PAST_ PRESENT AND FUTURE by liuhongmei

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									PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE
     THE EPIPHONE STORY
                                                     IN THE BEGINNING                                 manufacturer-repairer of all kinds of                  And so, while the market shift caused
                                                                                                      musical instruments’, and built in a                   some companies to flounder, the House Of
                                                     The Epiphone story does not follow a             warehouse on 247 West 42nd Street), the                Stathopoulo flourished. The firm’s structure
                                                     straight line. For more than a century, it has   Stathopoulo children enjoyed a privileged              was re-organised in 1923 as its success
                                                     twisted and turned through triumph,              upbringing and a good education. But all               snowballed (Epi made himself president
                                                     setback and comeback; hitting both               that changed in July 1915, when                        and general manager) and even its name

        Establishing his first                       dizzying highs and crushing lows as it winds     Anastasios died at the age of 52 from                  was revised to reflect its changing identity.
                                                     its way through the ages. The latest             carcinoma of the breast.                               This was the age of possibility, and Epi
 instrument factory in 1890,                         chapter, in 2006, finds Epiphone as one of                                                              needed a brand to match. He eventually
                                                     the most successful and respected                EPI TAKES CHARGE                                       settled on an amalgamation of his own
   Anastasios Stathopoulo’s                          instrument manufacturers on the planet.                                                                 nickname and a derivation of the Greek
                                                                                                                                                             word for ‘sound’. It was the birth of
 earliest creations included
                                                     The opening chapter begins some 130              Epi was just 22 when he took charge of the
                                                     years before that, in the workshop of            family business. He inherited many of his              Epiphone.
 lutes, violins and traditional                      Anastasios Stathopoulo.                          father’s strengths – including a keen
                                                                                                      business sense and fierce pride in his work            In 1924, Epiphone released the Recording
            Greek lioutos                            The son of a Greek timber merchant,              – but combined this with an awareness of               Series of banjos to universal acclaim.
                                                     Anastasios would not follow his father into      the changing times that would prove vital              Indeed, the Deluxe, Concert, Bandmaster
                                                     the family trade, although his chosen            in the years to come. Crucially, Epi was not           and Artist models (plus the budget
                                                     profession would use the same materials.         just a luthier or a businessman. He was also           Wonder model) were so popular that by
                                                     He began crafting lutes, violins and             a keen musician and socialite.                         the following year, Epi had expanded
                                                     traditional Greek lioutos in 1873. A few                                                                production and bought out the Favoran            point where the company’s name was                 The stock market crash of 1929 marked a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              slump in the banjo’s popularity. With his ear to
                                                     years thereafter, Anastasios sailed across                                                                                                               changed once again in 1928. For now, it         the ground, Epi responded with the Recording
                                                     the Aegean Sea with his family to start a                                                                                                                would be known as the Epiphone Banjo           Series of guitars – identified by a single letter (‘A’
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             through to ‘E’) and their distinctive body shape.
                                                     new life in Turkey. By 1890, his talent and                                                                                                              Company.
                                                     reputation had allowed him to open an
                                                     instrument factory and start a family. First                                                                                                             THE FIRST GUITARS
                                                     to arrive in 1893 was a son, Epaminondas,
                                                     followed later that decade by Alex,                                                                                                                      The stock market crash of 1929 drew a line
                                                     Minnie and Orpheus.                                                                                                                                      under the age of prosperity. Combined
                                                                                                                                                                                                              with the sudden slump in the banjo’s
                                                     By 1903, the persecution of Greek                                                                                                                        popularity, it sounded the death knell for
                                                     immigrants by the native Turks had forced                                                                                                                many instrument manufacturers. Once
                                                     the Stathopoulo family to move again; this        Epaminondas Stathopoulo (known as ‘Epi’) took
                                                                                                                                                                                                              again, Epi was ready for the change. At
                                                     time to a residence in the lower                   charge of the family business aged just 22, and                                                       the height of the banjo boom in 1928, he
                                                                                                       led it to great heights until his death during WWII
                                                     Manhattan neighbourhood of New York.                                                                                                                     had introduced the Recording series of
                                                     With Anastasios crafting and selling his                                                                                                                 guitars, each one identified only by a
                                                     instruments on the ground floor, and the         Epi respected the tradition of his father’s                                                             letter (‘A’ through to ‘E’) and notable for
                                                     family living directly above, the line           instruments, but recognised the                                                                         their unusual body shape. The Recording
                                                     between work and home life became                importance of moving with the times. By                                                                 guitars were a combination of spruce and
                                                     increasingly blurred. Epaminondas (known         1917, he had changed the company’s                                                                      laminated maple, with either an arched or
                                                     as ‘Epi’) and Orpheus (‘Orphie’) were            name to the ‘House Of Stathopoulo’ and                                                                  flat top, depending on the price.
