Epiphone electric acoustics

Full body and thinline electric acoustic guitars

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Epiphone produced a number of full-bodied electric acoustic guitars in the 1950s under the ownership of the Stathopoulos family; very fine guitars such as the three pickup Emperor, two pickup Deluxe Electric, and the various versions of the Zephyr and Century were in fact the only electric guitars produced by Epiphone prior to the brand being taken over by Gibson in 1957.

When Gibson took on the Epiphone Marque, they brought production from Philadelphia to their Kalamazoo plant in Michigan. They inherited all tooling, partially finished instruments and components, allowing them to continue Epiphone production. Over the next few years, Gibson relaunched many of these models, and added several more; keeping original names, and selected design features and hardware from pre-Gibson days, but the majority were given a new thinner body, in keeping with the popular Electric Spanish series guitars just launched by Gibson (ES-330, ES-335 etc).

Only one pre-Gibson model, the Epiphone Broadway kept it's original full body depth, but it was joined in 1964 by a new model, a signature guitar for jazz guitarist Howard Roberts, and then a second model the Howard Roberts Custom in 1965. Both were eventually branded Gibson (see the Gibson Howard Roberts) once Epiphone production left Kalamazoo at the end of the 1960s.

Guitars like the Riviera and Sheraton built reputations for themselves, but none more-so than the Casino which was favoured by, amongst others, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. In terms of quality and functionality, these US Kalamazoo-built Epiphones were on par with Gibson's own output, and typically retailed at the same pricepoint.

Market pressures in the late 1960s were forcing US manufacturers to offer lower priced guitars, able to compete with Asian imports. Epiphone production continued at Kalamazoo until 1969, but the decision was finally made to realign the brand below the US-built Gibsons. Production of a new line of Epiphones was awarded to Aria, who produced a new Epiphone electric acoustic model at the Matsumoko plant in Japan. Model 5102T was the only semi-acoustic model available at this time, morphing into the EA250 by 1972. These models were very basic, with a bolt-on neck; a world away from the quality American guitars of the 60s.

But as the seventies progressed, Matsumoko production improved. By the mid 1970s, they were able to offer set neck reissues of the older models - however at a price point that confined them. to the Japanese market. Finally in 1982, the Casino, Emperor, Riviera and Sheraton were again offered in the United States, and interestingly enough, a full body depth version of the Epiphone Emperor was available again for the first time since the mid-1950s.

Asian Epiphone production has continued since this time, though moving from Japan to Korea and China. Although not in the same league as the 1950s Stathopoulos-era, or the 1960s Kalamazoo-era guitars, modern day production techniques allow the offering of consistently good quality Epiphone electric acoustics.

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US ebay listings

2001 Epiphone Casino Maple top with case

Current price: $600.00
buy it now
Time left: 29d 12h 49m
Epiphone Casino Sunburst Semi-hollowbody Electric Guitar

Current price: $499.99
buy it now
Time left: 26d 20h 33m

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