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.
The international celebration of the life and work of Charles Dickens takes place to mark the bicentenary of his birth, which falls on 7 February 2012. Find out more about the international institutions and organisations involved.
This recent rediscovery is believed to be the earliest surviving film inspired by the work of Charles Dickens, in this case the character of Jo the crossing sweep from ‘Bleak House’. ‘The Death of Poor Joe’ was almost certainly made by pioneer filmmaker G.A. Smith and predates his 1901 adaptation of ‘A Christmas Carol’, ‘Scrooge, or Marley’s Ghost’.
The Flying V was born on a field of battle that still rages: Gibson verses Fender. In 1957 Gibson’s then-president Ted McCarty wanted some new six-strings to tussle with Leo Fender’s popular Stratocasters. Sure, the Les Paul was already making history, but McCarty wanted more contemporary reinforcements with some eye-candy appeal. After all, the Les Paul had debuted in 1952 during the height of the Korean War. It was a new era.
So Gibson’s design gurus came up with patents for both the Flying V and the Explorer. They were modern looking instruments during a period when Americans were enjoying peace and prosperity, and more leisure time than ever before. And they smacked of the day’s yen for progress. Scientists had elaborated on technology from World War II and Korea to make great leaps in rocketry. Satellites began to circle the Earth. Science fiction novels and movies were the rage.
The aerodynamic charms of both models, but especially the “swept back, forward looking”—as Z.Z. Top’s Billy Gibbons has put it—Flying V made it seem like personal jet packs were just around the corner.
The prototype Flying Vs were mahogany and deemed a bit too heavy and a bit too costly to compete with the Strat. So the first models to leave Gibson’s original factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, during 1958 were made of the lighter and more readily available korina wood. Their sales didn’t break the sound barrier. According to Larry Meiners’ thoroughly enjoyable Flying “V”: The Illustrated History of This Modernistic Guitar, less than 100 were ordered by dealers in ’58 and ’59.
It would take another decade-and-a-half before the Flying V would have the last amplified laugh, but early sales were so slack that in 1960 the model was struck from Gibson’s catalog. Dave Davies of the Kinks tells a story about buying an original-production V from a Los Angeles guitar shop in 1964 at the fire-sale price of $60. The V’s suggested retail at the time was $247.50. Today a ’58 or ’59 V fetches between $120,000 and $145,000.
Elvis was honored by the Tennessee State Legislature on March 6, 1961. Elvis showed up looking presidential in a black suit and tie and accepted the title of ‘Honorary Colonel.’ He was escorted by Governor Buford Ellington’s daughter Ann and received a tour of the governor’s mansion. “Elvis Presley Day” was proclaimed by the governor and every year after this, Elvis donated money to a list of Memphis-area charities.