Epiphones passion has always been about more than just making guitars. It has been about making music. It has been about understanding what is inside every musican that makes them want to, have to, express themselves.
And understanding the myriad musical styles, where they are going and how they might develop. For over one hundred and twenty-five years Epiphone have continually looked for new and better ways to help players take their music farther.
Epi Stathopoulo, the founder and namesake, was always on the forefront of music. He was the first instrument maker to embrace Jazz music and led the industry away from mandolin and banjo production and into making guitars. At the age of twenty-four Epi obtained his first of many patents that would change fretted instrument construction forever.
The extension truss rod design, the first pick-up with individual pole pieces, and the Tonexpressor - the precursor to the modern day "wah-wah" pedal - were all epiphone innovations. But perhaps the greatest contribution to guitar making came in 1941 while Les Paul was experimenting in the Epiphone factory. These experiments led to the Les Paul "Log" and the first solid-body electric guitar.
Epi's vision of the future of music and guitar, as well as the importance of his work could be seen by, and in, those who chose to play an Epiphone. Musicians who themselves were visionaries. George Van Epps, Harry Volpe, Howard Roberts, Joe Pass and other Jazz players would make music history with an Epiphone guitar, as would Blues legend, John Lee Hooker. And the Beatles, who recorded Paperback Writer, Ticket to Ride, and the most recorded song ever written, Yesterday, with Epiphone guitars they purchased in 1964. It is an incredible legacy that continues today with Noel Gallagher, Lenny Kravitz and other artists who choose to make their music with an Epiphone
The same sprit of innovation that drove the Stathopoulos to start pushing the boundaries of guitar design over one hundred and twenty-five years ago is alive and well at Epiphone today. Styles of music will continue to evolve, new technologies will come and go and new players will continue to take music and guitar in new directions. But Epiphones passion for making music and our mission of providing musicians with a great instrument they can rely on to express themselves will always remain constant.
The Epiphone story starts in Greece and continues to Nashville, Tennessee USA as a division of Gibson Musical Instruments. The historical time line of the company is presented below.
1863 Anastasios Stathopoulos is born in Sparta, Greece. His father Nicolas Stathopoulos is a lumber merchant.
1873 Anastasios builds his first instruments (according to Epiphone literature of the 1930s).
1877 The Stathopoulos family moves to Smyrna in Asiatic Turkey.
1893 Epimanondas (Epi), named after a military hero in ancient Greek history, is born to Anastasios and his wife Marianthe. By this time Anastasios has established a large instrument factory in Smyrna making violins, mandolins, lutes and traditional Greek lioutos.
1903 Persecuted by the Turks, Anastasios moves his family, which now includes sons Alex and Orpheus (Orphie) and daughter Alkminie (Minnie), to New York City. In the immigration process, the final s is dropped from the family name. Labels on Anastasios' instruments say A. Stathopoulo. Another son, Frixo, and a daughter, Elly, are born in New York.
1915 Anastasios dies, leaving Epi in charge. Although the Epiphone brand name is still a few years in the future, the modern Epiphone company begins in 1915 when Epi takes over the family business. Brother Orphie is second in command. Frixo and Minnie will also eventually become active in the company.
1917 Epi begins labeling instruments with the House of Stathopoulo brand. The era of the tenor banjo is beginning, and Epi is granted his first patent for banjo construction.
1923 Epi combines his name with phone, the Greek word for sound and begins using Epiphone as a brand name on banjos. He registers the Epiphone brand name in 1924.
1925 The House of Stathopoulo buys the Favoran banjo company in Long Island City (in Queens, just across the East River from Manhattan) and begins making the Epiphone Recording line of banjos.
1928 The House of Stathopoulo officially becomes the Epiphone Banjo Co. By this time the ornate Epiphone Recording banjos are among the most highly respected of any maker. Epiphone also introduces a Recording line of guitars, most of them with carved tops.
1931 Epiphone introduces a full line of f-hole archtop guitars, ?12 models in all, including tenors. The top models; ?De Luxe, Broadway and Triump h?will be familiar Epi model names for the next 40 years. Through the 1930s Epiphone becomes one of the premier guitar companies, and the name is changed in 1935 to Epiphone Inc. Epiphone and its rival Gibson engage in fierce battles of one-upsmanship, highlighted by Epiphone's super-wide Emperor guitar in 1935 and Epiphone's adjustable-pole pickup in 1937. Among the notable Epi players are Tony Mottola with the George Hall band, Dick McDonough with Benny Goodman, Allan Reuss with Benny Goodman and Jack Teagardens and George Van Eps with Ray Noble.
1943 Epi Stathopoulo dies of leukemia, leaving Orphie in charge as president and Frixo as vice president. The brothers feud and Frixo sells his stock in 1948. The company falls on hard times in the postwar years, and by the mid-'50s is making few instruments, mostly upright basses and the Harry Volpe student model guitar.
1957 Gibson's parent company, Chicago Musical Instrument, buys Epiphone for $20,000. The purpose is to acquire Epiphone's bass production equipment, but CMI makes Epiphone a division of Gibson and revives the Epiphone name on guitars. A full line of newly designed acoustics and electrics is unveiled in 1958. Epiphone production is moved into Gibson's factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in 1960. Longtime Epi endorser Al Caiola gets his own model in 1963 and plays it on his hit records of the themes from Bonanza and The Magnificent Seven.
1961 Epi arrives in country music when Ernest Tubb outfits his entire Texas Troubadours band with Epiphones. Marshall Grant plays his upright Epi bass in Johnny Cash's band, and Grady Martin plays his Broadway on numerous Nashville sessions.
1964 The Beatles go Epi when George Harrison, John Lennon and Paul McCartney buy Casinos. Paul uses his for the guitar solos on "Ticket To Ride." George's Casino, the only one of the three equipped with a Bigsby vibrato, plays the major-scale runs in "Hello Goodbye." All three Casinos are used on "All You Need Is Love." Paul also gets an Epiphone Texan which he plays on "Yesterday."
1970 In the face of heavy competition from Japanese makers, Epiphone production is moved to Japan. Through the 1970s and early '80s, the Epiphone line has little continuity, although it maintains respect as a quality import brand.
1986 Epiphone and Gibson, headquartered in Nashville since 1984, are acquired by Henry Juszkiewicz, David Berryman and Gary Zebrowski. The Epi line is soon expanded to include traditional Epi models like the Sheraton, Emperor and Howard Roberts plus Epi versions of such Gibson classics as the Les Paul, Flying V and Explorer.
1992 Jim "Epi" Rosenberg arrives to head up the Epiphone line and expands it to offer virtually every style of guitar to the value-conscious player. In 1993, the Epi reputation is enhanced by the Nashville USA Collection ?limited edition models that are the first American-made Epiphones in over 20 years. Gibson's Montana division follows in 1994 with limited editions of Epiphone flat top models Excellente, Frontier and Texan.
1995 Epiphone celebrates the 80th anniversary of Epi Stathopoulo's rise to head the family business the beginning of the modern era of Epiphone history.