 From 1907 to 1912 the Stathopoulo family lived      soon helping out in the shop and learning        began adapting the product line.
      and worked at 121 West 28th Street
                 in Manhatten                        the business from the ground up.                 Mandolins were falling out of favour. In the                                                            The market was certainly ripe, but the
                                                                                                                                                                Epi Stathopoulo anticipated the US banjo
                                                                                                      post-war era, banjos had started to boom                    boom, and in 1924 he introduced the
                                                                                                                                                                                                              Recording guitars were not a success. One
                                                     And business was good. It was Anastasios’        along with jazz, and Epi, with his ear to the                    Epiphone Recording Series to           problem was a lack of celebrity
                                                                                                                                                                           widespread acclaim.
                                                     good fortune to arrive in New York at the        ground, recognised this early and armed                                                                 endorsement. The other was a lack of
                                                     height of the mandolin craze, and this           his company to deal with it. Not only did                                                               volume. The Recording guitars were too
                                                     dovetailed with the popularity of his            Epi introduce a line of banjos, but he also            banjo firm to cope with demand. Thanks           small and arguably too ornate,
                                                     traditional Greek instruments amongst the        developed the instrument’s design,                     to models like the Emperor, and the              particularly in comparison to the mighty        Inspired by the Gibson Master Model range,
                                                     city’s bustling expat community. Thanks to       patenting his own tone ring and rim                    endorsement of players like Carl Kress, this     size and volume of the Gibson L-5. At least        Epi launched the Masterbilt line of f-hole
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 archtops in 1931 (of which the De Luxe,
                                                     the success of their father’s instruments        construction. It was a sign of things to               side of the business continued to grow           Epi was taking notes. It wasn’t hard to see    pictured here, was the most expensive). These
                                                     (now      labelled     ‘A.   Stathopoulo,        come.                                                  along with Epiphone’s reputation, to the         the L-5’s influence on the new Epiphone        guitars consolidated Epiphone’s reputation, but
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                sparked vicious competition with Gibson.


P A S T ,          P R E S E N T                  A N D     F U T U R E :            T H E        E P I P H O N E                S T O R Y                   P A S T ,           P R E S E N T             A N D    F U T U R E :           T H E       E P I P H O N E                S T O R Y
archtops that followed in 1931, with the               of its De Luxe, Broadway and Triumph                    ‘Master Pickup’ giving optimum output,           share to Orphie. Worse, the company was
Masterbilt Series sharing similar f-holes,             models by an inch (making them 3/8”                     and while Gibson had evidently been              losing the reputation for craftsmanship
pegheads, and even a similar name to the               wider than the Gibsons).                                thinking the same thing (by the following        and innovation built up during Epi’s reign,
Gibson Master Model range (though the                                                                          year they had introduced an electric             and the pressures for unionisation
individual model names would be more                   By this point, Epiphone guitars were                    Hawaiian guitar), the Electar line landed a      compounded the problems. To sidestep
interesting than Gibson’s serial number                considered to be amongst the best in the                serious blow on Epiphone’s rivals, while         this last issue, the Epiphone factory moved
system, including the De Luxe, Broadway,               world, and Epi himself was enjoying the                 consolidating their own reputation as            from Manhattan to Philadelphia in 1953,
Windsor and Tudor). Despite taking                     patronage of some of the most respected                 innovators. By the summer of 1937, Epi           but the fact that many of the firm’s
inspiration from Gibson, however, the                  players on the scene. The Epiphone                      reported that sales had doubled.                 craftsmen refused to leave New York
Masterbilts had their own identities. Their            showroom – now returned to its early                                                                     resulted in a drop in quality and the very
intention was not to emulate the Master                location on West Street, Manhattan – was                As the decade played itself out, the rivalry     real danger of bankruptcy.
