Epiphone Celebrates with Massive Weekend Party
Epiphone celebrated its 140th anniversary weekend with a massive birthday celebration held at various locations throughout Nashville including historic downtown Lower Broadway, legendary Printer's Alley, and, of course, Epiphone's new state-of-the headquarters.
Epiphone's 140th birthday, which will continue to be celebrated throughout 2013, honors 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. There, young Anastasios, the future 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 modern world of banjos, Masterbilt acoustic guitars, electric archtops, and a flurry of new ideas (electric pianos, pedal steels, push/pull amp designs). Today, Epi's energy is still what drives and inspires Epiphone. Our past is ever present and the commitment to quality instruments is still the bedrock of our vast, worldwide company that delivers professional affordable instruments everywhere--and anywhere--in the world.
It seems entirely appropriate that Epiphone is today located in Music City USA with a brand new state of the art headquarters, too. Nashville and Epiphone have a lot in common. Music City is the premier spot on Earth to compose, arrange, record, manufacture, and perform music and for the first time, it too is enjoying a hipster renaissance.
Epiphone kicked off its weekend-long 140th birthday celebration July 12, 2013 with a killer rooftop concert at the exclusive Nashville bar Aerial which is situated high above Lower Broadway, Nashville's infamous honky tonk highway. The all-evening throwdown featured two sets from The Beatles-themed band The Return along with the Magnolia Sons and Young Hines on a much loved-Casino.
As evidenced by the attendees at Aerial--an easy-mixing group of Epiphone forum members, dealers from around the world, fans, musicians, producers, as well as Epiphone President Jim Rosenberg and Gibson President Dave Berryman, Epiphone is now at the epicenter (we couldn't resist) of the music world, too. On Friday night, everyone got into the spirit. And judging by the music and the crowd's good fellowship, it's clear that Epiphone is a name that people equate with quality, history, and progressive ideas in instrument making.
The Return kicked off the night around sunset with a scorching rendition of "Get Back" while down on the street, families, rockers, tourists, and street musicians looked up to the roof of Aerial to catch the unlikely site (and sounds) of a classic four piece band--guitar, bass, and drums--making a joyful racket that had all the grit and passion as the original concert that inspired them, The Beatles rooftop romp (and final concert) at the London headquarters for their label, Apple Records in January, 1969. Unlike The Beatles' send off, no police came to shut the show down (Lower Broadway is used to a lot of music, after all) but the evening definitely made an impression. The Magnolia Sons brought along a killer three piece horn section and Young Hines even got some help on back up vocals from The Return (minus 'Ringo,' of course).
But Friday night was only the beginning! The party the next day with an Open House at Epiphone's 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. Once again, Epiphone President Jim Rosenberg and Gibson President Dave Berryman hosted the festivities, which began at high noon on Saturday with music, food, and giveaways and carried on through the early evening.
As guests signed in, they were greeted by Epiphone's 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 Probucker 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.
Epiphone's 140th Anniversary Celebration came to a head Saturday night in Nashville when Epiphone principals and friends invaded The Bourbon Street Blues & Boogie Bar in Printer's Alley for what was a standing-room-only showcase of Epiphone instruments, by some of Epiphone's brightest endorsees. The evening was MC'd by Epiphone President, Jim Rosenberg and Twister Sister guitarist Jay Jay French who not only kept the night moving with his own brand of comedy, but treated the crowd to his own performance of Albert Kings "Crosscut Saw."
Mega-hit writers Steve Dean and Billy Montana opened the evening with an acoustic set of their songs and some colorful insights into their lives as music-row songwriters. These two guys have written for some of the biggest stars in country music including Garth Brooks, Sara Evans, Tim McGraw, Kenny Chesney, Blake Shelton and more.
Smooth jazz artist Tim Bowman was up next and played a stellar set with his Epiphone Broadway, backed by some of the top players in Nashville. Tim spent 3 years as the musical director for renowned gospel group, The Winans, and has established himself as a top artist in the Smooth Jazz field as evidenced by his top ten hits on the Billboard's Smooth Jazz chart. Nashville favorite, Nichole Cooper of Cooper and the Jam, joined Tim for a couple of numbers that brought the house down.
Up and coming country artist Duane Cliatt followed with a set of country originals that had even the most successful songwriters in the audience listening closely. It didn't hurt that Duane's band is top-notch!
Smooth jazz artist Matt Marshak was next with his Epiphone Sheraton-II and delivered a flawless set of tunes off his latest release Colors of Me with his band that included brother Chris on drums.
Guitarist Rick Marcel (The Isley Brothers, Charlie Wilson, Lil Wayne) followed Matt with a blistering set of high-powered, blues influenced tunes.
Next was country artist Jared Ashley, who not only treated the crowd to his own tunes, but surprised everyone with a stylistic-diverse medley of songs that included everything from Ozzy's "Crazy Train" to Bon Jovi's "Livin' On A Prayer." Jared's guitarist Michael Elsner proved why he is one of the busiest guitarists in Nashville by effortlessly covering a wide swath of guitar parts from Randy Rhoads to Richie Sambora!
The evening ended with a fantastic set of blues by Bad Influence Band featuring guitarist Michael "Jr." Tash on his Epiphone ES-339 PRO.
Seven hours of music celebration might not have been enough for a 140 year anniversary, but it was a great start! We plan on celebrating for the rest of the year and hope you will join us. To everyone that did make it to Nashville for the weekend, we say thank you very much for making our 140th Anniversary Celebration truly one to remember!