Tobias Guitars was started in Orlando, Florida in April 1977. The first serial number 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 S.F. in May of '81 and started a repair shop in Costa Mesa, Ca.
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 Cal number was 250. It was one of four mahogany LP junior style neck thru.
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 Bl. in Hollywood and after a year quit the repair business. We added Bob McDonald, lost Kevin to MM and added Makoto Onishi.
The business grew by leaps and bounds. In June of 1988 we had so many back orders that we could not accept any new orders until the January NAMM show in 1990. (For another view of the California years, see Bob Lee's story on the Articles section.)
The Gibson Buyout...
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 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 10-man shop.
Business was still very good and 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 $/yen ratio killed the project. There were about 400 Standards.
Late in 1992, it was decided that in the best corporate interests, Tobias 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. The first production from Tobias/Nashville consisted of about 60 basses that were not numbered or finished by this crew.
I left the company in Dec '92 and was a consultant for Gibson for the operations they set up in Nashville. They had some trouble at first, but have since done a fairly good job making Tobias basses.
By contractual agreement, after my consulting agreement with Gibson was up, I had a one year non-competition term that ended in Dec.'93. During that "down" time, I moved to the Catskills in upstate NY and set up a small custom shop. I started designing new instruments and building prototypes in preparation for my new venture.
The first instruments were named Eclipse. There are 50 of them and most all of are 35" scale bolt-ons with 3 neck thrus. I finally settled on MTD as the company name and trademark.
I currently build about 10 instruments per month. Along with the MTD electric basses, I build acoustic bass guitars and a few electric 6 string guitars. The team consists of my son Daniel, who is working to learn every aspect of building instruments and our good friend, Charlie Kniceley, who is a fine bass player and craftsman.
I have have done design and development work for other companies. These projects include: the Lakland hollow body bass, the Modulus Genesis bass, a series of acoustic guitars, baritone acoustic and ABG for Alvarez, (with Joe Veillette) and a project for American Showster (with Chris).
My Kingston production basses are manufactured to my specifications at select, carefully vetted outside facilities. In basses, we have the passive electronics “precision” CRB (classic rock bass), the passive electronics “jazz” Saratoga, the active electronics Heir, the popular Z and ZX models and the Kingston version of the Andrew Gouché model. Just released in 2014, is the new Rubicon 6-22 and 6-24 guitar.
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