Today, Epiphone celebrates 60 years as part of the Gibson family of instruments. Today in May 10, 1957, Gibson President Ted McCarty--a longtime fan of Epiphone--purchased the Epiphone Company along with its tooling, parts inventory, copyrights, and designs from the last surviving members of the Stathopoulo family, who were retiring from the music business.
"The merging of Gibson and Epiphone in May 1957 turned out to be one of the landmark events in pop culture history," says Epiphone President Jim Rosenberg. "It paved the way for innovations that are still part of our lives today. It's hard to imagine John Lee Hooker, The Beatles, Oasis, Gary Clark Jr., or dozens of other artists without their Epiphones."
From the 1920s through the early 1950s, Epiphone--led for decades by its founder Epi Stathopoulo-- was a leader in making a wide range of affordable professional instruments including flattop and archtop guitars, electric Hawaiian guitars, banjos, mandolins, amps, and some of the first electric guitars--even an electric piano! Epiphone's offices and factories in Manhattan kept the company at the center of the growing music business where artists like Charlie Christian, Eddie Lang, and a young Les Paul were at the vanguard of a new generation of players merging jazz, blues, classical, and folk into vibrant new forms of American music.
Under Epi's guidance, Epiphone fostered a fantastic reputation among new artists working in radio and in recording studios and many of them made regular visits to Epiphone's showroom to try new instruments and jam for passers by. During this time, Stathopoulo's sole rival in producing professional and competitively priced instruments was Gibson, located in the sleepy college town of Kalamazoo, Michigan. The Epiphone and Gibson rivalry--both friendly and fierce--carried on through several music eras including early Vaudeville, big band jazz, western swing, and rhythm & blues. After Stathopoulo's death in the early 40s, his brothers Orphie and Frixo struggled to keep up with changing times as acoustic instruments were replaced by both archtop electric and solid body electric guitars like the Les Paul. Ted McCarty originally was seeking to bring Epiphone's upright bass business to Gibson but quickly realized that bringing the brand into the Gibson-fold would not only increase the prestige of the company but would also allow Gibson to increase its number of dealers both nationally and abroad.
Today, both Epiphone and Gibson players are enjoying an era of creativity and excellence reminiscent of what the Kalamazoo factory produced starting in the late 50s and 60s. Read the full story and look and stay tuned to Epiphone.com for more about our 60th anniversary celebrations!