Oaksville Man To Discuss Creation At 6 p.m. Saturday
COOPERSTOWN – One of the most legendary basses in rock ’n’ roll history – as it happens, built by Tom Lieber of Fly Creek – is on display at the Fenimore Art Museum through Sept. 2.
The bass, named “Dragon,” was designed and crafted in 1977 for Jefferson Starship bassist Pete Sears by Lieber, a parter with Doug Irwin in the D Irwin Guitar Co. from 1974 to 1977.
Lieber will discuss the guitar’s creation and its mysterious 30-year disappearance 6-8 p.m. Saturday, June 15, in a Fenimore “Food for Thought” presentation.
The “Dragon” bass is constructed from rare hardwoods and has a distinct, silver dragon design inlay on the body. Its cocobolo top was cut from the same piece of wood as Jerry Garcia’s famous “Tiger” guitar, which was also built by Irwin and Lieber.
It also shares the same earth and eagle design inlay on the headstock. In 2002, the “Tiger” sold at auction for $957,500, which was believed to be the highest price ever paid for a custom guitar at auction.
The “Dragon” bass acquired its claim to fame in 2013 after a story appeared in Rolling Stone magazine. The article explains the instruments mysterious disappearance that began over 30 years earlier. In June 1978, the bass went missing during a riot at the Lorelei Festival in St. Goarshausen, Germany. Just before Pete Sears’ band, Jefferson Starship, was scheduled to perform, the show was canceled. Chaos erupted and audience members stormed the stage. The band members escaped the mayhem unharmed, leaving their equipment, including “The Dragon,” behind.
Over 30 years later, on April 1, 2013, a German musician named Klaus Wilm responded to a post left by Lieber on a Grateful Dead forum asking readers if they had seen the bass. Wilm told Lieber he bought the bass in the early 90s from a musician in the Netherlands who claimed it once belonged to a member of the 1980s band Golden Earring. With this information, Lieber contacted the original owner, Pete Sears, and after some tense negotiations, the guitar was returned home. Lieber received the instrument to perform any needed restorations.
“Klaus was a very good steward of the bass for the last 15 of the 35 years the bass was missing,” said Lieber. “It’s remarkable we found the bass and a gift that it’s back in Pete’s hands. Both Pete and I often wonder what the dragon bass was up to the first 20 years it went missing.”
The “Dragon Bass” will reside at Fenimore Art Museum through September 2, 2019. The instrument complements two other guitars on loan from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as part of the current exhibition Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits, on view through September 2. Visitors can see iconic photographs of the most popular musicians of the 80s and 90s including David Bowie, Tina Turner, U2, Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Prince, Cher, Madonna and many more, as well as stage costumes, cameras used by Herb Ritts, videos, and contact sheets–all telling the story of the photographer’s creative workflow.
Saturday evening, Lieber will discuss the art of creating custom electric guitars for such musical legends as Jerry Garcia of The Grateful Dead and bassist Pete Sears of Jefferson Starship. Hear live demonstrations of his guitars as he describes how each custom model produces a unique sound. Also hear a talk on the guitars featured in Fenimore’s highlight exhibition, Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits. Afterward, join Mr. Lieber for cocktails and a buffet on the museum’s terrace overlooking Otsego Lake.
For more information on Fenimore Art Museum’s 2019 exhibitions and programs visit FenimoreArt.org. The museum is open daily this summer from 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m.
About Fenimore Art Museum
Fenimore Art Museum, located on the shores of Otsego Lake—James Fenimore Cooper’s “Glimmerglass”—in historic Cooperstown, New York, features a wide-ranging collection of American art including folk art; important American 18th- and 19th-century landscape, genre, and portrait paintings; more than 125,000 historic photographs representing the technical developments made in photography and providing extensive visual documentation of the region’s unique history; and the renowned Eugene and Clare Thaw Collection of American Indian Art comprised of nearly 900 art objects representative of a broad geographic range of North American Indian cultures, from the Northwest Coast, Eastern Woodlands, Plains, Southwest, Great Lakes, and Prairie regions. Visit FenimoreArt.org.