Model range, but to destroy it.                        both the company’s HQ and a hangout                     between Epiphone and Gibson showed
                                                       for famous musicians. On Saturday                       little sign of abating. In 1939, the two firms   THE UNION OF EPIPHONE AND
EPIPHONE VERSUS GIBSON                                                                                         introduced similar ‘pitch-changing’              GIBSON
                                                                                                               Hawaiian guitar designs. That same year,
Throughout the 1930s, the rivalry between                                                                      Gibson introduced a line of violins, while       While Epiphone’s problems got worse as
Epiphone and Gibson would veer from                                                                            Epiphone struck back with a series of            the 1950s progressed, Gibson was going
friendly sparring to all-out warfare. Slighted                                                                 upright basses. It took the outbreak of the      from strength to strength. Its main
by the introduction of the Masterbilts, and                                                                    World War II, and the shutdown of US             competition now came from the
having emerged from its commercial                                                                             guitar production, to ring the bell on the       California-based Fender Company,
slump at the start of the decade, Gibson                                                                       bloodiest luthier boxing match of the age.       creator of the Telecaster and Stratocaster
returned fire in 1934 by increasing the                                                                                                                         models that had been released earlier
body width of its existing models and                                                                          HARD TIMES                                       that same decade. If Gibson had a
introducing the king-size Super 400                                                                                                                             weakness, it was that their upright bass
(named after its $400 price tag). Not to be                                                                    The war changed everything. Before the           production had stopped before the war
outdone, Epi replied the following year                                                                        bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941,                and never started again. So when
with the top-of-the-line Emperor, which                                                                        Epiphone had been riding on the crest of         Gibson’s general manager, Ted McCarty,
raised the stakes with a slightly wider body                                                                   a wave. When the last of the fighting            received a call from Orphie asking
and a provocative advertising campaign                                                                         ended in 1945, the company found itself          whether he’d be interested in buying out                                               Epiphone’s troubles in the 1950s led to the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1957 buy-out by Gibson (for $20,000) and the
featuring a semi-naked woman. In 1936,                                                                         without its greatest asset. Tragically, Epi      the Epiphone bass business (still a hugely                                              partnership between the two companies
                                                         Announced in 1935, Epiphone’s Electar range
Epiphone struck again, increasing the size                 of electrics proved the company’s flair for
                                                                                                               had died of leukemia during the war,             respected division of the company,                                                              that continues to this day
                                                         innovation. The ‘Master Pickup’ used on these         meaning that Epiphone was handed                 despite its troubles), he didn’t need asking
                                                        axes was advanced for the time, with individually
                                                                                                               down to younger brothers Orphie and                                                                       twice. McCarty paid the $20,000 asking                was relocated to Kalamazoo (the same
                                                                      adjustable polepieces.
                                                                                                               Frixo, who would respectively be                                                                          price and Gibson took control of Epiphone             city as Gibson HQ) and work began.
                                                       afternoons, Epi would simply open the                   responsible for the financial and                                                                         in May 1957.
                                                       display cases and allow legends-in-                     mechanical running of the operation.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               A NEW BEGINNING
                                                       waiting like Al Caiola and Harry Volpe to                                                                                                                         Gibson’s original intention was to harness
                                                       jam for the benefit of the people                       The problems weren’t obvious to start with.                                                               the reputation of the Epiphone bass line.             Epiphone wouldn’t stay in the shadow of
                                                       watching on the pavement outside.                       Epiphone continued to clash with Gibson                                                                   By 1957, this plan had been scrapped.                 Gibson for long. When the new line started
                                                       Perhaps this wasn’t just an act of                      via the introduction of cutaway versions of                                                               Instead, McCarty wrote in a memo that                 filtering through in 1958, it became clear
                                                       benevolence: both players would later go                the Emperor and De Luxe, and raised the                                                                   year, the Epiphone brand would be                     that the brand now had three separate
                                                       on to endorse Epiphone instruments,                     bar considerably with the arrival of the                                                                  revived and a new line of instruments                 identities. On one hand, Epiphone now
                                                       along with many others including Les Paul.              electric cutaway De Luxe. Pickups                                                                         created. These Gibson-made Epiphones                  listed budget-conscious versions of existing
                                                                                                               continued to be refined, and famous                                                                       would then be offered to dealers who                  Gibson models. Alongside this, however,
                                                       Epiphone wasn’t just gunning for Gibson.                players continued to appear onstage                                                                       were keen to win a Gibson contract, but               there were also recreations of classic
                                                       Growing aware of the success of                         armed with Epiphone guitars. From the                                                                     still earning their stripes (the right to sell        Epiphone designs (such as the Emperor,
                                                       Rickenbacker’s electric models since                    outside, it seemed to be business as usual.                                                               Gibson models was hotly contested                     Deluxe and Triumph) and a selection of
                                                       1932, Epi made his move on this new                                                                                                                               between dealerships at this time). It was             new models that had never been seen
   Size matters! In 1935, Epiphone launched the
    Emperor, a top-of-the-range f-hole archtop         market with the introduction of the Electar             But cracks soon appeared, both on the                                                                     the perfect solution. Dealers would get a             before. These included electrics like the
       whose 18 3/8” body width was clearly            Series (originally known as Electraphone)               production line and in the boardroom. The        Even during the post-war slump, Epiphone enjoyed
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Gibson-quality product, without treading              semi-hollow Sheraton and the solid-
    motivated by a desire to list a bigger guitar                                                                                                                an unparalleled reputation for its upright basses.
   than Gibson. This provocative ad campaign           in 1935. The design was strong, with                    Stathopoulo brothers were not getting             Models such as the B-4 prompted Gibson to buy           on the toes of the traders who already sold           bodied Moderne Black (alongside a
         showed off the model’s curves…                individually adjustable polepieces on the               along, and in 1948, Frixo offloaded his             the company for its bass operation in 1957.           the real thing. The Epiphone operation                double-cutaway model inspired by the


P A S T ,            P R E S E N T                  A N D     F U T U R E :                T H E            E P I P H O N E           S T O R Y                 P A S T ,            P R E S E N T                    A N D     F U T U R E :             T H E         E P I P H O N E              S T O R Y
                                                                                                                                                                          Byrdland, while 1963’s deluxe flat top                                                                  predicament – perceived to be
                                                                                                                                                                          Excellente was $100 more than the J-200,                                                                secondary to Gibson, but too expensive to
                                                                                                                                                                          and made of rarer tonewoods.                                                                            compete with the foreign imports.

