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 for 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    

Epiphone Les Paul Standard 2007!Epiphone Dot Electric Guitar Project (korean Made) Near Mint.Epiphone Thunderbird Pro Iv Electric Bass Natural Ebtpnobh1Epiphone Gibson Les Paul Standard Plus-top Trans Blue Solid Body Electric GuitarGibson Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar With Hard CaseLimited Epiphone Les Paul Custom Blackback Guitar Antique Ivory Encbaigh2Epiphone Lp 100 Les Paul Electric Guitar Vintage Sunburst 111975 D2004 Epiphone Sg Lefty, Priced To Sell!! With Hardshell Case! Epiphone Double Neck 6-12 String Electric Guitar 2009 Model 1275Epiphone By Gibson Sheraton Ii Eb Semi-hollow Rh Electric Guitar Black (ebony)*Epiphone Ej200cevs Acoustic Electric Guitar Shadow Preamp Sunburst 112721 JmGibson Epiphone Ft-350 Acoustic Guitar W/ Dean Markley Pickup & Chipboard CaseGibson Epiphone 1957 Flying VVintage 1970's Epiphone Et270 & Original Case **kurt Cobain!** Clean & Rare!!!Gibson Epiphone Eb-1 Violin Bass! Fretted 4 String! Solid Body! Exc. Condition!Epiphone Sheraton By Gibson Electric Guitar 1988 With Hard CaseEpiphone 6string Ltd Matt Heafy Signature Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar EbonyEpiphone Zephyr Blues Deluxe Vs SunburstEpiphone G310 Sg Electric Guitar Ebony 112089 IEpiphone 6string Ltd Matt Heafy Signature Les Paul Custom Electric Guitar EbonyEpiphone Les Paul 1960 Tribute Plus Faded Cherry BurstEpiphone Les Paul Studio Electric Guitar & Fender 25r Frontman Amp & Psd !!!Epiphone Les Paul Electric Guitar Made In KoreaEpiphone By Gibson Les Paul Guitar Project P90s Or Humbuckers ???? What??? L@@k!Epiphone Les Paul Custom Pro Left Handed Electric Guitar Black W/gold 113944 DEpiphone Sg Black With Gfs Dream 180 (filtertron/paf) Pickups --- G-400 -- G400Epiphone Es 339 With CaseEpiphone Mandobird Eight StringEpiphone Les Paul 100 Electric GuitarEpiphone Limited Edition Wilshire Pro Electric Guitar NewEpiphone Les Paul Special BlackEpiphone Limited 1966 Reissue G-400 Pro Sg Tv Silver Gibson Gig Bag, Egg6tsnh3Left-handed Epiphone Les Paul Excellent Condition W/ Hard-shell Travel CaseVintage Unfinished Epiphone Usa Kalamazoo Era Mahogany Acoustic Guitar Neck LookEpiphone Sg Custom Prophecy Electric Guitar & Hard Case ~ Nice & No Reserve !2003 Gibson Epiphone Electric Guitar Gorgeous Natural Wood FinishEpiphone Thunderbird Bass Guitar W/caseEpiphone Les Paul Custom Limited Edition Custom Shop Electric Guitar W/caseEpiphone Guitar Pack Series Egl2vsch1 Electric Guitar Vintage Sun 113079 MoGibson-epiphone J200 Natural Prewar FeaturesEpiphone Gibson Les Paul Standard Left Handed Ebony Finish Electric GuitarEpiphone Enjrvsch1 Right Hand 6 String Les Paul Special Ii Electric Guitar*Epiphone Model 1963 Firebird Vii Lefty / Left Handed / Very RareEpiphone Mm-50/vs F-style Mandolin, Vintage Sunburst With Tkl Hardcase, AmazingEpiphone Les Paul Ultra IiiEpiphone Dot Electric Guitar2000's Era "epiphone" Bass Guitar Neck...complete...nice Shape...look!Epiphone Limited Edition Les Paul Custom Pro Electric Guitar Silverburst Epiphone Limited Edition Custom Shop Les Paul SpecialUsed Vintage 80's 90's Epiphone S-310b S-310 Electric Guitar W/ Bad Bridge BlockEpiphone Ft-120 Acoustic Guitar Sn 562679 W/ Chipboard CaseVintage Epiphone Ft-150 Bard Bolt On Neck Acoustic Guitar Japan Epiphone Zakk Wylde Les Paul Custom Bullseye Passive Emghz PickupsEpiphone 1960 Les Paul Limited Edition Reissue2011 Epiphone Explorer Electric Guitar Black W/upgrades, Slash Sds, Sperzels HscEpiphone Thunderbird Iv Vintage Sunburst Bass Guitar2007 Epiphone Les Paul Special Ii NeckEpiphone Les Paul Special Ii Cherry Sunburst 6-string Electric Guitar (nr)Vintage 1970's Epiphone Et 276 Electric Guitar Project Mij Crestwood WilshireEpiphone Special Ii Electric Guitar Les Paul Special 2 Project