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Chat about Equipment Info
 #60933  by philsaam
 Mon May 18, 2009 2:42 pm
Larry --------Austier-I cant think of another word that fits ---wish I could hear how sweet she sounds --thankyou for going to the trouble to post your bass---its personal and its private to you - like my basses are to me ---thankyou for being a great guy---a good friend -Tom said Jack was going to get in touch with me -I hope to direct him here -maybe we can start up a little story tellin of sorts ----thought I would pay my respects to all --its Abalone season -be careful out there---save us the shells -----phil
 #131943  by furguscustom
 Sun Sep 01, 2013 5:31 pm
Sorry to dig this thread back up but I was suprised it ended so ebruptly. I was searching the web for pics of Phil Lesh's Irwin bass on images and found the pic of Phil saam's irwin bass. Anyway I am just in the beginning stages of building a bass of this design and found this thread very interesting. Wish could find more pics to work with but I think I got a good idea for my design.
Thanks.
 #132051  by Mandoborg
 Fri Sep 06, 2013 1:54 pm
Phil has become a dear friend and is one of the nicest people you could ever have come into your life. We've talked for hours about what it was like back 'in the day' as he has first hand knowledge of that bay area lutherie scene. He has not only told me some great stories, he's also introduced me to some of my heros growing up like Frank Fuller and Larry Robinson. This bass should be credited to Larry Robinson as much as Irwin from the story that was relayed to me. Either way it is a fine speciman of the art at it's highest. It inspires one to reach higher.

Jim
 #152863  by Larry Robinson
 Sat Jul 09, 2016 5:39 pm
I have some modifications to post about the description of this instrument.

First of all, Phil Saam passed away last week at the age of 63, from complications of diabetes. He was a good friend and I'd known him since the mid 1970's when I started working at Alembic. Phil was a hell of a bass player and was in the Beach Blanket Babylon production in SF for several years as their bass player in the orchestra. I was pretty sad to hear of his death, but it had been a downward spiral for many years, and he was at the point where he couldn't even feel the strings under his fingers,so he had to give up playing. I hate to say it, but he is probably better off than having to go through more years of misery.

As far as the 5 string bass pictured here, Phil paid Doug Irwin several thousand dollars to make it, probably around 1970-71, and after ten years of no progress he finally took back what had been done with it and paid me to finish it. When I got it there was an uncarved neck blank with a fingerboard attached, but no peghead plate. The fingerboard was inlaid and fretted. It doesn't look like Doug's inlay work, but I'd hazard a guess that he may have paid Bruce BecVar to do it. It's quite nicely done. There were two body halves in the typical Alembic sandwich style, but they hadn't been rounded over or carved and there were no maple plates in them or control access plates in the back. I did all that stuff at my shop in Cotati, including finish and a set of Alembic Series 1 electronics and sliding pickups, finishing around 1981.

Somewhere around 2000 Phil had Michael Dolan work on it, and the electronics were changed out, and the peghead had been broken, so that was replaced along with different tuners and a cheesy inlay that I would rather not be associated with, so the bass is really a Frankenstein, although it plays great and sounds killer.
 #153026  by moonliner
 Tue Jul 19, 2016 9:10 pm
Very sorry to hear of Phil's passing. Thanks for sharing those pictures. Both those instruments are gorgeous. I really love that early era of fine hand made instruments. You (Larry), Bruce Becvar, Doug Irwin, Frank Fuller, Rick Turner, and of course Ron Wickersham really started a beautiful thing. It's great to see most of you guys are still making great works of art!
 #154520  by moonliner
 Tue Nov 15, 2016 2:12 am
Greetings good people,

As you can see in the thread, Phil sadly passed on a little while ago.... I did not know him, but was a friend of a friend, and after a couple of miracles, I have the great honor of being the owner of the 5 string bass. (The 4 string was not and will not be available for sale). I just received the bass a couple of days ago and man, this is one beautiful instrument! A lot of love was put into this bass, starting with Phil's dream design, and everyone who worked on it. It needs a little TLC, but it plays great and has a big, full tone. The sliding pickups are a lot of fun to play with!
I have a keen interest in the early history of Alembic, so having something that was put together by all these amazing builders is really thrilling. As Larry mentioned, the original headstock logo was a little ruff. We don't know who did it, but we do know it wasn't Doug. I certainly don't want to come off as negative to the person who did the work.... it was ok, but it was not on par with the other inlay work on the bass. Since Larry Robinson ultimately finished the bass, I wanted him to be represented to his complete satisfaction. After much thought, I ultimately decided the bass deserved something more fitting to the art nouveau aspects of the bass, plus I wanted to add a personal touch to it. I am a collector of all things Peter Pan, so I found a nice line drawing from one of my old Peter Pan books and had Larry work his magic on it. He really did an amazing job, and I feel it really adds to the beauty of this gorgeous instrument. I feel very fortunate to have this historic and beautiful bass in my collection and look forward to many happy years making music with it.

Image