Les Paul 1915 – 2009

By now you’ll have heard the very sad news that Les Paul has died, aged 94. There’s little I can add here to the glowing tributes that have already come from some of the biggest names in the business. Except to say this: stop for a moment and try and imagine how the last fifty years would have sounded without the guitar Les Paul designed and the multi-track recording he invented. Rock and Roll and the music it spawned would have been very different.

Here are some tributes:

Joe Satriani: ‘Les Paul set a standard for musicianship and innovation that remains unsurpassed.’

Slash: ‘Les Paul was a shining example of how full one’s life can be. He was so vibrant and full of positive energy. I’m honoured and humbled to have known and played with him over the years.’

Joan Jett: ‘He was a genius inventor, musical innovator and a wonderful person. Without the advances he pioneered, the recording sciences and the electric guitar would have been left years behind. I will miss him so much.’

Billy Gibbons: ‘Les Paul was an innovator, a groundbreaker, a risk taker, a mentor and a friend. Try to imagine what we’d be doing if he hadn’t come along and changed the world. There will always be more Les to come. That’s certified.’

Epiphone 1962 Wilshire Custom Historic USA

In the build up to Namm, Epiphone has announced a few new models, including this 1962 Wilshire Custom Historic USA. Part of what Epiphone calls its Historic Custom USA collection, the 1962 Wilshire re-issue commemorates the solid body guitars the company made in the late-fifties and sixties in Gibson’s Kalamazoo factory.

The 1962 Wilshire Custom Historic USA is based on the 162 Wilshire SB-432 and comes in Cherry Red. It has a Peruvian Mahogany body and glued-in set neck. Its rosewood fretboard has 22 frets with pearloid dot inlays, and the headstock is set at 17 degrees with three Vintage Kluson machine heads on each side.

The pick-ups are soapbar P-90s with adjustable pole pieces and there’s a three-way selector switch with volume and tone controls for each pick-up.

Only 100 of these special issue WIlshires will be made and each includes an original style hard case, cerstificate of authenticity, vintage coiled guitar lead, a 1962-leather strap and commerative picks and a t-shirt.

The 1962 Wilshire is very different to later models, such as the one on which this Wilshire was based, which had humbuckers and a ‘bat wing’ headstock.

Jimi Hendrix and Roger Daltrey are among the musicians to have played original Epiphone Wilshire models.

Epiphone ES-175

The Epiphone ES-175 is a semi-hollow body electric guitar based on Gibson’s hugely popular ES-175. The Gibson ES-175 was originally launched in 1949 and became one of the most famous jazz guitars in history. It was the first Gibson to feature a Florentine cutaway, and was so named because it originally cost $175. Sixty years later it is still in production. It has been played by notable players such as Elvis’ guitarist Scotty Moore, and Steve Howe of Yes.

Check out the Epiphone ES-175 at Amazon.

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The original Gibson ES-175 had a single P-90 pick-up, but by 1957 featured two humbuckers. The Epiphone ES-175 is a replica of the Gibson model. It has a pair of Alnico Classic humbuckers, a maple body with maple laminate top, mahogany neck, and rosewood fretboard with split parallelogram inlays.

There are volume and tone pots for each pick-up, a Tune-o-matic bridge and lovely trapeze tailpiece. The chrome hardware looks fantastic against the vintage sunburst finish.

Reviews from people who have taken the plunge and bought one are very positive. On epinions.com, buffoonery said “The Epiphone ES-175 delivers serious tone and value for the money. And, if you swap out the pickups, for a total of $750 or so you will own a very fine instrument.”

And on Harmony Central, Jay Ingle enthused, “I’ve been playing for 41 years, Rock, Country, Blues, Bluesgrass, and now Jazz for the last 12 years. I’ve had one guitar that actually played better, a 62? Les Paul Custom, this axe plays next best.”

The current average overall rating on Harmony Central, from 9 reviews, is 9.4 out of ten.