                                                                                                                                                                          The early 1960s brought the explosion of                                                                The idea of moving Epiphone production
                                                                                                                                                                          folk music, and Epiphone was ready to                                                                   to Japan had actually been floated
                                                                                                                                                                          cater for it. The firm reintroduced its Seville                                                         before the ECL takeover. By 1970, it was a
                                                                                                                                                                          classical guitar (with and without pickups)                                                             reality, with American production grinding
                                                                                                                                                                          in 1961, and complemented this with the                                                                 to an abrupt halt and a new line of
                                                                                                                                                                          Madrid, Espana and Entrada models. In                                                                   Epiphones being exported from the
                                                                                                                                                                          1962, Epiphone also started listing a                                                                   Japanese town of Matsumoto. But these
                                                                                                                                                                          twelve-string guitar called the Bard, a                                                                 were not Epiphones as the world knew
                                                                                                                                                                          smaller version known as the Serenader,                                                                 them. On the contrary, they were just
                                                                                                                                                                          and (in 1963) a series of steel-string flat-                                                            rebadged versions of models that were
                                                                                                                                                                          topped folk guitars including the                                                                       already being produced by the
                                                                                                                                                                          Troubadour. The strength of the acoustic                                                                Matsumoku Company – with little
                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Early Japanese Epiphones had been poor, but the
                                                                                                                                                                          range was matched by a number of                  operation’s growing momentum was demonstrated         imagination or respect for the company’s
                                                                                                                                                                          electric classics, like the double-cutaway          in 1976 by a number of new models, including a      pedigree.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       series of scroll-bodied electrics
                                                                                                                                                                          Casino, and by the time the Beatles
                                                                                                                                                                          appeared with three of these models (one                                                                Things had improved by 1976, when the
                                                                                                                                                                          each for John Lennon, Paul McCartney                                                                    Epiphone line was bolstered by the
                                                                                                                                                                          and George Harrison), it seemed like the                                                                appearance of models like the Monticello,
                                                                                                                                                                          rubber stamp on Epiphone’s recovery. The                                                                a series of scroll-body electrics, and the
                                                                                                                                                                          company now listed fourteen electric                                                                    new Presentation range of flat tops. There
                                                                                                                                                                          archtops, six solid-bodied electrics, three                                                             was also the Nova series of flat tops and
  Released as part of the new line in 1958, the              The ‘square-shouldered’ body shape was                  Proof that Epiphone was not secondary to Gibson      basses, seven steel-string flat tops, six                                                               three new solidbodies named Genesis. By
Sheraton was a daring model with shades of the         traditionally a design used by the Martin Company.           came in the form of the 1963 Excellente – a deluxe    classicals, four acoustic archtops, three                                                               1979, the Epiphone product list was
 Gibson ES-335, and revealed that the takeover           In 1958, Gibson swallowed its pride and used it as         flat top that actually cost $100 more than Gibson’s
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Early Japanese Epiphones
would not spell the end of Epiphone’s creativity.         the inspiration for the Epiphone Frontier flat top.                         esteemed J-200.                     banjos and a mandolin.                                                                                  gathering speed, with over 20 steel-string
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  flat tops, and plenty more besides.
                                                       Telecaster), and flat-top acoustics like the                                                                       TURNING JAPANESE                                      had been poor, but the
                                                       Frontier, whose square-shouldered body                                                                                                                                                                                     THE MOVE TO KOREA
                                                       style was a first for Gibson (it was                                                                               The early to mid-1960s were boom time for                operation’s growing
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      momentum was
                                                       traditionally a Martin design). Combined                                                                           Epiphone, with unit sales increasing                                                                    Just as Epiphone’s Far Eastern operation
                                                       with the introduction of amplifiers, it was                                                                        fivefold between 1961 and 1965. But the                                                                 seemed to be finding its feet, three
                                                       becoming clear that Epiphone instruments                                                                           good times couldn’t last forever. The rise of         demonstrated in 1976 by                           bombshells dropped in quick succession.
