When longtime Epiphone fan Paul Weller debuted his latest album, Sonik Kicks,
he appeared on several BBC television specials playing his main axe—a 60s era vintage Casino and another Epiphone that was even more rare but just as striking--the Epiphone Dwight, an alias for one of the great unsung rock guitars of the 60's, the Coronet.
Weller's "Dwight" Coronet, which was marketed exclusively for Sonny Shields Music in East St. Louis (commissioned by owner Charles "Dwight" Shields), sparked renewed interest in the Coronet which like so many Epiphone's from the '60s, has retained its "hip" factor among musicians in-the-know.
Vintage models are scarce (everyone loves a challenge) and their lightweight design, perfect balance, and roaring sound make them terrific rock guitars for both rhythm and lead. And for players like Weller, who have spent a good deal of time on stage as the only guitar player in the band, the Coronet feels
like it's part of you when you play.
Today's Epi fans who are thinking about designing their own Coronet will find the body has ample room for artistic expression. The Coronet was first produced in 1958 at the shared Gibson/Epiphone Kalamazoo factory in Michigan and was among the first new models to inaugurate the "new" Epiphone line. Gibson president Ted McCarty's main challenge when reintroducing the Epiphone brand was to make Epiphone seem current without losing longtime (and seriously dedicated) fans who regarded Epiphone as an American classic with its unique archtop designs and distinctive tones.
In 1958, rock and roll was still going strong and thanks to the Les Paul, kids were primarily reaching for solidbody guitars that were lightweight and easy to use. The Coronet was most likely intended to be an alternative choice for the Les Paul Junior--inexpensive and simple to master with one "New York" pickup, and knobs for tone and volume. The original Coronet's headstock had basic tuners--3 on a side--with the 50's era Epiphone metal badge (also seen on the 50th Anniversary ‘61 Casino). A large, asymmetrical pickguard gave the Coronet a familiar '50s look but the larger pickguard made the Coronet easy to spot from far away. *Contest entries to the Design Your Own Coronet Artwork know that the Coronet is perfect for splashy artwork. The original Coronet neck featured Brazilian rosewood and this first generation were either Sunburst or Black finishes. No custom finishes from this era have turned up so far.
The next generation of the Coronet in late 1960 switched pickups to a classic Kalamazoo-made P-90 (the model for Epiphone P-90s found on today’s Epi archtops like the Casino), and a slightly thinner body. In 1963, the lower horn of the guitar became shorter and the headstock switched to 6-on-a-side ‘batwing’ style and did away with the pronounced Epiphone scrolled logo that would grace Epiphone headstocks through the mid '60s. During these early transitional years, KlusonTM
tuners with white buttons became standard along with more rounded edges, a gold foil ‘E’ (one of our favorite touches), Gibson style knobs (as seen on Les Paul Jr.’s), a wrap around tailpiece with pre-compensated non-adjustable saddles, and different finishes including Cherry and Green Silver Fox.
Coronets from this era would also go on to inspire the Crestwood, which featured two mini-humbuckers (a favorite of both Johnny Winter and Jimi Hendrix among many) and would retain much of the same body profile.
The earliest standard factory-installed Maestro style three-screw vibratos came in 1962 and were installed behind the tailpiece with the strings wrapped around. Paul Weller's "Dwight" Coronet was most likely manufactured in 1964 and can be easily spotted by the black truss rod cover with "Dwight" in white press type. The Coronet line was discontinued 1966 and both Gibson and Epiphone would see a rocky two decades where the Coronet and many other classic models would disappear or would survive but far removed from their original specifications.
The new generation of Epiphone Coronets featured in the Epiphone Design Your Own Coronet Artwork contest have elevated what was once merely an entry-level instrument to the status of a must-have solid body guitar. The Epiphone Coronet has also recently been a featured guitar at world-class music events such as the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.
One of the treats of being an Epiphone fan is that whether you own a vintage model or a recently minted guitar or bass, the House of Stathopoulo is still cool
, especially for those in-the-know. And owning a Coronet means you've done a little extra work into finding a guitar that has a historic pedigree; designed in the US, as versatile as any axe found on the road, and one that has been heard on recordings by Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Pete Doherty, and even Del Shannon's classic "Runaway."
The Epiphone Coronet is one of the last undiscovered gems from rock and roll's classic era--used by 50's rock pioneers, British Invasion bluesmen, and late 70s punk and new wave bands. It's a classic--yes--but practical, too. And open to interpretation and artistic expression. And who are we to disagree with the Modfather? Look for new twists and classic reissues of the Coronet in the future and check out our gallery of contest entries.