TOBIAS
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TOBIAS
Instruments currently produced in Conway, AR. Tobias Guitars are distributed by the Gibson Guitar Corporation. Tobias Basses have been a division of the Gibson Guitar Corporation since January 1990. Instruments were previously produced in Hollywood, CA from 1981 to 1989, in Nashville, TN from 1990 to 2003, and in Korea for a while in the 1990s. Instruments have been produced in Conway, AR since 2003.
As related by luthier Michael Tobias, "Tobias Guitars was started in Orlando, Florida in April 1977. The first serial number I used was 0178 - January 1978. After 578, I went back to 179. My first shop name was the Guitar Shop. I sold that business in 1980 and moved to San Francisco to be partners in a short lived manufacturing business called Sierra Guitars. We made about 50 instruments. I left San Francisco in May of 1981 and started a repair shop in Costa Mesa, California.
I stayed in Costa Mesa for several months and then moved to Hollywood. The first California serial number was 240, and it was a solid mahogany 6-string guitar. The first South California number was 250. It was a mahogany LP junior style neck through, one of four made.
Tobias Guitars continued to repair instruments and build custom basses for the next several years with the help of Bob Lee and Kevin Almieda (Kevin went on to work for Music Man). We moved into 1623 Cahuenga Boulevard in Hollywood and after a year quit the repair business. We added Bob McDonald, lost Kevin to Music Man, and then got Makoto Onishi. The business grew by leaps and bounds. In June of 1988, we had so many back orders that we did not accept any new orders until the January NAMM show in 1990.
After several attempts to move the business to larger, better equipped facilities, I sold Tobias Guitars to Gibson on 1/1/90. The first Tobias Gibson serial number was 1094. At that point, Gibson was instrumental in moving us to a bigger shop in Burbank and setting us up with a great spray booth and dust collection system. We finally met So. Cal safety codes. Basses built during the 1990-1992 era were built initially by the same crew that had helped establish Tobias Basses as one of the most sought after basses on the planet. We added several people during 1990, and ended up with a great ten-man shop.
Business was still very good. We were not able to make anywhere near enough basses to fill the orders. Instead of trying to jack up production, we tried to get outside vendors to build for us. We had 110 Model T basses made for us by a very fine builder in New England, and then we got the Terada factory in Nagoya, Japan to make the Standard bass for us. This was and is a great bass, but the dollar-to-yen ratio killed the project. There were about 400 Standards.
Late in 1992, it was decided that in best corporate interests Tobias Guitars would move to Nashville. After much deliberation, no one from the original Tobias Guitars crew went to Nashville. The final LA Tobias/Gibson serial number is 2044. Despite Gibson's ownership of Tobias, all of the basses made up to 2044 were built by my regular crew. We also built about 60 basses that were not numbered or finished by us. Those would be the first production from Tobias/Nashville.
I left the company in December of 1992, and was a consultant for Gibson as they set up operations in Nashville. They had some trouble at first, but have since done a fairly good job making Tobias basses.
By contractual agreement, Michael's consulting agreement with Gibson had a one year non competition term. That ended in December of 1993. During that time Michael moved to The Catskills in upstate New York and set up a small custom shop. He started designing new instruments and building prototypes in preparation for my new venture, which would become MTD Basses,"(Biography courtesy Michael Tobias, February 22, 1996). In 2003, Gibson moved Tobias from Nashville, TN to Conway AR. For more information, contact Gibson or Tobias directly or visit their websites (see Trademark Index).

From Blue Book Publications:


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