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One of the oldest and most respected music brands in the world. Starting from the 1870s, Epiphone has been pleasing us with its high-quality products, and despite the hard times, it is still considered one of the giants in the guitar business.

Owner:

Gibson

Brief history/technical and technological achievements:

The Epiphone story began in Greece and led to Turkey, across the Atlantic to immigrants on Ellis Island, through nightclubs, recording studios and radio broadcasts from coast to coast of Manhattan in the 1920s and 30s. This is a story about how hard-earned skills were passed from a father to his son and the continuous development of the American innovation system.

A huge number of musicians went through the history of Epiphone. The great jazzman George Van Eps, the country's founder - Hank Garland, the bluesman - John Lee Hooker and a huge number of mandolin, archtop and steel guitar players, used Epiphone instruments every day, and the whole USA knew about it. In the history of Epiphone there are also incredible characters, for example Les Paul, who used to work nights at the Epiphone factory in New York and who invented the Log, which in the final version would be called Les Paul. Outstanding The Beatles bass player Paul McCartney was the first to choose the guitar of the company “Epiphone casino", created in USA, followed quickly by John Lennon and George Harrison. "The casino" appeared in every album of "The Beatles" from "Help" to "Abbey Road". Today, Epiphone instruments can be heard in the albums of Gary Clark Jr., Alabama Shakes, My Chemical Romance, Joe Bonamassa, Nirvana, Johnny Winter, Zach Wylde, Machine Head, Dwight Yoke, The Strokes, Slash, Jeff Waters, Paul Simon, Radiohead, The Waco Brothers, Lenny Kravitz and Paul Weller. Epiphone is still engaged in innovation, still pleases musicians and frustrates competitors with its bold designs and excellent quality instruments.

According to Les Paul the company has always produced good guitars, and that, after all, is exactly what all musicians are looking for.
The first chapter in the history of Epiphone began about 140 years ago in Kastania. Family legend says that in 1865 Kostantinos Stathopoulo left Kastania and went to Magoula in the Eurotas valley, to register the birth of his son, Anastasios. Until 1873, almost nothing was known about the life of the family; When Anastasios turned 12 years old, the Stathopoulo family left Greece and moved to Turkey, where they settled in Smyrna, a vibrant port with a lot of Greek immigrants, merchants and artisans. There Kostantinos proved himself as a buyer of sawn timber. Kostantinos always took Anastasios with him on business trips to Europe, where the boy watched his father's trade and learned about acoustic wood. During this time, the family opened a store in Smyrna for the sale and repair of lutes, violins and bouzoukis. By 1890, Anastasios had earned the reputation of a talented local master and earned enough to open his own factory for the production of musical instruments.

High taxes for Greek immigrants, established by the Ottoman Empire, complicated the life of the Stathopoulo’s family, so at 40, Anastasios immigrated to the United States. In USA, Anastasios decided to continue trading on musical instruments market. He quickly mastered the way they do business in USA. He filed the first and only patent on March 25, 1909 on the Italian mandolin.

Epi, that's the name of Anastasios' eldest son, easily dived into American life, entered Columbia University and graduated with honors. Anastasios made and sold his musical instruments on the first floor of the house, and the family occupied the upper rooms, so the fine line between work and the house was blurred enough. Soon, Epi and Orpheus (middle son) were already helping out at a store that was on West Street, 42 at No. 247.

Epi was only 22 years old when Anastasios died. The duty to do business was laid upon Epi, as he was the eldest son. An amateur designer and inventor (who he’s always been since his apprenticeships), Epi took the lead in the company and received the first patent for the design of a banjo with a resonator.

After the death of his mother in 1923, Epi became the owner of a controlling interest in the company and gradually reduced the production of most of the obsolete mandolins. Instead, he established the release of a series of banjo intended for recording, which were the most popular instrument in America when World War I was over.

In the advertising brochures, the banjo models went in alphabetical order: "Recording (A)" for $125, "Bandmaster” for $200, "Concert" for $275 and "De Luxe", which was sold for $350. Epi continued to expand production as business grew and the reputation of a quality manufacturing company consolidated. The company acquired the "shares, reputation and modern equipment" of the musical instruments factory Farovan Company in Long Island and turned into a corporation. Epi gave a new name to the expanding business - Epiphone.

Epi became president and led the company by announcing in a press release that the new business strategy and all the company's interests would be focused on the production of banjo, tenor banjo, banjo mandolins, banjo guitars and banjo-ukuleles under the registered trademark Epiphone.

Epi gave places to many of the experienced workers who were doing their job at the factory on Long Island. Production has grown. The quality has improved. Richly decorated banjo models "Emperor" ($500), "Dansant" ($450), "Concert Special" ($300) and "Alhambra" ($200) were presented in 1927. The business developed well and the Stathopoulo brothers, as Orphie was the company's vice president, moved to 235-237 West 47th Street.

