He smashed the first bass guitar he ever owned, a crappy, duct-taped, hollow-body model, against the front of his high school gymnasium stage at the end of a morning concert. Pieces of the smithereened instrument flew in all directions. To put it mildly, the bass dissatisfied him.
But over time, Atlanta native Greg Curbow, who died Sat., Aug. 13, at age 48 of a brain tumor, became one of the industry's most respected designers and builders of custom, handmade bass guitars. Though he would make some with the traditional four strings, he often built them with as many as seven.
Atlanta bassist Mike Cady owns the first "extended neck" bass ever made by Curbow. Cady met Curbow in 1987 while teaching at Buckhead's Metro Music. When Cady bought a new Jay Ryan bass, Curbow was miffed. Cady promised to have Curbow custom-build his next one. The result was a fretless wonder with six strings and the equivalent of a 39-fret range.
"There is no other bass that sounds like that bass," says Cady, whose "everyday" bass is another Curbow with seven strings and 33 frets. "His craftsmanship is incredible, everything is right on the money. [The guitars are] works of art, so precise and clean" -- so perfect that Curbow would sometimes leave a deliberate imperfection he called a "beauty mark," to show that the guitar was not machine-made.
Curbow also shared this skill, teaching apprentices to build guitars and basses to his exacting specifications, and the Curbow School of Lutherie will continue as his legacy. "He wanted it to go on," says his widow, Margaret. "The school was his true brainchild and heartchild."