Epiphone Electric Guitars...
More Problems, More Change
Epiphone electric guitars flourished during the period from 1961 to 1965. However, the rise of
foreign made guitars caught the entire US industry off guard. By 1969 these cheap instruments, often based on
US designs, had closed the doors of many US manufacturers and had taken around 40% of the Epiphone/Gibson market
Even more problems reared their heads. Ted McCarty, Gibson's general manager, had stepped down and quality was perceived
to had dropped. In addition, union problems again entered the equation. Gibson's parent company, CMI, weakened by the problems
had been purchased in 1969 by the Ecuadorian ECL company, a beer company, of all things. This left Epiphone in a precarious position.
It was perceived to be secondary to Gibson but still too expensive to compete with foreign imports.
Epiphone SC350 Scroll Series
The idea of moving Epiphone to Japan had been considered before the takeover. It became a reality in 1970. American production
ceased and and a new line of Epiphones was exported from Matsumoto, Japan. Unfortunately, these were just rebadged models that were
already being imported by the Matsumoku company. The "new" instruments were produced with no imagination or respect for
By 1976 things had improved when the Epiphone electric guitar line was bolstered by the introduction of models such as the
Monticello, a scroll-bodied electric, and the Presentation line of flattops. In addition, the introduction of the Nova, a flattop
series, and three new solid-bodies named Genesis were introduced. By 1979, the Epiphone product line was gaining speed.
More Changes, Another Move...
Epiphone's Far Eastern operation seemed to be finding its footing but more upheaval was on the way. The rise of the electronic
keyboard was eating into the electric guitar market and rising prices of Japanese production prompted a move to Korea and a collaboration with
the Samick company. In addition, three Harvard MBAs - Henry Jusckiewicz, David Berryman and Gary Zebrowski - bought Gibson from ECL. Their
main priority was reviving Gibson and it seemed that Epiphone was in danger of being swept under the rug and forgotten.
1988 Epiphone Les Paul Standard
Jusckiewicz, however, saw Epiphone's potential and went to Korea to determine how it could be pushed to rival the success of other
Asian brands like Charvel and Kramer. Jusckiewicz absorbed Epiphone's pedigree and sales began to climb. Sales weren't the only thing on the upswing.
Epiphone's product line was also growing. By 1988, Epiphone listed a new PR series of square-shouldered acoustics, an interpretation of
Gibson's J-180, several classical guitars, a banjo and a mandolin. The Epiphone electric guitars were also rejuvenated. A solid selection of Gibson
derived instruments appeared on the scene, including flagship models like the Les Paul and SG.
However, Epiphone still had work to do.