Come see this instrument and all of the others that have been spotlighted on the Wall of News in the Dusty Strings Exhibit at Skull and Roses this year.

Ken Smith Custom BT-6 Six String Bass Guitar built for, owned and stage played by Phil Lesh of the Grateful Dead.  Serial Number 89608.  Completed 12-8-89.

By:  Jason Scheuner

The bass debuted onstage with the Grateful Dead on Dec. 27, 1989 and was played exclusively through June 17th 1990.  

Materials: 5A Grade Western Tiger Maple top. Macassar Ebony back, Mahogany body core, 5 piece Aged Hardrock Maple and Morado neck thru bookended by Walnut Laminate. Walnut laminate between Flame Maple top and Mahogany core. (5 piece body wings) Maple laminate between the Mahogany core and the Ebony back. Quartersawn Macassar Ebony fingerboard. Scalloped Brass nut, Ken Smith 24K gold plated solid Brass bridge, Mother of Pearl top and side dot Inlays and Headstock logo. Black Phenolic plastic Headstock overlay.  34” scale length. 10.75  pounds. 24 frets. Ken Smith custom tuning gears.  Dunlop Straploks. (always played with tan Ken Smith locking strap)

Photograph © Jay Blakesberg

Additional Notes:

  • One of a Kind Custom instrument with 5A Grade Western Tiger Maple Top and Macassar Ebony Back( only Macassar ebony back ever done by Ken Smith at that time)
  • This instrument featured a much wider fingerboard and string spacing than anything Phil played previously, and he continued to play the wider fingerboard/wider spacing to this day.  This Instrument led Modulus to have Geoff Gould, Joe Perman, and Rich Hoeg design and build the wider body Quantum 6 TBX with 34” scale, and 26 frets.
  • Still has the strings on it from the last time it was played by Lesh
  • Played by Phil on his 50th Birthday
  • Almost every show played on this bass has been released.
  • Featured on 14 of the 17 Tracks on “Without A Net”
  • Played during the first performance with Branford Marsalis on 3-29-90

 

Confirmed Dates Played:

  • 12-27-89 w/Clarence Clemons
  • 12-28-89 w/Willie Green
  • 12-30-89 w/ Airto Moreira
  • 12-31-89 w/Bonnie Raitt, Taro Hart, Airto Moreira *Big Boss Man, *Midnight Hour
  • 2-25-90+ *The Last Time
  • 2-26-90
  • 2-27-90 w/Michael Doucet and Beausoleil
  • 3-14-90+ *Loose Lucy
  • 3-15-90+ Phil Lesh’s  50th Birthday , *Revolution, *Easy to Love You
  • 3-16-90+ *Black Throated Wind
  • 3-18-90+
  • 3-19-90+
  • 3-21-90+
  • 3-22-90+ *Hey Jude,  *Believe It
  • 3-24-90+ *Mind Left Body Jam
  • 3-25-90+
  • 3-26-90+ *Dupree’s Diamond Blues, *Big Railroad Blues
  • 3-28-90+ *High Time, *The Weight
  • 3-29-90+ w/Branford Marsalis
  • 4-1-90+
  • 4-2-90+
  • 4-3-90+
  • 5-5-90 *The Race is On
  • 5-6-90
  • 6-8-90
  • 6-9-90
  • 6-10-90
  • 6-15-90
  • 6-16-90+
  • 6-17-90 (Brent’s daughter on stage for I Will Take You Home)

w/Guest = sit in appearances with other artists
*Break Outs of songs not played before or in a long time
+  =  Entire show or portion of show on a commercial release

 

Photograph © Rich Saputo

Discography: 

  • Feb 25, 1990-1 live song-Without A Net, Grateful Dead, 1990
  • March 14, 1990-1 live song-Without A Net, Grateful Dead, 1990
  • March 14, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (The Other One), Grateful Dead, 2014
  • March 15, 1990-Live- Terrapin Station (Limited Edition), Grateful Dead, 1997
  • March 15, 1990-1 live song-Without A Net, Grateful Dead, 1990
  • March 16, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (box set), Grateful Dead, 2012
  • March 18, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (The Other One), Grateful Dead, 2014
  • March 19, 1990- Live-Spring 1990 (box set), Grateful Dead, 2012
  • March 21, 1990-2 live songs-Without A Net, Grateful Dead, 1990
  • March 21, 1990-1 live song-Weir Here: The Best Of Bob Weir, Bob Weir, 2004
  • March 21, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (The Other One), Grateful Dead, 2014
  • March 22, 1990-2 live tracks-So Many Roads (1965-1995), Grateful Dead, 1999
  • March 22, 1990-1 song-Garcia Plays Dylan, Jerry Garcia Band / Grateful Dead, 2005
  • March 22, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (box set), Grateful Dead, 2012
  • March 24, 1990-1 live song-Without A Net, Grateful Dead, 1990
  • March 24, 1990-13 live songs-Dozin’ At The Knick, Grateful Dead, 1996
  • March 24, 1990-1 live song-Postcards Of The Hanging, Grateful Dead, March 2002
  • March 24, 1990-6 live songs-Spring 1990 (box set), Grateful Dead, 2012
  • March 25, 1990-8 live songs-Dozin’ At The Knick, Grateful Dead, 1996
  • March 25, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (The Other One), Grateful Dead, 2014
  • March 26, 1990-6 live songs-Dozin’ At The Knick, Grateful Dead, 1996
  • March 26, 1990 Live-Spring 1990 (box set), Grateful Dead, 2012
  • March 28, 1990-1 live song-Without A Net, Grateful Dead, 1990
  • March 28, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (The Other One), Grateful Dead, 2014
  • March 29, 1990-1 live song-Without A Net, Grateful Dead, 1990
  • March 29, 1990-1 live track-So Many Roads (1965-1995), Grateful Dead, 1999
  • March 29, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (The Other One), Grateful Dead, 2014
  • March 29, 1990-Live-Wake Up To Find Out: Nassau Coliseum, 3/29/90, Grateful Dead, 2014
  • March 30, 1990-3 live songs-Without A Net, Grateful Dead, 1990
  • March 30, 1990- Live-Spring 1990 (box set), Grateful Dead, 2012
  • April 1, 1990-3 live songs-Without A Net, Grateful Dead, 1990
  • April 1, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (The Other One), Grateful Dead, 2014
  • April 2, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (box set), Grateful Dead, 2012
  • April 3, 1990-Live-Spring 1990 (The Other One), Grateful Dead, 2014
  • June 16, 1990-Live-View From The Vault III (CD), Grateful Dead, 2002
  • June 16, 1990-Live-View From The Vault III (DVD), Grateful Dead, 2002
Photograph © Bob Minkin

 

Sources: Jason Scheuner, Stu Nixon and Deadbase, Andy Logan, Ken Smith (including recorded 80 min conversation with Ken Smith about all three basses and his experience with Phil Lesh and The Grateful Dead from 2014), KenSmithBasses.com, Rich Hoeg, Geoff Gould,  Photos, Bootleg Videos, Pro-Shot Videos.