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The Epiphone Jukebox Timeline

 

The early Epiphone story spans three generations and the Atlantic Ocean. The son of a wood merchant, Anastasio Stathopoulo observed his father’s trade and learned about tonewoods. He opened his own instrument factory in 1890. When his son “Epi” took over that company in the 1920s, he gave it the new name Epiphone, a reference not only to his own name but also to the Greek word for sound or voice.

1873

EUROPEAN BEGINNINGS

Around the time of his 12th birthday, Anastasios Stathopoulo’s family left their home in Greece and settled in Smyrna – now known as Izmir – a bustling seaport in the Ottoman Empire where his father, Konstantinos, established himself as a lumber merchant. Anastasios observed his father’s trade, learning about different varieties of wood and their unique properties. The family soon established a store in Smyrna selling and repairing lutes, violins, and bouzoukis, and by 1890, Anastasios’ reputation as a luthier was such that he was able to open his own instrument factory.

1909

THE FIRST PATENT

Having relocated with his family to the USA at the start of the decade – including eldest child Epaminondas, or Epi, as he became known – Anastasios Stathopoulo continued his musical instrument trade. He filed his first and only patent on March 25, 1909, for an Italian-style bowl-back mandolin, and his instruments now carried labels in English: A. Stathopoulo, Manufacturer, repairer of all kinds of musical instruments, Patentee of the Orpheum Lyra, New York, 1911, USA.

1915

EPI TAKES OVER

Anastasios died in 1915, and the 22-year-old Epi was handed the reins of the family business. His father’s instrument label was replaced by a new design: The House of Stathopoulo, Quality Instruments Since 1873. Epi took a leading role and was soon granted his first patent for a banjo tone ring and rim construction. Following his mother’s death in 1923, Epi assumed ownership of the controlling shares of the business and phased out most of the old-world-style mandolin models. Moving with the times, he introduced the Recording line of banjos to capitalize on the instrument’s huge popularity in America after the First World War.

1931

EPIPHONE LEADS THE ARCHTOP ERA

Epi Stathopoulo was keenly aware that archtop guitars were becoming more popular, and his main competitor was Gibson. 1931 saw the arrival of Epiphone’s Masterbilt line of guitars, featuring seven carved-top archtops, including the De Luxe ($275), Broadway ($175), and the Triumph ($125). It wasn’t hard to see the Gibson L-5’s influence; the Masterbilts had similar f-holes, pegheads, and even a similar name to the Gibson Master Model range. They also stole a significant portion of Gibson’s market share and were much loved by premier musicians of the era.

1937

ELECTRIC INNOVATION

In 1935, Epiphone made its move into another popular market with the introduction of the Electar steel guitar series (known initially as Electraphone), and soon, the company would be the first to develop a pickup with adjustable pole pieces, or “balancing pins” as they were referred to in company literature at the time. Initially named the TruBalance pickup, a patent application for what became known as the Master Pickup was filed by Epiphone salesman Herb Sunshine in November 1937.

1939

LES PAUL BUILDS THE LOG

Les Paul developed his famous “Log” prototype – arguably the first-ever solidbody electric Spanish guitar – at the Epiphone factory, using some Epiphone parts. Later, to make it more aesthetically palatable to his audience, he added “wings” from an Epiphone archtop body that had been sawn in half and attached to either side of the solid center section. There’s an argument that the first-ever solidbody electric guitar as we know it today was an Epiphone, and that the Log’s design was a precursor to the Gibson ES-335 and its centerblock construction.

1957

EPIPHONE JOINS GIBSON

Ted McCarty orchestrated the purchase of the entire Epiphone company from the Stathopoulo family and revived the brand over the next few years with a new line of instruments. These included the flagship Emperor model and new designs that would later become iconic, such as the Sheraton, the solidbody Coronet, and several flat-top acoustics.

1962

JOHN LEE HOOKER RELEASES BOOM BOOM

Recorded in 1961, Hooker’s iconic Boom Boom is not simply a blues standard – it also became a pop crossover hit. Covered by numerous acts on the UK R&B circuit in the early 1960s, The Animals had a hit with it in 1965, while Boom Boom’s fingerprints can be heard all over ZZ Top’s 1973 hit La Grange. 2018 saw Epiphone commemorate what would have been Hooker’s 100th birthday with a replica of the Natural-finished 1961 Zephyr that was his main stage and studio guitar throughout the 1960s and early 70s.

1965

PAUL MCCARTNEY PERFORMS YESTERDAY ON THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW

With Beatlemania at its height, the band’s fourth and final live performance on The Ed Sullivan Show saw Paul McCartney put his bass to one side, pick up his 1964 Epiphone Texan and take to the stage solo to perform Yesterday along with a prerecorded backing track. Filmed at Studio 50 in New York City in August, when screened on September 12, 1965, the broadcast captured a 60 percent share of the total television audience.

1966

THE BEATLES RELEASE REVOLVER

By 1966, The Beatles were evolving at high speed and absorbing a kaleidoscopic array of new influences. Their first psychedelic masterpiece, Revolver, saw Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney all playing Epiphone Casinos to thrilling effect, with Paul’s blazing solo on Taxman a standout moment. In a 1990 Guitar Player interview, McCartney described it as his “first real voyage into feedback.” Lennon’s love affair with his own Casino would continue for the remainder of The Beatles’ recording career, as evidenced by its prominent role in Peter Jackson’s 2021 documentary, Get Back.

1996

OASIS PLAY KNEBWORTH

Thirty years after Revolver, another British pop phenomenon was in full swing. Epiphone instruments were used throughout the sessions for smash-hit albums Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, and, in 1996, Oasis headlined two epic outdoor shows in England across one August weekend, playing to a record-breaking audience of 250,000. Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs opted for his trusty 1980s Masumoku-built Riviera, while Noel Gallagher used a 1990s USA-made Sheraton for the era-defining performances.

1997

JACK CASADY SIGNATURE BASS LAUNCHED

Artist signature models can be polarizing instruments – but not the Jack Casady Bass. Epiphone’s longest-running artist model still in production is also the world’s most popular semi-hollow electric bass. Over the years, it has found its way into the collections of bass players of almost every genre. The culmination of years of experimentation by the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna bassist, the model features the Casady-designed JCB low-impedance pickup and delivers the killer feel and tonal nuances you’d expect from a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s signature four-string.






 
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