                                                       would be far more than the ‘sort of almost                                                                         foreign-made guitars had caught the US                                                                  The first was the rise of the electronic
                                                       Gibsons’ many had predicted.                                                                                       industry napping, and by 1969, these                the Presentation Series 765                         keyboard. The second was the rising cost
                                                                                                                                                                          cheap models (often based on existing                                                                   of Japanese production, which led to
                                                       The grand unveiling of the Epiphone line                                                                           American designs) had stolen some 40% of            (a rosewood dreadnought                             Epiphone’s relocation to Korea in 1983,
                                                       took place at the NAMM trade show in                                                                               the Epiphone/Gibson market share and
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                featuring the ‘vine of life’                      and collaboration with the Samick
                                                       July 1958, with an electric Emperor as the                                                                         closed many companies down entirely.                                                                    Company. The third took place in the
                                                       flagship model. The show itself would                                                                                                                                          peghead inlay).                             Gibson boardroom at the start of 1986,
                                                       generate orders of 226 guitars and 63                                                                              There were other problems. Gibson                                                                       with three Harvard MBAs (Henry
                                                       amps (a modest return), but over the next                                                                          manager Ted McCarty had stepped                                                                         Juszkiewicz, David Berryman and Gary
                                                       few years Epiphone would get into a                                                                                down, the quality of the product was                                                                    Zebrowski) taking the company off the
                                                       swagger, shifting 3,798 units in 1961, and                                                                         thought to have slipped, and union                                                                      hands of ECL/Norlin. Reviving Gibson was
                                                       accounting for 20% of the total units                                                                              problems were simmering again. In its                                                                   the priority for the new owners, and with
                                                       shipped out of Kalamazoo by 1965. Even                                                                             weakened state, Gibson’s parent                                                                         Epiphone making less than $1 million
They loved them, yeah, yeah, yeah. When John           more impressive was the prestige of the                                                                            company CMI was bought in 1969 by the                                                                   revenue in 1985, there seemed a danger it
 Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison            guitars themselves. In the early 1960s, the                                                                        Ecuadorian ECL corporation (whose                                                                       would be swept under the carpet and
  each bought an Epiphone Casino in 1964, it
  underlined the quality of both the instrument        Epiphone Emperor cost significantly more                                                                           experience was not in guitars, but beer)                                                                forgotten.
                and the brand.                         than the top-of-the-range Gibson                                                                                   and Epiphone found itself in a


P A S T ,           P R E S E N T                   A N D      F U T U R E :                  T H E             E P I P H O N E               S T O R Y                   P A S T ,          P R E S E N T              A N D      F U T U R E :              T H E            E P I P H O N E         S T O R Y
But Epiphone was still buzzing with             seen by some as a faceless import; a fact       250 Excellente, Texan and Frontier flat                                                                   aspiration, these models reunited Epi with           release of the Paul McCartney 1964 USA
potential. Soon enough, Juszkiewicz had         reflected by its modest global sales.           tops. These Epiphones were only intended                                                                  the greatest artist of all time, and                 Texan – consolidated Epi’s acoustic
identified it as a sleeping giant, and made                                                     as a special event (it was impractical to                                                                 underlined the company’s own re-                     credentials and reacquainted the firm
the trip to Korea to decide how it could be     Taking charge of Epiphone around this           move production to the US permanently)                                                                    emergence as a rock legend.                          with two big names from its past.
pushed to match the success of other            time, David Berryman identified the other       but the public reaction prompted
Asian brands like Charvel and Kramer. As        problem that was stopping the firm from         Rosenberg to reissue many classic designs                                                                 As the new millennium came and went,                 By 2003, the international demand for
he absorbed Epiphone’s pedigree,                taking on the world. It still didn’t have its   via the Korean range. Those who                                                                           the momentum continued, as Epiphone                  Epiphones was such that the company
Juszkiewicz started getting results, and        own dedicated office or workforce.              attended the 1994 NAMM witnessed the                                                                      introduced the Elitist range and                     had opened a new factory in China. Not
soon sales were growing again.                  Moving fast, Berryman instigated the            re-introduction of legends including the                                                                  strengthened its position in the acoustic            only did this mark the first time that
                                                acquisition of an office in Seoul,              Casino, Riviera, Sorrento and Rivoli bass. In                                                             market with the acquisition of veteran               Epiphone had its own dedicated factory
Sales weren’t the only thing on the move.       appointed Jim Rosenberg as product              the months that followed, word spread,                                                                    Gibson luthier Mike Voltz. Voltz’s                   since the initial takeover by Gibson.
