Epiphone continued its 140th celebration weekend last Saturday with an Open House at its new state of the art headquarters in Nashville, TN. The event drew scores of Epi fans, Epiphone forum members, and producers and musicians from the Nashville community. Epiphone President Jim Rosenberg and Gibson President Dave Berryman hosted the festivities, which began at high noon with music, food, and giveaways and carried on through the early evening.
As guests signed in, they were greeted by our world famous collection of vintage Epiphones, many of which were originally part of Jim Fisch's collection. The late Jim Fisch was a huge Epiphone fan and his dogged research and enthusiasm for all things Epiphone makes the collection, now owned by Epiphone, a miraculous one-of-a-kind site to behold. The collection, which includes an early mandolin built by Anastasios Stathopoulo, a House of Stathopoulo harp guitar, and vintage collectable (and extremely rare) Hawaiian guitars, acoustic archtops and electric tenor and jazz guitars were not only on display but were also set up and in tune. Guests were advised to not play the instruments and though everyone was on their best behavior, many a hand brushed the strings to compare tones and timbre.
Since all the guitars were in pitch and up to standard tuning, it was easy to hear just by plucking a string how every Epiphone instrument--even separated by decades--all had similar tonal qualities not to mention expert craftsmanship and flawless color, including some unique sunburst styles that may show up on an Epiphone archtop in the near future.
There were lots of kids at the event too, and all of them took their turn trying out SGs, Casinos, and Les Pauls that were hooked up to mini amps attached to headphone sets to allow easy (and great sounding) comparisons between models and pickups.
The kids also took to the Bass Room, which gave fans a chance to check out Epiphone Jack Casady, Toby, and Firebird models. The main office spaces at Epiphone don't feel like an "office." They feel more like a meeting place with tall ceilings, plenty of light, and a warm cordial atmosphere in keeping with Epiphone's tradition of keeping staff together and encouraging interaction and new ideas. Open house visitors could easily stroll through the work areas and check out guitars earmarked for silent auction, try their hand at playing Rocksmith™, model some Epiphone swag, take their photo against the backdrop of a classic magazine cover, and speak with designers from Epiphone as well as Kramer and Steinberger. Exclusive tours of the entire facility carried on throughout the day.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the vast building, visitors passed a timeline of Epiphone beginning with photos of Epi's classic showrooms in New York, past early advertisements for Epiphone Masterbilts and Les Paul and Mary Ford, and on through the 60s, 70s, and the modern era including some killer ads for the original Genesis. Today's ultra modern Epiphone showroom was decked out with every Epiphone model now available and included a lounge, a stage, and plenty of seats to watch special guest Jeff Waters thrill the crowd with two blazing sets of guitar virtuosity. Jeff also checked out several Epiphone acoustic guitars when no one was looking.
In between sets, Dr. Epiphone was on hand to tell guests about Epiphone PRO humbucker pickups, set up techniques, and the dozen or more fantastic technical advances that Epiphone has installed in its instruments over the past decade.
One of the more exciting happenings at the Open House was the "Epiphone ProBucker Pickup Challenge" hosted by Richard Akers, Director of Epiphone Research and Development. Richard brought two sets of three Les Paul Standard PlusTop PROs--in Vintage Sunburst and Heritage Cherry Sunburst--and both set up with new Epiphone ProBucker pickups as well as some very fine boutique humbuckers pickups.
Many guests took up the challenge to tell which Les Paul had Epiphone ProBuckers including pros, guitar magazine editors, and guitar collectors. While every pickup sounded fantastic and the differences were slight, Epiphone won a majority favorite. (More on that soon).
The day ended with a terrific turnout for a silent auction featuring instruments signed by Steve Earle, Jack Casady, Tommy Thayer, and many others. One couldn't leave without thinking that Epiphone's hard work over the last decade has paid off mightily. All of the assembled visitors--young and old, from all walks of life--left feeling connected better connected to Epiphone and impressed with the seemingly never ending attention to quality; from the welcoming feel of Epiphone headquarters to the vast array of instruments. You could hardly take a seat and not find an Epiphone guitar or bass that was in-tune and ready to play.
Epiphone's 140th birthday celebrates the opening chapter of the Epiphone story which began 140 years ago when the Stathopoulo family left Greece for the coast of Turkey where they settled in Smyrna, a bustling seaport with a strong Greek immigrant population of merchants and craftsmen and Anastasios, the father of Epi Stathopoulo, began training to be a luthier in the family business of repairing and making instruments. By the time Anastasios's first son, Epaminondas, was born in 1893, followed by Alex, Minnie, Orpheu and Frixo (future custodians of Epiphone up until the late 50's) the entire family was deeply involved in designing and manufacturing musical instruments.
After moving his family to America in the 1900s, Anastasios continued his instrument trade, quickly assimilating the pace of American business practices. He filed his first and only patent March 25, 1909 for an Italian style bowl back mandolin. His son Epi, would later take over the company and with intense spirit and panache, move Epiphone into the world of banjos, Masterbilt guitars, electric archtops, and a flurry new ideas (electric pianos, pedal steels, push/pull amp designs) that today are the bedrock of a vast and integrated company that delivers professional affordable instruments everywhere--and anywhere--in the world.
Look for more updates on the fabulous 2013 Epiphone Open House birthday party. And let's do this again next year, too. What do you say?