Epiphone guitars and basses have a long, respected history. Branded Epiphone in 1923 by Greek immigrant Epimanondas Stathopoulo (who learned about stringed instruments from his father, a respected mandolin maker), the company originally made its claim to fame by building world-class banjos, a popular instrument in the 1920’s. Of course, times change, and with the Great Depression came a change in focus for the company, guitars. For years, Epiphone had a heated rivalry with another well-known guitar maker, Gibson.
The rivalry would soon come to an end when Gibson bought Epiphone in 1957, originally because of Epiphone’s well-regarded bass guitars. However, Epiphone continued to produce highly sought-after instruments, and the 1960’s were a time of renewal for the company, with groups such as the Beatles using Epiphone instruments (especially the Epiphone Casino) on a regular basis.
In the early 1970’s, Epiphone production had been moved to Japan, with less-than-spectacular results. The 1970’s were not a good time for the brand, to say the least. However, eventually production was moved to Korea in 1983. As with any drastic move, the company endured serious growing pains, but by the mid 1990’s, Epiphone guitars were being produced in South Korea under strict quality control standards, and the name Epiphone once again garnered respect.
Embracing both the past and the future, the Epiphone brand is currently associated with some of the finest instruments they’ve ever produced. From such highly regarded semi-hollowbodies such as the Sheraton II and the Casino to the Les Paul Standard Plus, Epiphone is back with a vengeance and should certainly be respected in its own right, not merely as Gibson’s “budget” line.