By 1988, the Epiphone product line was          manager and set about addressing the            and guitar luminaries including Chet Atkins                                                               contribution to Epiphone’s development               Staffed by US managers and luthiers, it also
evolving. Epiphone now listed a new PR          misconception that Epiphone was                 and Noel Gallagher signed up to the                                                                       cannot be overstated. While the firm had             armed them with the control over their
Series of square-shouldered acoustics,          secondary to Gibson.                            Epiphone cause – confirmation that these                                                                  revived its electric range to great acclaim,         own product that would let them take
along with an interpretation of Gibson’s J-                                                     were instruments to be played through                                                                     there was still a sense that it needed to            development to the next level, and give
180, several classical guitars, a banjo and      The Seoul office was a major turning point.    choice, not necessity.                                                                                    claw back its former reputation for world-           them a massive edge over the
a mandolin. There was also a solid              Instead of the long-distance relationship                                                                                                                 beating flat tops. All that changed with             competition (most of whom continued to
selection of Gibson-derived instruments         that the firm had previously had with its                                                                                                                 the introduction of the Masterbilt range,            share workspaces).
(from flagship models like the Les Paul and     product, Epiphone was now able to roll up                                                                                                                 which – along with the subsequent 2005
SG to new archtops like the Howard              its sleeves and muck in with the dedicated
Roberts Fusion) and a tip of the hat to         quality control staff at the factory. During
Epiphone’s past in the form of the              the long days and sleepless nights that
Sheraton II.                                    followed, the Epiphone product changed
                                                beyond all recognition. Factory processes
TAKING ON THE WORLD                             were assessed and refined. Manufacturers
                                                were visited and briefed on the
It was a start. But as the 1990s rolled         components that would make these
around, Epiphone still had work to do. The      instruments special, with Epiphone taking
line was more than comprehensive –              a hands-on role in the development of
offering 43 different models across a           everything – from pickups, bridges, toggle
                                                                                                                                                    Crafted in Japan with choice tonewoods and
range of styles and budgets – but the lack      switches and fret inlays to unique features                                                          US pickups, the launch of the Elitist Series in
of historic Epiphone products needed to         like the metal E logo and frequensator                                                               2002 – including the Sheraton shown here –
                                                                                                                                                      was conclusive proof that Epiphone is far
be addressed. The legendary instruments         tailpiece. Financially and emotionally,                                                                  more than Gibson’s entry-level line.
from Epiphone’s past should have been           Epiphone invested everything it had in
leading the company’s charge into the           these new models.
future. Without them, Epiphone was still
                                                It paid off. One of the first fruits of
                                                                                                                                                  ONWARDS AND UPWARDS
                                                Epiphone’s labours was a limited-edition
                                                                                                                                                  Epiphone was arguably just as successful
                                                run of electric-acoustics, and the success
                                                                                                                                                  in the late-90s as at any point in its history.
                                                of these confirmed how far the company
                                                                                                                                                  With confidence booming, this era saw
                                                had come. By the time of the 1993 NAMM
                                                                                                                                                  the launch of the Advanced Jumbo Series
                                                show, there were more thin-bodied
                                                                                                                                                  and the release of several important
                                                electric-acoustics and a new range of PRs.
                                                                                                                                                  signature models. The John Lee Hooker
                                                It all hammered home the impression that
                                                                                                                                                  Sheratons from the USA Collection were
                                                Epiphone was a leader rather than a
                                                                                                                                                  tasteful, toneful and utterly authentic. The
                                                follower.
                                                                                                                                                  Noel Gallagher Supernovas had attitude
                                                                                                                                                  and edge, and became some of the most
                                                But Epiphone was looking to the past as
                                                                                                                                                  iconic designs of the time. Then there were
                                                well as the future. In 1993, a limited run of
                                                                                                                                                  the John Lennon 1965 and Revolution
                                                Riviera and Sheratons were produced in            Perhaps the most iconic design of the 1990s,                                                                                        Paul McCartney used a 1964 Epiphone Texan
                                                                                                 Noel Gallagher’s signature model was almost as   Casinos. With their US birthright,                                                   on Yesterday – and the iconic status of the
     Hot rocker Lenny Kravitz modeling the      Gibson’s Nashville factory, with the              popular as Oasis themselves, and one of the
                                                                                                                                                  unbeatable authenticity and sense of                                                 original instrument prompted Epiphone to
          latest fashion, an Epi Riviera.       company’s Montana plant also building               decade’s many highlights for Epiphone.                                                                                                     launch a US reissue in 2005



P A S T ,          P R E S E N T             A N D     F U T U R E :            T H E       E P I P H O N E             S T O R Y                 P A S T ,             P R E S E N T                  A N D     F U T U R E :           T H E         E P I P H O N E               S T O R Y
                                                          Perhaps even more important,                                                                    EPIPHONE TIMELINE                                             1935                                                      1992
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   As the latest blow in the long-running                    Jim Rosenberg arrives as product manager to
                                                          Epiphone has retained the pioneering
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   competition with Gibson, Epiphone launches                head up the Epiphone line, and soon expands it
                                                                                                                          In 2006, Epiphone is all
                                                          spirit that was always Epi Stathopoulo’s                                                            1863                                                 the Emperor.                                              to offer virtually every style of guitar to the
                                                          calling card. Whether through the 2006                                                          Anastasios Stathopoulos is born in Sparta,                                                                         value-conscious player. The opening of a
                                                                                                                                                                                                                         1937                                                dedicated office in Seoul allows Epiphone the
                                                                                                                    things to all players – offering
                                                                                                                                                          Greece to a local lumber merchant.