By 1928, Epiphone Banjo had produced banjos for the chain stores "Selmer/Conn" and "Continental Music" - the largest distributor of musical instruments. In 1928, Epiphone also introduced the first line of acoustic guitars in order to compete with Gibson, which Epi considered as its most important rival.

About Epiphone studio series:

The studio series of acoustic guitars, as much as the banjo lines, each with a name from "A" to "E", featured an unusual shape of the housing. The combination of spruce and maple was used in archtops and flat top body guitars.

The studio series wasn’t so successful at first. One of the problems was the insufficient number of eminent "endorsers" (ie there was no support from eminent musicians). Another problem was low volume. The studio guitars were very small and decorated too much, especially comparing to the size and volume of the popular "Gibson L-5" model, which appeared in 1922 quickly establishing standards. "L-5" had rich texture and sound, complementing the rhythm section with a full-blooded timbre and attack at the level of a snare drum.
Despite the fact that the market collapse in 1929 didn’t affect banjo sales, Epi saw perfectly that the archtops were becoming more popular and that Guibson was the brand’s main competitor in quality and design. In 1931, Epiphone Banjo announced the release of a series of 7 Masterbilt archtops with carved bodies, ranging from $35 to $275.

The influence of the "L-5" model in the new Epiphone line was obvious. Epi guitars had similar headstocks and looked like Gibson models. Epi continued to invent new names for the models, so that it was easier for musicians to remember, and to make them proud of the instrument they were playing.

The Masterbilt series included De Luxe ($275), Broadway ($175) and Triumph ($125) models. In the description of "De Luxe" it was said: "fir-tree top, lower deck of corrugated maple, the structure of the body is identical to the violin, black-and-white edging and sweet resonant sound".

Throughout the 1930s, the confrontation between Epiphone and Gibson changed from friendly sparring to real "guitar war". In 1934, Gibson introduced a new design of the archtop, releasing the king-size Super 400 model. To avoid resting on the sidelines, Epi released Emperor top model next year. Rates have risen sharply, thanks to a somewhat wider body and a provocative advertising campaign involving a naked woman holding Epiphone. In 1936, Epiphone struck again, increasing the size of the De Luxe, Broadway and Triumph bodies by 2.5 cm, thus the ratio was 3/8" - wider than the Gibson archtops, which made these instruments one of the most recognizable guitars on the market.

By the mid-30s, Epiphone guitars were among the best instruments in the world, and Epi enlisted the support of the most respected guitarists of the time. Epiphone entered the international market by signing a contract with the London distributor "Handcraft Ltd", and opened a new showroom for 142 West 14th Street.

The new building has a development department. The exhibition hall on the ground floor served as the main office. On Saturday evenings, Epi opened the shop windows widely so that leading guitarists of the time, such as Al Caiola, Harry Volpe, and Les Paul could jam for people passing on the street.

Epi was aware of the success of electric steel guitars "Rickenbacker". In 1935, Epi released a Electar series (the original name - Electraphone). One of the unique features of Epi's design was the adjustable pole pieces on the pickup. Electar series supported the reputation of Epiphone brand as an innovative company.

In July 1936 Epiphone presented several new models at the NAMM show at the Stevens Hotel, Chicago, including an electric piano designed together with Meissner Inventions in Melbourne, New Jersey. Having acquainted to the enthusiastic engineer whose name was Nat Daniel, a friend of Les Paul, Epiphone began to produce amplifiers as well. Daniel has finalized the "push/pull" switching scheme, which is now used in many amplifiers. Representatives of Epiphone heard about Daniel's amplifier and hired him to produce both classic and new type amplifiers.

By the end of the 30s, before the USA entered the World War II, the relationship between Epiphone and Gibson companies had become warmer. In 1939, both companies introduced similar models of Hawaiian guitars, those were the predecessors of steel guitars. When Gibson introduced a series of violins, Epiphone responded with double bass production. The outbreak of the World War II, frightening lack of materials and the actual cease of the production of guitars around the world, led to the end of the war between the two companies.

Epiphone during the World War II and the post-war period:

The war changed everything. Prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, Epiphone had been a favorite and leading brand in the industry. By the end of the 1945 war, the company had suffered the most bitter loss when Epi died of leukemia. The company's shares and management passed to his younger brothers - Orphie and Frixo.
Problems were coming out one by one. Epiphone continued to compete with Gibson, each released its version of expensive electric archtops. The pickups were elaborated, and the musicians continued to appear on stage with Epiphone guitars. It seemed that business was going on as usual.

