Jack Bruce | Cream | Gibson EB-3

Considered by many to be one of the most influential bassists of all time, Jack Bruce is someone that needs no introduction…but we’re going to give him one anyway. Ranked number eight in Rolling Stone magazine’s ‘10 Greatest Bassists of All Time’ list, winner of a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and an inspiration to the likes of Eric Clapton, Black Sabbath’s Geezer Butler and Pink Floyd’s Roger Waters, Bruce’s talent was – and still is – massively respected and recognised across the world.

Born in Glasgow to music-loving parents – his mother loved Scottish folk music whereas his father preferred jazz – Bruce originally trained to play the cello, and at 16 years old he won a scholarship to study cello and composition at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (where he later went on to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Music). However, at age 17, keen to explore the world and make his own money, Bruce travelled around Europe playing in various jazz bands, before returning to the UK and settling in London. It was here in 1962 that he joined Alexis Korner’s Blues Inc. alongside Charlie Watts, who, of course, later went on to become part of the Rolling Stones. A year later Bruce joined the Graham Bond Organisation with future Cream band member Ginger Baker, although after three years Bruce left the band as he found Baker’s drumming style “too busy”. However, in 1966 Baker approached Bruce about forming a band with himself and Eric Clapton. Bruce agreed – and just like that – Cream was born.

As well as being Cream’s bass player, Bruce was also the main songwriter and vocalist for the band. He penned many of the band’s hits including ‘I Feel Free’, ‘White Room’ and ‘Sunshine Of Your Love’ – which features arguably one of the most recognised and performed guitar riffs in history (written by Bruce, who was apparently inspired by a riff he heard at a Jimi Hendrix concert). Cream went on to experience tremendous success; selling 35,000,000 albums in the space of two and a half years and being awarded the first-ever platinum disc for the ‘Wheels of Fire’ album. At the band’s peak in 1968, Bruce made the decision to leave and focus on solo projects, which enabled him to combine his love of mixing rock, jazz and classical styles – and collaborations with Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, Kip Hanrahan and many others followed.

The Gibson EB-3 was launched in 1961, but it wasn’t until 1967, following the band’s debut album ‘Fresh Cream’, that Bruce picked up this model. From that point on, the EB-3 was his bass of choice throughout the Cream live tours as well as into the mid-1970s. There are many reasons why Bruce was hailed as one of the most talented bassists of all time, but the most notable has to be his fresh approach and unique style. Instead of playing bass guitar in the standard, usual way, he wanted to play it like a guitar – which enabled a whole new level of creativity. Bruce’s pioneering concept meant that bass lines could be melodic and contrapuntal as well as supportive – and the Gibson EB-3 was hugely instrumental in facilitating this. Its raw, piercing tone (complete with electronic modifications) and light gauge strings suited Bruce’s free-wheeling style and offered more opportunities for improvisation and creativity. What became known as the ‘Jack Bruce tone’ complemented (and often challenged) Clapton’s increasingly complex style in Cream’s performances and you only had to look at Bruce holding the Gibson EB-3 to see that he was something completely different and totally unique.

When he passed in October 2014, tributes from across the music world flooded in; Clapton described him as a “tremendous inspiration”, Geddy Lee said he was “one of the greatest rock bassists to ever live,” and Roger Waters stated that he was “probably the most musically gifted bass player who’s ever been”. In a statement released by his family at the time, he is described as an “all-around legend”. A simple, yet powerful sentiment – and we couldn’t agree more.

Looking to create your own style and walk your own path like Jack Bruce? Check out our latest selection of basses and find one that suits your groove.

Facts and links about Jack Bruce and the Gibson EB-3

  1. As well as winning a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006, Bruce was also inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993 (both as a member of Cream)
  2. Check out footage of the Cream Farewell Concert in 1968 here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_gC2V_nbK8
  3. The Gibson EB-3 bass was launched in 1961, which was a major year of transition for Gibson, which saw the company redesign the Les Paul and the EB-0 bass, as well as launch both the SG and the EB-3.
  4. Prior to joining Cream, Bruce was offered the chance to join Marvin Gaye’s U.S.-based band, but he turned it down because of his impending first marriage.
  5. According to JackBruce.com, Bruce, Tony Williams and Jimi Hendrix had discussed the idea of creating a dream group together, however, this never materialised due to Hendrix’s untimely death in 1970.