1973: Introducing The Gibson Grabber and Ripper Basses

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1973: Introducing The Gibson Grabber and Ripper Basses

Original Article Written for Bass Guitar Magazine

Back in 1973 Gibson introduced not one, but two new and distinctive basses to the market, The Ripper and The Grabber. Both basses may have been modest options in terms ok looks - available in limited colour options with no decorative inlays and controls and pickups mounted on the scratch-plate, but the Gibson Grabber and Ripper were quick to become a two of Gibson’s most iconic basses.

Both basses introduced an all-new body shape made from maple. Their contoured edge bodies vaguely echoed the SG, whilst their offset horns were clearly reminiscent of other popular makes of that era. The Grabber switched to alder in 1975 and likewise, the majority of Ripper basses manufactured in 1975 also had lighter alder bodies. The Ripper then switched back to maple in 77.

The Grabber featured a bolt-on neck with a metal back plate a four-screws – also comparable to Fender basses, whereas the Ripper featured a set-neck (through-body) construction. The Grabber had a V-shaped headstock like the Gibson Flying V, while the Ripper featured the more traditional Les Paul style headstock.

The Ripper was firstly available in three colours options, natural (with a maple fingerboard) and black and tobacco sunburst (with ebony fingerboards). Whilst the The Grabber was available in wine red, ebony, natural, walnut and white finishes – all with maple fingerboards.

Focusing on the electrics, Andy Baxter says:

“Bill Lawrence designed the pickups for both basses. The Grabber had a distinctive adjustable pickup, which provided plenty of tonal variation. Later, The Gibson Grabber G3 was introduced, which featured three (non-adjustable) single coil pickups mounted in the neck, bridge and middle positions. Its three-way switch meant that the pickups could be activated as neck & middle, bridge & middle, or all three at once. The Ripper came equipped with two humbucker pickups, known as "Super Humbuckers", a four-way pickup selector control and a passive midrange control, making it an extremely versatile bass with an tremendous amount of clarity, which wasn’t generally something Gibson basses were known for”.

The Grabber predominantly achieved its fame after Gene Simmons from Kiss became a player. Other notable players included Mike Dirnt from Green Day, back in the 90’s ‘Dookie’ days. More recently, Jeremy Davies (ex-Paramore) can be seen using a candy red G3. The Ripper was used by Krist Novoselic of Nirvana, who also used a Gibson RD Artist and a Thunderbird bass.

Andy Baxter stocks a number of Gibson Grabber and Ripper Basses, amongst other vintage Gibson basses. Pictured (above) is a 1974 Ripper and a 1982 Graber G3 – both black with ebony fingerboards.

Below is a quick video of London Bass player Luke Capon demoing a 1982 Gibson Grabber Bass in a rare Teal Blue finish. This is a fine example of the last year production of the Gibson Grabber Bass, 1982. This was the only year that Gibson offered this rare metal flake, teal blue colour.