bridge pickup and a few extra holes in the control cavity for the extra knobs. They are otherwise identical, a 4-string, 30.5" scale neck stuck onto an SG body. To my thinking it makes absolutely no difference if they started with an EB0 and routed out a space for the bridge pickup or started with an EB3 and enlarged it to fit the Hagstrom.

My guess is they started with an EB3 though, since the extra pot holes exactly match the ones from the factory. I think if it had been an EB0 they would have just added pots any old place they wanted and there's plenty of room in the cavity for alternate placements. An EB3 was also only a little extra money and the band had plenty of funds in '69, although they also probably would have just bought whatever the local music store had as long as Phil liked playing it enough.

So Live Dead was the Starfire! I had been thinking it was the modded EB all these years. I've always sort of assumed they liked what they had with the modded Starfire (future Godfather) but wanted to do even more work on it, so they picked up a Gibson to stick the electronics into so he could keep playing it while they constructed the Godfather. But I have no actual proof of this theory, it just makes logical sense to me given the progression of both instruments: Stock Starfire > Starfire with Modded electronics > EB with the modded electronics from the Starfire > Godfather

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Tue Apr 15, 2014 3:59 pm
by zambiland
Rusty the Scoob wrote:
Bass: Gibson SG (maybe EB-0, maybe EB-3, there is some debate)
My 2 cents on that debate: in 1960 an EB0 and EB3 were identical except that the EB3 had a little extra routing for the bridge pickup and a few extra holes in the control cavity for the extra knobs. They are otherwise identical, a 4-string, 30.5" scale neck stuck onto an SG body. To my thinking it makes absolutely no difference if they started with an EB0 and routed out a space for the bridge pickup or started with an EB3 and enlarged it to fit the Hagstrom.

My guess is they started with an EB3 though, since the extra pot holes exactly match the ones from the factory. I think if it had been an EB0 they would have just added pots any old place they wanted and there's plenty of room in the cavity for alternate placements. An EB3 was also only a little extra money and the band had plenty of funds in '69, although they also probably would have just bought whatever the local music store had as long as Phil liked playing it enough.

So Live Dead was the Starfire! I had been thinking it was the modded EB all these years. I've always sort of assumed they liked what they had with the modded Starfire (future Godfather) but wanted to do even more work on it, so they picked up a Gibson to stick the electronics into so he could keep playing it while they constructed the Godfather. But I have no actual proof of this theory, it just makes logical sense to me given the progression of both instruments: Stock Starfire > Starfire with Modded electronics > EB with the modded electronics from the Starfire > Godfather

I think your progression is right on the money. I'm just not totally sure of the date when the Starfire with modded electronics went back into the shop and the EB made its appearance. There don't seem to be a lot of pictures from spring of '69.

Here's a shot from the Live/Dead shows, 2/27/69: http://www.gdao.org/items/show/831667

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Tue Apr 15, 2014 11:49 pm
by TruckinThruTennessee
Ah, would the rig still be the same? Just a different bass? The tone he has is very lead sounding yet still holds the groove behind Jerry's noodling. I really dig it.
Thanks again
-TruckinThruTennessee

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Wed Apr 16, 2014 12:37 am
by ugly rumor
Seems like I remember on the Festival Express DVD that Phil played the Gibson; wasn't that 1970?

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:41 am
by TI4-1009

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:13 am
by TruckinThruTennessee
Well that Alembic forum pretty much answered everything, thanks for that! Now I just have one question, Rusty, how did that SG bass of yours ever turn out with the buffers attached straight to the pups?

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:33 am
by Rusty the Scoob
Still in progress mostly due to my extreme laziness. :lol: I have the tailpiece made, but I still need to mount it, and cut down some spacers to mount the Dark Star pickups which weren't even rare when I started the project in 2009. Then I'm going to wire it up passive and see how it sounds before begging Waldo or somebody to build the buffers, or just put in one of Waldo's off the shelf buffers instead. Needs a few other things too, mounting the tuners, cleaning the corrosion off the frets, etc.

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Thu May 01, 2014 9:14 am
by mgod
Not sure if this was covered on the Alembic page. Phil's bass didn't have preamps in it.

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Thu May 01, 2014 11:35 am
by Rick Turner
Dan is correct. The discrete transistor emitter followers came into the picture with the Starfire, and were mounted directly on the pickups. Bear did the SG, Ron W. did the Starfire.

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Thu May 01, 2014 3:54 pm
by Charlie
My first bass back in the seventies was an Ibanez copy of a Gibson EB3. (Not sure if you would call this a law suit instrument but the body shape was exactly the same.)The short scale neck makes it easier for guitarists to play and it was definitely an instrument that favoured plectrum style players. I found it very hard to get a decent tone with my fingers although my rig was pretty rudimentary back in those days to. A year or two later I got rid of it to finance my first Fender bass.

Re: tell me all you know.... about Phil Lesh's SG bass

PostPosted:Fri May 02, 2014 9:39 am
by Rusty the Scoob
Bear did the SG/EB! He told Waldo that he didn't, although I didn't really trust his memory to be accurate 40 years later.

So there were no emitter followers on the SG/EB in this thread? That's good info, I've been wondering what to do with the electronics on mine, I have two Fred Hammon era Dark Stars that are definitely going in, but other than that I have no idea. Wanting to straddle the line between authentic and modern, I want that tone but don't mind if it's cleaned up a little and more reliable.