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Epiphone is one of American’s oldest and most revered instrument makers and since 1873, Epiphone has made instruments for every style of popular music. The name evokes both history and the spirit of invention. Epiphone has been an audible (not to mention visible!) presence in every great musical era from the mandolin craze of the early 1900s to jazz age guitars of the 1920s. From swing era archtops through post-war pop, jazz, r&b, and early rock n’ roll. From the “British Invasion” to heavy metal, punk, grunge, and thrash. And now, in the 21st century, new Epiphone technical breakthroughs such as the ProBucker™ pickup, series parallel switching, built-in KillSwitch™ pots, the Shadow NanoFlex™ and NanoMag™ pickup systems, and premier acoustic/electric guitars with the eSonic™ preamp have brought the historic name to a new generation.
The story behind Epiphone’s improbable rise from a small family repair shop to a world-wide leader in the manufacture of quality instruments could easily be transformed into the great American novel. But our story is true.
The Epiphone tale begins in the mountains of Greece and threads its way to Turkey, across the Atlantic to the immigrant gateway of Ellis Island, and into the nightclubs, recording studios, and coast-to-coast radio broadcasts of Manhattan in the 1920s and 30s. It’s the story of craftsmanship passed from father to son and the ceaseless American drive for innovation. Just a decade after Epiphone published a 46-page catalogue that included acoustic archtops, flattops, basses, electric guitars, banjos, and amplifiers, the company would be bankrupt and sold to a longtime rival, Gibson. Today, Epiphone is once again an innovator in guitar and instrument manufacturing.
The variety of musicians that walk through Epiphone’s history is equally remarkable. Jazz greats like George Van Eps, country pioneers like Hank Garland, bluesman John Lee Hooker, and scores of mandolin, archtop and steel guitar players used Epiphone instruments daily over nationwide broadcasts. There are unlikely heroes and tinkerers in the Epiphone story too, like guitar pioneer Les Paul, who worked nights in the Epiphone factory to create “the Log”, his primordial version of what would eventually be called the “Les Paul.” Beatles’ bassist extraordinaire Paul McCartney choose an Epiphone Casino as his first American made guitar and John Lennon and George Harrison quickly followed. The Casino appeared on every Beatles album from Help through Abey Road. And today, Epiphone can be heard on albums by Gary Clark, Jr., My Chemical Romance, Joe Bonamassa, Zakk Wylde, Machine Head, Dwight Yoakam, The Strokes, Slash, Jeff Waters, Paul Simon, Radiohead, The Waco Brothers, Lenny Kravitz, and Paul Weller.
If a time machine could transport today’s Epiphone players to Epiphone’s Manhattan showroom of 60 years ago when it was a gathering place for all the Big Apple’s best players, the generations would agree that Epiphone has always been the House of Stathopoulo, and today is still innovating, still delighting musicians, and still frustrating competitors with daring designs and superb quality. “Epiphone always made a good guitar,” Les Paul once said. And that after all, is what all musicians are looking for.
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