                                                          ‘Guitar of the Month’ scheme (offering a                                                                                                                 Epiphone unveils its innovative adjustable-pole           ‘hands-on’ relationship with its product that had
                                                          different collector’s model each month)                                                              1873                                                pickup (as part of the Electar series). By this           previously been lacking.
                                                          or through its unending quest to                               official Gibson replicas,        Anastasios builds his first instruments (according
                                                                                                                                                          to Epiphone literature of the 1930s).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   point, the company’s reputation has led to
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   endorsement from prominent players such as                     1993
                                                          challenge tradition, this is still a firm that                                                                                                           Tony Mottola, Dick McDonough and George                   Epiphone’s reputation is further enhanced by
                                                          thrives on the risk while always delivering                authentic signature models,                1877                                               Van Eps.                                                  the Nashville USA Collection – limited edition
                                                                                                                                                          The Stathopoulos family moves to Smyrna in                                                                         models that represent the first US-made
                                                          the result. Perhaps David Berryman puts
                                                                                                                        and faithful Elitist reissues     Asiatic Turkey.                                                 1943
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Epi dies of leukemia, leaving brothers Orphie
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Epiphones for over 20 years.
                                                          it best. “Gibson is a traditional
                                                                                                                                                                1890                                               and Frixo in charge. Feuding between them                       1994
                                                          company,” the Epiphone president                                of models from its own          Anastasios establishes a large instrument factory        leads Frixo to sell his stock in 1948. The company        Gibson’s Montana division follows suit, offering a
                                                          noted. “Epiphone is more of a                                                                   in Syyrna which produces violins, mandolins,             falls on hard times in the post-war years, and by         limited edition US run of the Excellente, Frontier
                                                          renegade. It marches to the beat of a                                   illustrious past        lutes and traditional Greek lioutos.                     the mid-50s, Epiphone is making few instruments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   aside from upright basses and the Harry Volpe
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             and Texan Epiphone flat tops. The NAMM show
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             of that year also witnesses the re-introduction of
                                                          different drum. Always has.” One                                                                      1893                                               student guitar.                                           classic designs including the Casino, Riviera and
                                                                                                                                                          Epimanondas (‘Epi’) is born to Anastasios and                                                                      Sorrento (all part of the new Korean range).
                                                          suspects that it always will.                                                                   his wife Marianthe. His name is inspired by a                 1957
                                                                                                                                                          military hero from ancient Greek history.                Gibson's parent company, CMI, buys Epiphone                    1995
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   for $20,000, originally intending to harness its          Epiphone celebrates the 80th anniversary of Epi
                                                                                                                                                                1903                                               upright bass operation, but ultimately reviving           Stathopoulo's rise to head the family business.
                                                                                                                                                          Following persecution of Greek immigrants by             the Epiphone name on guitars. A full line of
                                                                                                                                                          the native Turks, the Stathopoulos family moves          newly designed acoustics and electrics is                       1996
                                                                                                                                                          to New York (during the immigration process,             unveiled in 1958, and two years later Epiphone            With Oasis at the peak of their popularity,
                                                                                                                                                          the final ‘s’ is dropped from the family name).          production moves into Gibson’s factory in                 Epiphone build lead guitarist Noel Gallagher the
                                                                                                                                                          The family now includes sons Alex and Orpheus            Kalamazoo, Michigan.                                      iconic Supernova signature model.
                                                                                                                                                          (‘Orphie’), and daughter Alkminie (‘Minnie’).
                                                                                                                                                          Another son (Frixo) and daughter (Elly) are born              1961                                                       1998
                                                                                                                                                          in America.                                              Country superstar Ernest Tubb equips his entire           Epiphone introduce guitar and accessory
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Texas Troubadours band with Epiphones, while              ‘starter packages’, while this period also sees
                                                                                                                                                                1915                                               Marshall Grant plays an upright Epi bass with             the launch of the Advanced Jumbo Series.
                                                                                                                                                          Anastasios dies, leaving Epi in charge, and              Johnny Cash.
                                                                                                                                                          ushering in the new era of the Epiphone                                                                                 1999
                                                                                                                                                          company (although this brand name is still some               1963                                                 John Lennon Revolution and ‘65 Casinos are
                                                                                                                                                          years away). Orphie is second-in-command,                Longtime Epiphone endorsee Al Caiola gets his             launched as part of Epiphone’s USA Collection,
                                                                                                                                                          while Frixo and Minnie will later become active          own model, and plays it on his hit records of the         alongside a pair of John Lee Hooker Sheratons.
