Anastasios Stathopoulo, the Greek founder of the company that would become Epiphone, arrived in New York in 1903 from Turkey. In the beginning, the company produced traditional stringed instruments. After Anastasios died in 1915, Stathopoulo’s son Epimanondas moved his father’s company into the production of banjos. The shift came just in time to catch the American banjo craze of the 1920s, and by 1928, the company had changed its name to the Epiphone Banjo Company (“Epi” being Epimanondas’s nickname, “phone” being Greek for “sound”).

Even then, banjos were not Epiphone’s sole focus, and a good thing, too. When the bottom fell out of the stock market, banjo demand ebbed, so it helped that Epiphone was ready for the 1930s with a complete line of “Recording” archtop and flat-top acoustic guitars, which were given model names from A through E. The guitars came in spruce and maple, and these old archtops are either played today by blues musicians or treasured by collectors.

They weren't a hit at the time, however, their sound too timid compared to the big, boomy Gibson L-5. Thus began a decades-long rivalry with Gibson, in which Epiphone would try to outdo its tough competitor by copying Gibson’s dimensions, the use of f-holes (some Epiphones would have four), the style of its pegheads, and even its model names (Gibson had its Master Model line; Epiphone had a Masterbilt Series).

Epiphone Masterbilts of the early 1930s included the Broadway (the Regent version has a single cutaway), DeLuxe, Tudor, Triumph, and Zenith. Epimanondas made sure his company’s guitars were just a little bit bigger than Gibson’s, often by no more than 3/8ths of an inch in width. It was a silly feud but the guitars won the respect of some of the best musicians of the day, including Les Paul, who would become better known for the Gibson that bears his name.

Epiphone jumped into the electric market with the Electar archtop Spanish-style guitar in 1935, challenging Rickenbacker, which had pioneered the practice in 1931. Electrified Hawaiian guitars followed in 1939 (Gibson introduced one the same year), and in 1940, Epiphone launched a line of upright basses that are highly regarded by collectors and players today.

World War II put the fight between the instrument makers on hold, and by the end of the war, Epimanondas had succumbed to leukemia. Epi’s surviving siblings squabbled among themselves and the company drifted. Meanwhile, Gibson sharpened its game, looking past Epiphone to the west as it fought a new competitor in the electric arena, Fender. Finally, in 1957, the company that owned Gibson bought the upright-bass division of Epiphone for a fire-sale price.

At first, Gibson’s legendary general manager, Ted McCarty, planned to just build on the good name of the Epiphone basses, but it quickly became clear that using the Epiphone name...

In fact, the Epiphones of this period—from the late 1950s until the middle of the 1960s—were, and are, considered poor-man’s Gibsons, although two factors have made some of the electric guitars quite collectible. One is their relative scarcity. For example, only 66 copies of the double-cutaway version of the Emperor were made, and blond versions of the Sheraton from 1958 are also rare and in demand.

But the other factor that has made some Gibson-built Epiphone guitars collectible was the list of artists who played them. For one model from 1961, the Casino, three out of four of The Beatles (Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison), played the guitar, McCartney most famously for his solos on “Ticket to Ride” and “Taxman.”

