Grateful Dead Music Forum

A place to talk about the music of the Grateful Dead 

 #86908  by tigerstrat
 Fri Sep 17, 2010 1:05 pm
mgod wrote:I actually played Phil's EB in 78 when I was living briefly in Orange County (if you call that living). A guy nearby owned it, had bought it out of a pawn shop for $400. It was groovy. He said he'd contacted the Dead once he found out what it was and offered it back to Phil for the $400, but got a not interested response. I got the impression over the years that once Phil is over something, he's over it...
Seriously? The honest-to-god Bob Thomas-painted EB that had been MIA since '71?
 #86977  by mgod
 Mon Sep 20, 2010 9:34 am
It was 32 years ago, so I don't remember much. I do remember thinking that at the time I thought my brand new custom Alembic sounded way better. And that the paint job seemed kind of randomly placed, but was much prettier than I'd thought. There are one or two good shots of it that capture something of that. Susan put me in touch with him and some time later when I was rolling in money I thought I might try to buy it, but she had lost his name and number. He was a very nice person.

Soon after I'd thought to buy it Fred and I met and the whole Dark Star project began and I started using prototypes of those and realized that I could just build my own, with what I now knew the important stuff was. In the long run, the EB became my fave of Phil's sounds, although the Starfire after the big mod comes close behind. But I like the single coil Bi-Sonic thing that Fred has improved upon even more than the Alembic thing I've decided - (although after about 25 years, my Alembic became completely god-like, just amazing). I'll say about my modded EB-3 that it weighs nothing and sounds like it weighs a ton.

I think what I've learned about that era of mods since is way more important - I've been doing a kind of maniacal study of all this stuff for 37 years. My favorite of all those basses is Jack's sunburst Starfire, but they all have some things in common. It took a long of time, a few decades, of just listening to figure out what I was hearing and then I called Ron to jog his memory a bit and get confirmation of what my ears told me. I had a long talk with Jack about his Guilds and it was all kind of enlightening for both of us. The main thing is that these instruments were really passive, but that they used active impedance dropping. The tone shaping was all passive. There are very definitely recordings of Jack where you can hear the effect of the impedance change in his tone, but not any of my particular favorites. We see Jack has gone passive in the last 25 years. His original Alembic I've spent a bit of time with - I consider it the best bass ever made - but its electronics don't capture what's so amazing about it acoustically.

The fretless Guild that I received from Phil was according to Ron the first instrument he put an active circuit in, using the same old Bi-sonic pickups. By the time I saw it on Brady Street 4 years later it was just passive, no Darlington circuit in it anymore. I used it like that til the late 80s when I gave it back to RT to experiment with and he put his piezo/nylon string thing into it, and it became what it could always have been, which is resonant and singing. So that would mean that the sequence of mods, all done in 69, is my Guild, Phil's EB, then Jack's sunburst bass. But Bear and Ron had done work on Jack's gorgeous brown Starfire first and if Ron is right about mine, then that means the the brown SF was completely passive. I know its tone circuit was.

But really, the major big change in all this was strings. We couldn't get good short scale strings for 25 years. RT wanted to build my Alembic as a 32" scale, and I refused because in 77 you couldn't get anything good but long scale. Pyramids were uselessly inconsistent. It was Thomastik that made all this stuff work for me. None of this matters at all if your strings are crap and your hands suck. Jorma used to say, quoting one of his teachers: "Your left hand is what you know; your right hand is who you are." God knows what that means for the left-handed.

Oh yeah - also: Ron promised me a copy of the circuit from the EB if he ever finds it. But that conversation has gone on for more than a decade now. Not much hope there. Maybe I'll call him today. Bear was really into the Gibson Vari-tone for some reason, and so its most likely that the Varitone of Phil's EB had some custom values in it. That was the original thing that Bear and Ron put into Jack's brown Starfire, and every now and then Jack had Ron try out different values. I'm waiting for the sunburst Starfire to come back from Cleveland and hope to get inside it and see what Ron did there. No one remembers anymore, but its all still in there.
Last edited by mgod on Mon Sep 20, 2010 10:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
 #87428  by Rusty the Scoob
 Fri Oct 01, 2010 1:41 pm
Sorry I let this drop! So much great info here that it got a bit overwhelming. Also I haven't seen any progress pics from my parents lately... not sure what they're up to out there but I can't exactly crack the whip when I'm not helping at all. :lol:

If Ron could find the EB3's circuit, that would be amazing!

You have played some unbelievable basses and know some amazing people. :hail: Thank you for helping develop the Dark Stars with Fred - I have a pair in my reissue Starfire right now and it's a great bass. I have another pair going into my EB3 whenever my parents get done with it.