Prewar Gibson Upright Bass
History and model information

Updated August 2013
2013: Through my research on the Epiphone bass we became familiar with Gibson. Until now we did not own a prewar Gibson bass and were hesitant to add a page about it to our site. Now that we own a beautiful, pristine one-owner* Gibson upright bass, I am inspired to add information to the site for all Gibson upright bass enthusiasts.

Gibson introduced a full line of violins, violas, cellos and basses in 1939, and Epiphone fired back with five of ¾ upright bass models (Epiphone never made violins, violas or cellos). They built basses from 1939 until 1945 — or that’s what Gibson history states.

There were several models that went from all plain plywood to fancy hybrid carved tops. I am not clear on how many basses they made, but it can only be a few hundred. I have seen B125 and B135 in person. I have seen the violin shape and gamba shape; they used blonde and dark finishes. All have the distinct V-shaped tailpiece. Most all have had three-piece necks, individual Kluson nickel-finished tuners, and a paper label inside with vintage cursive writing.

What appears to be the only Gibson gold-top upright was made for Les Paul. It sold for $18,750 on 6/8/2012.

Most of this information comes from photos saved from the web, our own collected, photos and vintage print ads. We will add information as more is discovered — enjoy!
Gibson MODELS:

The following descriptions are taken from a November 1, 1939 flyer description.

Gibson makes ViolinsKalamazoo, Michigan

November 1, 1939New Prices Effective At Once

IMPORTANT! Here are new prices on Gibson Violins, Cases and Bows – also prices on the new Gibson Violas, Cellos and Basses

Prices subject to change without notice

Gibson Makes- BASSES
Bass - Regular Finish             $300.00
Bass - Natural Finish              $325.00
C-320  Bag                               $15.00

The following descriptions are taken from a May 1941 catalog description.

Gibson violin makers basses: A new complete line of basses, precision built with the graceful lines of a violin. Compare every detail inside and out; let your eye follow the violin-like curves, the high arching, and the beautiful hand finished scroll. Now play it- bow it- slap it- and listen! There is but one conclusion…A real “Violin Makers Bass” with a powerfully balanced tone.

All Gibson Basses are full three-quarter size, and are alike in shape and design.

B-125 BASS $125.00
Here is the Crackproof Gibson Bass especially arched to produce a powerful, well balanced tone. Spruce top; maple back, rim and neck; ebony fingerboard and tailpiece; flake grain bridge; individual machine heads; solid end pin; adjustable $1.00 extra; finished in rich antique brown.

B-135 BASS$135.00
Same as B-125 but made of woods especially selected for their beauty and texture to be enriched by the Gibson natural finish.

B-250 BASS$250.00
The top is precision carved from solid blocks of fine grained spruce, choice curly maple back, rims and neck. Finest ebony fingerboard and tail piece; selected flake grain bridge carefully shaped and finished by hand, individually replaceable machine heads; rosewood adjustable end pin; rich amber brown finish.

B-300 BASS$300.00
Same as B-250 but made of woods especially selected for their beauty and texture to be enriched by the new Gibson natural finish.

C-133 BASS BAG$9.00
Snaptite tan waterproof covert material with snap fasteners and leatherette binding; bow, music and string pockets.

C-320 BASS BAG$15.00
Heavy tan waterproof covert material with full zippers; leatherette binding and hood; bow, music and string pockets.


The interior paper label is still a mystery to me, more research is required. The paper label provides a B - and then a model number. The next three or four numbers I believe to be the month and year of manufacture, it is NOT the serial number. The number “1141” has come up more than once on an interior paper label. This is why I guess it is the month (11) and year (1941) of manufacture.  

On my bass there is (at least what I think) is a serial number die stamped in small numbers on the E side of the neck parallel to the fingerboard where the neck meets the body. So far my 1941 Gibson B-135 is the only bass I have observed with a die stamped number on the neck. I will be keeping my eyes open for more observation of serial numbers and expand this section as more is discovered.

Other Stuff:

Les Paul's upright: No serial number - Gibson custom gold finish from the 1950s with added microphone. Added Gibson logo to the front. This bass is featured on page 323 of Paul's autobiography.  

Sold $18,750 on 6/8/2012

Kolstein's Gibson description: Vintage and Rare GIBSON LAMINATE BASS VIOLIN Made in Kalamazoo, Michigan circa 1940 This Bass is one a very few Bass Violins that were produced by the Gibson Guitar Company. 

It is a sister Bass to the instrument that the Late George Duvivier played upon until his passing and that Jay Leonhardt presently owns and plays upon Three quarter violin cornered round back model. Top table is of medium spruce veneer. The back is moderately flamed maple veneer. The ribs are of matching character flamed maple veneer to that of the back table. The neck and scroll are original of plainer grain maple. 

The gears are Baker style individual brass tuning gears. The color of the varnish is deep reddish brown color. OBL 43-1/2" UB 21" CB 14-1/2" LB 25-1/2"

*A special thank you to Gregory Carlson for his historical Gibson documentation. With out his devoted stewardship of his uncle Marvin Kippur’s Gibson bass this pre-war Gibson website page could not have been developed.
Photos submitted by Gibson Bass owners: