A new adventure begins...
I honestly cannot recall when it struck me, but I leapt out of my hotel room bed and wrote it down so I wouldn’t forget it. I was once again out on tour, this time across Europe, schlepping a BBb tuba and my Eminence Bass. I was headed to the airport in the morning and I’d had a flash of an idea.
It had been almost 15 years since I’d responded to some guy named Gary’s posting that I had put up on a bass players chat list. I’d asked if anybody had come across a travel electric upright bass that was really worth a damn. My band had reached the sort of level where air travel was going to be the mode of transport and I had nothing but expensive horror stories shipping my $600 bass in a $3G flight case and paying extra for the pleasure of having it arrive damaged. Gary noted from my tour schedule that I was passing by a shop that had one of his basses for sale and bade me to check it out. I did, and I was completely knocked out by it. (And if you are reading this, you know exactly what I’m talking about.) I gladly bought it and made it my main traveling ax. However, I was still getting hit with oversize and overweight charges, which kind of nullified the very reason you get a travel instrument. From talking to baggage porters and airline counter folks, I realized that the only way to get your gear on a plane safely was to not stick out - to have it look just like the normal kind of bags they see every day. I found that golf bags fly with no oversize charges. If the Eminence could be made to fold up somehow, it would handily fit in a stock hard sided golf bag carrier.
I shared these ideas with Gary who was, as it turns out, very happy to get feedback from actual touring musicians and recognized the problem immediately. After batting back wacky ideas and much independent brainstorming, Gary came up with the detachable dove-tail joint neck block that makes the detachable Eminence possible. Now the bass flies for free and incognito. I played the hand built prototype for many years and then was lucky to beta test the production models manufactured by Christopher. After quite a bit of initial static (and quite a few snickers), the sound, playability and ease of transport of the detachable Eminence won over nearly every serious bassist I ran into. Bluegrass legend Marshall Wilborn played mine at IBMA’s conference and promptly put in an order, as did globe-trotting Stu Brotman of Brave Old World who commissioned a 5 string model. The detachable neck Eminence Bass is now ubiquitous on stages around the world and in every imaginable style of music where a string bass is found. It is the most influential product, besides my music, that I have ever been lucky to be involved with and it literally swells my heart every time I see one onstage.
That brings me back to my jumping up out of bed. You see, it’s many years later and the nature of air transport has changed here in America quite a bit, becoming less musician friendly all the while. Further cash strapped airlines are looking for any way to boost the bottom line. It would just be a matter of time before they started charging oversize on the golf bag carriers too. And I had heard anecdotally about guys getting charged when TSA inspectors revealed, right in front of the ticket counter, that there was something other than golf clubs in the case. It was time to think proactively.
Was it possible, dare I even think it, that the Eminence could fold up even smaller? Small enough to fit in a standard hard-sided piece of luggage? Can the - it’s hard to even write - can the fingerboard come off? That’s what I wrote down on the hotel envelope. When I called Gary, he didn’t even blink. “Let me think on this.” Which is, not coincidently, precisely what he said to me when I commissioned a detachable neck. Just recently he called me to say “I’ve got it.” I can’t wait to see what he came up with.
Details to follow soon, so check back often.