After having used a few different basses during the time in Wicked Lester, an Epiphone that was stolen and a Fender P-bass with a Gibson EB-0 pickup, Gene finally found his weapon of choice in the shape of a Charlie LoBue custom bass. Actually, whether it was actually custom made for Gene is an issue on which Gene himself seems less than clear (something that is a recurring theme when Gene talks about his gear and makes the history of his basses a little difficult to untangle). "I saw a bass he had built hanging on the wall and decided right then that I wanted it. It's only got one pickup with one dial for volume, one for tone; you can either turn it up or down. I love it." [*] Much later Gene would remember it a little differently: "So he made me a one of a kind natural wood custom made bass, no name, no nothing." [**]
[*] 1978 Guitar Player interview
[**] 1996 Guitars that Rule the World, Metal Edge presents KISS Alive!
The original incarnation of the LoBue (mk I) had an unfinished wood body, a set neck, a violin-style bridge, a single-coil pickup, a black pickguard, and, despite Gene's quote above, three knobs. The body appears to be a slab style with a hint of a bevel on the "inside" of the horns (and possibly where Gene rests his arm; see below). This version of the bass was Gene's #1 bass more or less from 1973 until the summer of 1975 when he started altering it. Below are a few early shots of Gene using the LoBue in 1972-73 starting with the loft rehearsals as a three piece, a shot from one of the shows at the Daisy, and the soundcheck for the Filmore shows. Note the original single coil pickup and the snug fit of the pickguard around the pickup in the picture on the right.
There was little change as the band headed into 1974 and started on what would turn out to be a lifetime of heavy touring. The LoBue worked tirelessly night in and night out and didn't go through any changes except the wear and tear of heavy use. The LoBue was the undisputed no. 1 bass for Gene and the exceedingly brief appearance of the Fender Precision is only in the role of backup. This obviously reflected the economic state of the band at the time, Paul and Ace also had very clear no. 1's, Paul only changing from his own LoBue custom V when it was stolen. Viewed as a whole it is obvious that the LoBue was far and away Gene's favorite. In the video clip from In Concert below (shot on 74.02.21) we see the original incarnation of the LoBue in all its glory.
What  I will call mkII actually makes it's documented debut in Detroit 74.12.20. The original single-coil pickup seems to be gone and in its stead is what looks almost like the Filtertron pickups that Gretsch made. However, some photos suggest that this might just be the old pickup secured to the pickguard by gaffers tape. With the arrival of the Grabber, the trusted LoBue gets thrust into the backup role until May of 1975.
Wicked Lester had their equipment stolen from the loft at Mott St. and Canal St.
After this there is a long void of solid photographic evidence on what happens. What we can say for sure is that it is black with a new pickguard by 75.11.07 and then emerges backstage in Toledo on 75.11.12 sporting a P-bass pickup. (My guess is that the P-bass pickup was added when it was painted black.) This mk III retains the original violin-type bridge. Some time between Toledo 75.11.12 and Chicago 75.11.22 Gene changes the volume knob. Gone is the original witch-hat knob, in its stead we find a black speed knob. Why the other two remain unchanged is anyone's guess.
This particular version of the bass doesn't last long as both the bridge and the pickup are soon changed for mk IV. The pickup becomes a Gibson EB-0 style, something that Gene had experimented with before (the Fender he used during the Wicked Lester days) and it would be the last pickup change for the LoBue. The bridge is a thornier issue. It was probably added to help the intonation problems inherent in any set bridge like the original, but this one proved problematic as the few surviving pictures show that the strings had a tendency to skip out of position. For some reason the remaining original knobs also get changed at this time, making all three controls black speed knobs.
The problems with the bridge above promted another change. This time it looks like a fairly standard Fender bridge (mk V). Whether or not the change to the new bridge occured earlier than Cobo Hall 76.01.25 is anybody's guess. The offstage shot shows Gene with the bass and the action on that thing could make a grown man cry. That Gene managed to play that bass and actually got something resembling music from it is a true accomplishment.
The final change in a very short time frame was the addition of a Gibson chrome bridge cover (mk VI). Probably taken straight from an old EB-0 or Thunderbird it first appears on 76.02.23 and will stay on until the bass disappears for good despite a few later changes to the bridge underneath it.
For the better part of the Spirit Tour '76 the LoBue retains the mk VI look. There's very nice video of it from both Houston and Anaheim in August that show the mk VI in action. To highlight a detail that entered the story a little earlier when the Fender bridge was installed I've chosen these particular pics. In order to cover the screw holes from the original (and replacement) stringmount below the then-current bridge cover, Gene's tech simply added a piece of what appear to be electrical tape. It's a smart and quick solution since it's not visible for the most part.
