Gibson Les Paul Triumph Bass (score!)


Pawn shop bargains are still out there… you just gotta be REALLY, REALLY lucky.

When my band recorded our ‘Cane Trash’ album back in 2005, we lugged all our gear from Brisbane to Melbourne in Geoff’s little Ford Econovan. A 24 hour drive with 5 guys in a little van chock full of music gear is a great way to see this glorious country. And by ‘seeing this country’, I mean piss at the various road houses and service stations along the way and  sample their fine fried foods.

The studio we were recording in was Atlantis Studios, which is in Port Melbourne. I’d brought my trusty ’72 Fender P-Bass and recorded most of my tracks in a day. The last track was a new song ‘Pay Day For PeeWee’ that Dan & Ben had written in the studio. Fred and I quickly learnt our bits and before I went to record my track I spied a Gibson Les Paul bass sitting in the corner of the studio. Apparently some band had recorded the year before and left it there, so it had become a studio bass and been dubbed ‘The Magic Bass’ due to it’s huge sound. It had flatwound strings on it, a comfortable neck (very close to my Jazz necked P-Bass) and just looked awesome, so I thought ‘what the hell, I’ll try this’. I was pleasantly surprised with it’s sound, very full, almost double bass like but with clarity in there as well. The neck was a dream to play, so I did my bass track in one or two takes. Then I spent the rest of the 5 days in the studio drinking beers, eating pizza and mucking around on that Gibson Bass while the guys finished their parts.

When I got home I started hunting around for a Les Paul Bass, but soon found that a Les Paul Triumph was about $2,500 which was way outta my price range. I thought I’d be able to pick up a 70’s Ibanez copy, as they are fantastic basses (my friend Chris from Capital City in Perth has one), but they’re very rare and still go for around a thousand bucks anyway. So that was that. No Les Paul Bass for me.

A year later while I was at work I got a call from Geoff (singer in my band). ‘Hey Tone. I’m at Cashies and there’s a fretless Les Paul Bass here for 200 bucks. Do you want it?’ I figured it must’ve been an Ibanez copy and fretless basses NEVER sell so that would’ve been why Cashies were trying to get rid of it so cheap, so I asked Geoff to buy it and I’d grab it that night.

I turned up to Geoff’s with the 200 bucks and he handed me the bass. Straight away (being a guitar nerd) I knew that this wasn’t an Ibanez… it was a legit Gibson Bass. For one thing, it said ‘Gibson’ on the pickup. That’s a pretty good clue right there! Also, the finish was definitely nitro, not poly.


Then I flipped it and saw it was a set neck. Ibanez Les Paul basses where all bolt ons. This was definitely NOT a copy.


The headstock had had some major surgery done to it. At some point it had been snapped off, and all the cool Les Paul Custom inlay work had been shaved off. The repairer then sprayed the fixed headtock black and applied a fancy script letraset Gibson logo on it. I figured the guys at Cashies saw this and thought ‘not a Gibson’.  It still had the original trussrod cover on it, though.


The neck had been de-fretted at some point, which was a problem as I don’t play fretless basses, but Tym Guitars said they could refret it. A few weeks after buying this some bass player in a local funk band came into Tym’s shop and mentioned that he’d just sold his fretless Les Paul bass as he really needed the money. Oh well, it’s gone to a good home, dude.

What I like about these basses is that you don’t see them played by rock bands very often. Apart from Thunderbirds & Grabbers, bass players seem to stay away from Gibson basses. The main ambassador for the Les Paul Bass is Eddie Spaghetti from The Supersuckers. He’s been playing his beaten up early 70’s bass forever…

photo by photo graffiti.

At one point he approached Gibson to make him a Les Paul signature bass, but they declined, which is a shame. The new flat top Les Paul basses don’t have the mojo of the older arch top ones. It looks like Eddie’s hooked up with First Act now, anyway…


Anyway, my bass is off to Tym’s soon to get fretted (just in time to record our new album!) so I’ll post some before and after pictures when it’s done. I’m just going to leave the headstock as is for now as I just want to play the thing. I’ve since found out she’s pretty rare as the only made a very few in black (most were walnut or white). Maybe later on down the track I’ll restore her to her former glory. She deserves it.