Gibson produced its first electric bass guitar – the EB-1 – in 1953. With a shape that was inspired by upright basses and with false f-holes painted onto the body (decades before Paul Gilbert used the idea), the EB-1 was a rather simple instrument with a solid mahogany body, raised pickguard, and a 30.5” scale neck. It was a particularly “bassy” sounding bass, with its single pickup butted right up against the neck for maximum low end. It further distinguished itself from the early electric basses of the time with the addition of a telescopic end pin, easing the transition for upright players to the new electric instrument.

Although the EB-1 was innovative, it wasn’t until 1958 with the introduction of the EB-2 – featuring a shape reminiscent of its companion six-string, the ES-335 electric guitar – that Gibson really started to forge an identity as a bass company. The EB-2 initially shared the same pickup placement as the EB-1, and soon the model was augmented with a “Baritone Button,” a pushbutton for alternating between a deep, bassy rumble or a more midrange-present voice.

The EB-O followed the EB-1 a year later in 1959, initially with a body shape very much akin to the Les Paul Special, and again with a single pickup placed right against the neck. The spirit of this design lives on in the current LP Junior DC Bass. By 1961, the body shape had morphed into that of the SG, with pointy horns and a standard cherry finish (and with the lone pickup creeping down towards the bridge a little in some iterations). The SG shape proved quite successful and well suited as a bass, and it was with a twin-pickup Gibson EB-3 (with pickups right against the neck and right by the bridge) that Jack Bruce used to cut many Cream classics. The spirit of the EB-3 lives on in the current SG Standard Bass.

The SG outline also was used as the basis for the SB series in the early ’70s, a budget-priced model with two pickups and with cheaper-to-produce, plate-mounted controls.

Perhaps one of the most distinctive Gibson bass outlines is that shared by the Grabber, G3 and Ripper models introduced in 1973. A double-cutaway instrument, the Grabber featured a pickguard with a one pickup, mounted in a channel through which it could slide backwards and forwards This allowed players to achieve both neck and bridge pickup sounds (although the range of motion was limited to a space of a few inches around the middle of the body, rather than right up against the neck or bridge). The G3 was the same basic bass as the Grabber but with three single coils in humbucking configuration, along with a three-way selector switch for neck/middle, middle/back and “all-on” pickup options. The Grabber was given the reissue treatment in the form of the Grabber II limited edition model in 2009, while the G3 enjoyed a second wave of popularity thanks to Green Day’s Mike Dirnt during the band's “big break” days.

The Ripper, initially made of maple, then briefly alder in 1975 before switching back to maple in ’77, featured a pair of “Super Humbucking” pickups designed by the legendary Bill Lawrence. The current Ripper II model features a pair of redesigned humbuckers wound for Gibson exclusively by the Seymour Duncan Custom Shop in California.

A few interesting Les Paul basses were designed in the 1960s and ’70s. The first Gibson Les Paul Bass, from 1969, featured similar low-impedance pickups and electronics to those favored by Paul himself in his guitars. Suzie Quatro was a notable user. In 1973 the semi-acoustic Les Paul Signature Bass offered an entirely new design, part Les Paul, part ES-335, with a single Super Humbucking pickup and an attractive gold finish. This model has long been used by Karl Kippenberger from New Zealand’s Shihad, and it served as the basis for the Epiphone Jack Casady model, the signature bass for the Jefferson Airplane legend. Meanwhile, the more traditionally “Les Paul” bass and its Epiphone cousin are favorites of Robert Sledge of Ben Folds Five.

Of course, no talk of Gibson basses is complete without mention of the Thunderbird Bass. The Thunderbird, the bass version of the Firebird guitar, is available in various models, including traditional-themed Gibson and Epiphone versions as well as the four and five string Thunderbird Pro models, which feature seven piece walnut/maple/walnut/maple/walnut/maple/walnut neck-through construction with custom active electronics. Meanwhile, Nikki Sixx of Mötley Crüe and SIXX:A.M. has both Gibson and Epiphone signature models.

The latest signature instrument to join the Gibson bass family is the Krist Novoselic Signature RD Bass. Styled after the RD bass introduced in the 1970s and used by Novoselic on Nirvana’s Nevermind 20 years ago, the model features a maple body and neck, and Seymour Duncan Bass Lines STK-J2n and STK-J2b Hot Stack pickups.

And that’s not all! There are other gems throughout Gibson’s history – the Allen Woody Rumblekat, the Epiphone Viola, the Flying V and Explorer basses and even a bass version of the M-III guitar.