Some time in November mk VII shows up. Again it's the bridge that gets a change with a very odd combination. It appears as if the Fender-style bridge that was previously under the bridge cover is moved back, sans the saddles, and a different bridge used in its stead. In Atlanta 76.08.29 it's still mk VI but for the start of the Winter Tour in Savannah 76.11.24 the new bridge is in place. There is also a new, wider binding.
The three-night stand in Detroit from 77.01.27, represented here by the pro-shot video from the third night, is the first sighting of the last incarnation of the LoBue (mk VIII). Here we get to see it with a studded cover of some sort, probably leather. The studs are not glued or otherwise mounted directly on the body of the bass. It's not immedeately obvious but if one looks closely at the pics below there are pieces of tape that are there to hold it in place. Had the studs been mounted on the body this would have been completely non-sensical. One can also see that the material under the studs is completely different from the rest of the bass.

I originally thought that this studded look was a way to protect the back from the wear and tear of Gene's costume but some other pictures (see below) seem to go against that idea leading me to believe that the studded cover was added solely for aesthetic purposes.
Alas, by mid-1977 the cherised LoBue's days are numbered. The Spector takes over as the #1 and during the early part of the Love Gun tour it is brought out only occasionally soon to disappear completely. Exactly what happens to the LoBue is matter of some confusion. In 1978 Gene recalled that: "[I used that bass] For about four years, until one night I threw it to my roadie. At the end of our show [I] walk offstage and I throw the guitar off the stage, and everyone gasps. That one night he dropped it and the neck broke in half." [*] Spiro of tribute band fame has mentioned that Gene told him it was stolen while being away for repairs after Gene "fell off the front of the stage". Gene had another story in 1996: "A couple of years later I lent it to Micki Free, whose band Smokehouse opened for us once, and never saw it again." [**] In a 2013 interview at G-Club in Tokyo Gene threw another wrinkle to the story of the LoBue's demise, this time suggesting that he used the bass on stage in 1982 when he fell off the front of the stage, cracked the neck and promptly gave the pieces to a member of the audience. [***]

Seeing how Gene is, shall we say, slightly inconsistent and prone to exaggeration methinks it's best to take the word of one of the participants of one of the stories. According to Micki Free the story is true that Gene lent him the bass and that it was subsequently stolen while in his posession. [****]
[**] 1996 Guitars that Rule the World, Metal Edge presents KISS Alive!
[*] 1978 Guitar Player interview
Gene has claimed that he had it painted black before the start of the Alive! tour.
Whatever the new binding was actually made with it was one of the least durable materials in the known universe. It's still there in St- Louis 76.12.04 but by 76.12.11 in Pembroke Pines it's been reduced to, well, almost nothing. Rather than call this a new "version" I'll label the incredible disappearing binding a failed experiment and leave it at that.
Wherever the LoBue eventually ended up it is one of the great lost treasures of KISStory, one that deserves enshrinment. (The number of replicas that have turned up over the years is a clear indication of the bass' truly iconic status.) Let's hope it turns up in somebody's basement.
Considering that the mkI version had a single coil pickup (possibly a stacked humbucker) the third knob is somewhat of a mystery. It has been suggested that it was a series/parallell switch which is feasible. The idea that it was a built-in fuzz is much less likely.
None of the pre-1974 pics I've found suggest that the body was more than a slab-style with some rounding for the upper horns. The picture on the far left here clearly shows that the body was beveled where Gene rested his right arm. A backstage pic from Atlanta 74.07.18 also seem to suggest some shaping of the back.
I have yet to figure out what this bridge was. It's akin to a Thunderbird bridge but appears to be slightly larger. None of the known LoBue basses had a bridge like this so it was probably not LoBue's work.
An erstwhile acquaintance of LoBue's who handled the bass in its mkVI incarnation in New Jersey 76.07.10 has suggested that almost all the modifications were done by Charlie or the Guitar Lab rather than Gene's tech.
The offstage shot also gives us the first look at the tape coverup of the original bridge holes as discussed below, thus beginning Gene's long use of tape coverups.
Pictures showing the back of the LoBue are very few but over the course of 1976 there were a few. In the pic from 76.03.12 it's hard to tell whether the back of the body is just worn or if there is a protective cover, but by the time the band hits European soil for the first time, as shown here from Mannheim 76.05.18, there is a distinct reddish overlay screwed onto the back. (Also seen in Lund, Sweden.)Although not as obvious this is also seen in the pic from Toledo 76.07.30. Later in the year, in Columbus 76.11.30, the cover is very obviously split into two colors, a very sharp delineation that wasn't there in March and May, which suggests that it's been at least partially replaced.
It's been suggested that the incredible disappearing binding was masking tape that Gene himself applied during the hours of tedium on the tour bus. See the Pedulla section.
It's incredible to look at these pics and see the extent of the damage that year-round touring and Gene's costumes (most of it probably from his ever-
entertaining codpieces) afflicted on the LoBue.
[***] Available on YouTube.
[****] Personal communication with Jack Williamson who asked Free about the matter.