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections on vintage guitar makers, including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1994-1995 Fender Telecaster Made In Mexico Squier Series Needs RepairEpiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus - Vintage Sunburst Electric Guitar W/ Hsc - As IsEpiphone Dot Electric GuitarEpiphone Es-339 Pro Semi Hollow Body Electric Guitar, CrackEpiphone Futura Amplifier Circa 1962Epiphone Sheraton Ii Electric Guitar Archtop Semi Hollow Body Rh 6 String Music2015 Epiphone Dot Es-355 Pro Vs Semi Hollowbody Electric Guitar In Case - MintEpiphone Les Paul Custom Blackback Pro Electric Guitar Antique Ivory Encbaigh4Epiphone Tommy Thayer White Lightning Custom Kiss Electric Guitar + Hsc - As IsEpiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus - Black Cherry Electric Guitar W/ Hsc - As IsEpiphone Les Paul Standard Plustop Pro Vintage Sunburst Electric Guitar - As IsEpiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus Black Cherry Solidbody Electric Guitar - As IsEpiphone Les Paul Standard Electric GuitarEpiphone Les Paul Tribute Plus - Midnight Ebony Solidbody Electric Guitar As IsVintage Epiphone Wilshire 1963 Made By Gibson Nice Cherry Red Ez Project Epiphone Es-335 Dot Studio - Cherry Semi-hollowbody Electric Guitar - As IsEpiphone Les Paul Custom Pro - Ebony Solidbody Electric Guitar - As IsEpiphone Gibson Les Paul Electric Guitar W/ Hard Case1996 Epiphone Sorrento P-90 Korea Mik With Bigsby Epiphone Tremolo, OrangeEpiphone Les Paul Custom Pro - Alpine White Solidbody Electric Guitar - As IsEpiphone Wilshire Guitar,japan,1970's,black,good Condition,no Reserve2007 Gibson Epiphone Les Paul Studio Guitar Neck & Body Lmt Edition Custom ShopEpiphone Dove Advanced Jumbo Acoustic Guitar - Natural - No ReserveEpiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar (parts)Epiphone Les Paul Custom Blackback Pro Electric Guitar Antique Ivory1961 Vintage Epiphone Olympic Electric Guitar W Case Melody Maker Usa KalamazooEpiphone Explorer Bass With Original Case No Reserve!!1998 Epiphone Korina Flying V Electric Guitar With Dean Hard Case!Epiphone Wiltshire Limited Edition 2007 Model In White.Epiphone "lucille" Semi-hollow Es-335 B.b. King Amazing Electric Guitar Epiphone Es 339 Pro Vintage Sunburst Epiphone Les Paul Standard - Ebony Left Handed Lefty Electric Guitar - As IsEpiphone Et278 Guitarjapan 1970's,black Rare Wilshire StyleEpiphone 339 Pro Vintage Sunburst - So Sweet - With Padded Gig Bag - No ReserveMinty 1994 Epiphone Ej-200 Acoustic/electric Guitar Sunburst With OhscEpiphone Limited Edition Korina Explorer Bass - White, Gorgeous - A Real Looker!Epiphone Archtop Sheraton Ii Electric GuitarEpiphone - Aj-220sce - Sunburst - 25.5" Scale - Acoustic/electric Guitar As-isEpiphone Les Paul Standard Electric Guitar With Hard Shell CaseGibson Nickel Mini Humbucking Pickup 1963 For Epiphone Wilshire Chris IsaakEpiphone Thunderbird Classic-iv Pro Electric Bass Guitar Alpine WhiteEpiphone Les Paul StandardGibson Nickel Mini Humbucking Pickup 1963 For Epiphone Wilshire Chris IsaakEpiphone Ej200 Jumbo Acoustic GuitarEpiphone Sg Special Le Electric Guitar Damaged As IsGibson Epiphone Ej 200 Artist Acoustic Guitar. Excellent Condition And Player.Gibson Epiphone Series Les Paul Standard Electric GuitarEpiphone Les Paul 6-string Electric Guitar W/caseEpiphone Limited Edition Nighthawk Custom Quilt Electric Guitar Transparent BlueEpiphone S-900 6-string 21-fret Black/cream Electric Guitar With Case 1988Epiphone Les Paul Studio Model Natural Finish - With Gig Bag Gibson Epiphone Pb-350b Acoustic Guitar- Black -08/l4618aEpiphone Le Lp Custom Pro 100th Anniversary GuitarEpiphone 2005 Les Paul Classic Six String Red Electric Guitar W/ HscEpiphone Les Paul Custom White Gold Hardware Excellent Condition W/ Hard CaseEpiphone Et 270 Of Nirvana FameEpiphone Et278 Guitarjapan 1970's,black Rare Wilshire Style2006 Epiphone Sg G-400 Electric Guitar Ebony Finish W/ Soft Fender CaseEpiphone Et278 Guitarjapan 1970's,black Rare Wilshire Style And Look Real RelicEpiphone Dot Ch Cherry 6 String Solid Electric Guitar