However, soon the serious discord happened, both at the production level and within the board of directors. The Stathopoulo brothers disagreed on the future of the company, and in 1948, Frixo sold his stake to Orfie. The reputation of the company as a quality and innovative brand, which Epi earned in the 20's and 30's, did not survive the war time. Tastes changed, and the products by Epiphone then looked traditional and out-of-date. In 1953, Epiphone factory moved from Manhattan to Philadelphia, to avoid the collapse of the company, but many craftsmen refused to leave New York.

Partnership with Gibson:

In the early 1950s, the former champion and craftsman, formerly a connoisseur of the Epiphone guitars, Les Paul opened his own TV show and radio program in which the compositions hitting the charts were performed with the help of his signature model Gibson Les Paul. Les began to develop its all-in-one guitar at the Epiphone factory, and with the introduction of the Fender Telecaster guitar, Gibson president Ted McCarty made Les the first endorser of a solid-body electric guitar. As luck began to leave Epiphone, Les suggested McCarty give it a helping hand. McCarty listened to the advice and turned to Orphie, expressing interest in the subdivision of Epiphone, which produced high-quality double basses, the production of which Gibson after the World War II could no longer keep afloat. In 1957, Orphie responded with a proposal to buy the entire Epiphone company with all the remaining equipment in the factory in Philadelphia for $20000. McCarty accepted the proposal. Stathopoulo’s family left the music business.

McCarty's original intention was to supplement the Gibson catalog with Epiphone bass models, but by 1957 he had changed his mind. A note by McCarthy of the same year said that Epiphone would be reborn in a new series of instruments.

McCarty's marketing plan was to offer Epiphone guitars to those resellers who wanted to get a contract with Gibson, but had not yet proven themselves as successful traders. Between the resellers there was a fierce struggle for the right to sell Gibson guitars back then. This decision was perfect. The buyers got the instruments that weren’t inferior in quality to Gibson, not being afraid to step on those who had already been dealing with the sale of Gibson instruments. The production of Epiphone was moved to Kalamazoo (Michigan). Epiphone was back on track.

Renaissance:

Epiphone didn’t stay long in the shadow of Gibson. When in 1958 a new series of instruments began to flow through resellers onto the market, it became obvious that these two brands had three distinctive features. On the one hand, Epiphone then offered budget versions of existing Gibson models. In addition to these models, there were also reissues of such classic Epiphone models as "Emperor", "Deluxe" and "Triumph", and among the new instruments there appeared half empty electric guitar "Sheraton", solid body "Moderne Black" and flat body acoustics. Looking at all these innovations, including a new amplifier line, it became obvious that the designers of Epiphone quickly regained their independence.

In July 1958, at the NAMM show a large-scale presentation of Epiphone models took place, the most luxurious model of which was Emperor electric guitar. For the show, 226 guitars and 63 amps were ordered – quite a humble result. In 1961, Epiphone sold 3798 tools, and by 1965 had accounted for 20% of all instruments produced at the Kalamazoo factory. Even more impressive was the rise in the prestige of the guitars themselves. In the early 1960s, the Epiphone Emperor cost much more than the top Gibson Byrdland, and the cost of the 1963 Excellente flat body model was $100 higher than that of J-200, the guitar was made of rare species of acoustic wood.

The early 60s brought with it the popularity of folk music, and Epiphone was ready to satisfy the new market requests, presenting in 1961 the classic guitar Seville (with and without pickup), as well as the models Madrid, Espana and Entrada. In 1962, Epiphone released the 12-string guitar Bard and its more compact version Serenader. In 1963 Troubadour model with steel strings and a flat top body was introduced.

The series of electric guitars was no less attractive, the most famous new model was the Casino with two cutaways, first introduced in 1961. When the Beatles appeared in public in 1966 with Casino in their hands, Epiphone was officially revived, gaining loyal fans among many popular pop bands all over the world. The catalog then included 14 electric archtops, six solid body electric guitars, three basses, seven guitars with a flat body and steel strings, six classic guitars, four acoustic archtops, three banjos and mandolin.

The early and mid-1960s were the heyday for Epiphone guitars, as sales of instruments from 1961 to 1965 grew by 5 times. But the increase in the number of foreign copies in the late 1960s deprived Epiphone/Gibson of more than 40% of the market, while other companies were forced to cease the production.

There were other problems. Ted McCarty quit and headed Bigsby. The budget was cut. The founding company "CMI" was bought in 1969 by the Ecuadorian ECL Corporation, a beer company, and Epiphone found itself in a quandary. The brand was perceived as secondary to Gibson, however, wasn’t as affordable as foreign copies or alternatives of poorer quality.

Even before the merger with ECL, the possibility of opening Epiphone production in Japan was considered, and in 1970 the factory in the US closed and moved to Matsumoto, Japan. However, during the first few years of production, the company simply updated the already created design of Matsumoku Company guitars. A series of Epiphone guitars became a virtual orphan in the world of guitar manufacturers.