                                                                                                                                                          in the company.                                          themes from Bonanza and The Magnificent                   The sheer quality and flair of these signature
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Seven.                                                    models underlines Epiphone’s growing status as
                                                                                                                                                               1917                                                                                                          a brand to be played through choice.
                                                                                                                                                          Epi begins labelling instruments with the House                1964
An update of an Epiphone classic, the Nick Valensi                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 2002
 Riviera P94 is a blast from the past with a nod to                                                                                                       of Stathopoulo brand. The era of the tenor               George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul
                                                                                                                                                          banjo is beginning, and Epi is granted his first         McCartney buy Casinos. Alongside All You                  The new Elitist line is released to widespread
  the future. Much like the Strokes man himself…
                                                                                                                                                          patent for banjo construction.                           Need Is Love (which features all three),                  acclaim, while veteran Gibson luthier Mike Voltz
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   McCartney uses his Casino for the solos on                is recruited by Epiphone to focus on acoustic
In 2006, Epiphone is all things to all                                                                                                                          1924                                               Ticket To Ride, while Harrison uses his for the           production and marketing. Voltz will prove
                                                                                                                                                          Combining his own name with the Greek word               famous runs on Hello Goodbye. McCartney also              instrumental in establishing the new range of
players. Working musicians prize the                                                                                                                      for ‘sound’, Epi registers the Epiphone brand                                                                      Masterbilt acoustics – a series that reunites
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   buys an Epiphone Texan, which he plays on
company for its Gibson replicas, offering                                                                                                                 name.                                                    Yesterday.                                                Epiphone with its past and consolidates the
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             company’s position as a leader in both the
the quality of the most famous US                                                                                                                              1925                                                      1970                                                electric and acoustic fields.
models at competitive prices. Collectors                                                                                                                  Epi buys the Favoran banjo company in Long               In the face of foreign competition, Epiphone
                                                                                                                                                          Island City (across the East River from                  production is moved to Japan. Through the                         2003
of vintage guitars snap up the authentic
                                                                                                                                                          Manhattan) and launches the Epiphone                     1970s and early '80s, the Epiphone line has little        International demand leads to the opening of a
Elitist reissues of the Emperor, Casino and                                                                                                               Recording line of banjos. Their ornate design            continuity, although it maintains respect as a            dedicated Epiphone factory in China. Staffed
Excellente (and many more). Recording                                                                                                                     and classic tone makes them an instant                   quality import brand.                                     by US managers and luthiers, it equips the
                                                                                                                                                          success.                                                                                                           company to support the growing popularity of
artists turn to the Epiphone US range for                                                                                                                                                                               1983                                                 its instruments.
quality that rivals any guitar                                                                                                                                 1928                                                Epiphone production moves to Korea.
                                                                                                                                                          Buoyed by the success of the Recording banjos,                                                                            2005
manufacturer in the world, while rock ‘n’                                                                                                                 Epiphone introduces a Recording line of guitars                 1986                                               Epiphone is reacquainted with a big name from
roll fanatics delight in the company’s                                                                                                                    – most of them with carved tops and                      Henry Juszkiewicz, David Berryman and Gary                its past, as the Paul McCartney 1964 USA Texan
                                                                                                                                                          spruce/maple tonewoods.                                  Zebrowski acquire Epiphone and Gibson. The                is re-introduced.
signature models, which in 2006 include
                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Epi line is soon expanded to include traditional
everything from the Nick Valensi Riviera                                                                                                                       1931                                                models like the Sheraton, Emperor and Howard                    2006
                                                                                                                                                          Epiphone introduces a full line of f-hole archtop        Roberts – along with Epi versions of Gibson               The modern Epiphone catalogue offers greater
to the Zakk Wylde Les Paul Customs.                                                     Epiphone continues to work with the brightest
                                                                                                                                                          guitars (12 models in all), with the top models          classics like the Les Paul, Flying V and Explorer.        diversity than ever, with new Elitist and signature
Regardless of budget, ability or musical                                              talents in all genres of music. Black Label Society’s
                                                                                                                                                          (the De Luxe, Broadway and Triumph)                                                                                models rubbing shoulders with faithful reissues
                                                                                       Zakk Wylde is just one of many luminaries with an
leaning, today’s Epiphone line has it                                                                                                                     becoming familiar Epi model names for the next                                                                     and authentic versions of the Gibson line.
                                                                                       Epiphone signature model in 2006 (in fact he has
                                                                                                                                                          40 years.
covered.                                                                                                 three of them!)



 P A S T ,            P R E S E N T                   A N D     F U T U R E :              T H E           E P I P H O N E                    S T O R Y   P A S T ,             P R E S E N T                  A N D      F U T U R E :                T H E            E P I P H O N E              S T O R Y
645 Massman Drive, Nashville, Tennessee, 37210, USA.
 Telephone: 001 615 871 9585 www.epiphone .com

								
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