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Gibson 5-string Les Paul bass guitar: History?

Thomas Bonnett

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In the late ‘90s I received, directly from Gibson Customer Service, the bass pictured here. This was a “service recovery” gesture by Gibson after a particularly-cringeworthy repair experience with a different bass. This guitar is stunning. Pictures don’t do the finish justice. It’s a “ten top” with a flame and depth that’s indescribable. I was told at the time that this bass was owned by none other than Les Paul’s own bassist, who for whatever reason returned it to the factory. Whether this is true or not I can’t say.  Note that I reached out via email to Nicki Parott, who played bass with Les Paul beginning around the year 2000, asking if she had any insights but she didn’t reply.

I find myself wanting to know more about the history, uniqueness and value of this guitar. I reached out to Gibson Customer Service twice this year and both times, when providing the serial number (91007780), the representatives insisted this is a one-off Tobias-brand bass. Clearly it’s not, and whether this is due to incorrect records at Gibson or my own failed translation of the serial number, I can’t say. I’m inclined to believe the error is Gibson’s since an online serial-number lookup reveals a manufacturing date of April 1997, which is spot-on.

During my most recent call to Customer Service the rep told me to email pictures of the bass to service@gibson.com for further investigation. This was five months ago and I received no response. (I also filled out the online Service form, and again: Nothing.) Can anyone tell me more about this bass? I have found similar instruments online, but nothing identical to this. Most similar basses have lesser-quality finishes. Five-string versions seem rare, at least of this quality. 

I’m a bit disappointed that Gibson, probably the most recognizable instrument brand in the world, apparently doesn’t check its Customer Service email or website form. I’m hoping someone is willing to go the extra mile to investigate the history of this unique, perhaps one-of-a-kind, instrument. Thanks.




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