The lineup has been constantly improved. In 1976, Epiphone presented a series of electric guitars: Monticello and Presentation, a new line of guitars with a flat top body and a series of Nova, as well as full body Genesis guitars. By 1979, the assortment of Epiphone brand was actively expanding and consisted of more than 20 acoustic and electric guitars.

Epiphone in Korea:

In the early 80s, with the increase in the cost of Japanese production, Epiphone moved to Korea in 1983 and began to cooperate with Samick. In 1986, Gibson/Epiphone was bought from ECL/Norlin by three Harvard graduates - Henry Juszkiewicz, David Berryman and Gary Zebrowski. The new owners put the revival of Gibson brand as a priority, and Epiphone, a company with a 100-year history, which brought in less than $1 million in 1985, again faded into the background. But the new owners, Juszkiewicz and Berryman saw in Epiphone a sleeping giant and went to Korea to decide what could be done to make the company as successful as other Asian brands were, such as Charvel and Kramer. After studying the genealogy of Epiphone brand, they resumed production of many models and applied new production technologies, these measures began to yield results. Soon sales increased again.

By 1988, Epiphone introduced a new series of acoustics "PR" with angular shapes, as well as the interpretation of Gibson J-180 model, several classic guitars, banjos and mandolins. There was also an impressive series of guitars, the design of which was inspired by such models as Gibson Les Paul and SG, new archtops, as Howard Roberts Fusio and the resumption of the release of Sheraton model.

The modern history of Epiphone:

By the 90s, the Epiphone catalog had included 43 different models for a wide variety of styles and budgets. President of Gibson David Berryman opened Epiphone office in Seoul, appointed Jim Rosenberg managing director of production and set the course for innovation and new technologies for the brand.

The creation of an office in Seoul appeared to be a turning point for the company, as engineers and guitar masters came together to revive Epiphone. During this active reorganization, the instruments made by Epiphone have undergone significant changes. The quality and efficiency of production have been enhanced. The company had its own engineers who were directly involved in the development of pickups, saddles, switches, inlays, and even such unique parts as the metal logo with the letter "E" and the "Frequensator" string holder. Epiphone invested in these new models absolutely all of their finances and emotions. And the reaction of the market didn’t keep them waiting.

At the opening of the NAMM show in 1993, the debuted new series of acoustic and electric guitars received hugely positive feedback from reviewers and musicians.

In 1993, at the Gibson plant in Nashville, the limited edition "Riviera" and "Sheraton" models were produced together with 250 "Excellente", "Texan" and "Frontier" guitars with a flat top body which were produced at the plant in Montana. Epiphone devised the release of this series, rather, as an exception and a special launch, but the public reaction pushed Rosenberg to reissue other classic models as well.

Visitors of the NAMM show in 1994 witnessed the revival of such legendary Epiphone guitars as Casino, Riviera, Sorrento and Rivoli bass guitar. The news spread around the world and soon the most diverse musicians from Chet Atkins to Oasis band leader Noel Gallagher signed a cooperation agreement with Epiphone to confirm that Epiphone was still the greatest musical instruments brand.

It could be argued that in the late 90s Epiphone was again at the height of its glory. A series of Advanced Jumbo guitars and several important custom models were released, including John Lee Hooker Sheraton and Noel Gallagher Supernovas, both extremely successful and popular. Models "John Lennon 1965" and "Revolution Casino" were recreated in a smallest detail, paying tribute to the greatest musicians of all time. Thus, the revived Epiphone itself became the legendary brand in the musical world.

In 2000, Epiphone introduced Elitist series and strengthened its position on the acoustic guitar market with the help of an experienced guitar master Mike Voltz of Gibson. Woltz made a significant contribution to the development of electric guitars and the resumption of production of Masterbilt series, as well as the reissue in 2005 of Paul McCartney 1964 USA Texan model.
The demand for Epiphone guitars around the world was so high that in 2004 the company opened a new factory in China, having managed its own factory - for the first time since merging with Gibson in 1957.

Today the company "Epiphone" has something to offer to any guitar player, in any genre. Practicing musicians appreciate Epiphone for offering available versions of all the favorite instruments produced by the Kalamazoo factory, as well as the new models like Wilshire Phant-o-matic and Ultra III. Collectors snatch authentic reissues of "Elitist Emperor", "Casino" and "Excellente". The quality of Epiphone is not inferior to any worldwide guitar manufacturer, and rock and roll fans are delighted with personal models, like "Marcus Henderson Apparition", "Zakk Wylde ZV Custom" and "Joe Bonamassa GoldTop".

In 2013, Epiphone celebrated 140 years as a manufacturer of musical instruments, but they still retain the innovative spirit of Epi Stathopoulo. And now, from its new headquarters in Nashville, Epiphone will continue to set standards for affordable quality and innovation products. Epiphone is a company that willingly takes risks and always justifies the result - with excellent musical instruments.