This isn’t the guitar to go for if you primarily play rock or metal, obviously. But if you’re into playing jazz, blues, country or rockabilly it could be your new favourite guitar.

Check out the Epiphone ES-175 at Amazon.

Two great Slash Les Paul videos

It’s been a while since I posted any videos, so I thought I’d make up for it by posting two great ones today.

They both feature Slash. In the first — which is an Epiphone promo, so is a little ‘in your face’ — he talks about the Epiphone version of the Slash Signature Les Paul and how he suggested it to Gibson as a way of making it available to those of us who can’t afford to drop $4,000 on one guitar.

In the second, an interview with Sky News, Slash goes into greater detail about signature guitars in general and the three Slash signature models in particular. He also tells how when he was an up and coming guitar player, he wrote to Gibson asking if it would send him a guitar for free. To Gibson’s credit, it didn’t just file his letter in the bin — it offered to sell him a guitar at cost. Not sure it would do that today. Might be worth a try, though.

< Update: Sorry, the videos have been removed from Youtube >

Video: Learn to play the Slash way

Whatever your view of the man or his music, there’s no escaping that Slash is an icon. One of the most recognisable guitar players on the planet, both physically and in his playing, Slash has built an army of fans and would be imitators over the last 20 or so years.

His influence is so great, he’s the cover star for one of the biggest video games of the decade, Guitar Hero III, and has had a Slash signature model guitar made in his honour by both Gibson and Epiphone — and very fine guitars they are too.

Whether it’s the angst-driven riff in the intro to Guns N’ Roses’ Sweet Child o’ Mine, the metal power chords of Paradise City, or the crunching rhythm playing in Velvet Revolver’s Slither, Slash has a sound all of his own.

It’s a sound that only a Les Paul could produce and in the video below, the guys from The Next Level Guitars show you how to replicate it. It’s a bit long and rambling, but well worth watching if you’ve always wanted to play like the curly-haired one.

The Anatomy of an Epiphone guitar. Part 1: The Humbucker

The humbucker, or humbucking pick-up, is a feature of most of the electric guitars made by Epiphone and its parent company, Gibson.

The humbucker is a two-coil pick-up with coils of reversed polarity, reverse wound, and connected in series. The name is derived from the fact the design of the pick-up significantly reduces the noise and interference associated with single coil pick-ups used in other guitars, such as Fender’s Stratocaster. In other words, they ‘buck the hum.’

Guitars which are fitted with humbuckers have one at the neck and one at the bridge, along with a three-way switch to choose either pick-up individually, or both together. Humbuckers are often covered with a metal plate; where they are uncovered, the coils and six magnetic pole pieces are clearly visible.

Originally invented by a Gibson employee, Seth Lover, in 1957, the humbucker is strongly associated with Gibson, and in particular the Les Paul, although it’s widely used by other manufacturers. Like every other guitar pick-up, the humbucker works by ‘picking up’ the vibrations of the guitar strings, which then induce an alternating current in its coils. The key difference between it and single coil pick-ups is that it is unaffected by the electromagnetic interference which causes an audible hum from a single coil pick-up.

The reason for this is that the twin coils are reverse wound and reversed in polarity, this means that the electromagnetic interference induces current in opposing directions in each coil and the interference from each coil cancels out that in the other. By contrast, the signal from the vibration of the strings is increased. This is known as common-mode rejection.

The humbucker is known for its fat, warm tone which differs from the clear, bright tone produced by single coil pick-ups.This tone is key to the sound of guitars like the Les Paul and SG, as well as archtop guitars like the Casino and Sheraton. The reason for the tone is that the two coils resonate at different frequencies and therefore, the resonant peak is broader than that of a single coil pick-up.

Epiphone Riviera

The Epiphone Riviera is a hollow-body electric guitar, based closely on the Gibson E335 and originally manufactured between 1962 and 1969. It has a maple side and top, one-piece set mahogany neck, and a rosewood fretboard with trapezoidal pearl inlays.

The pick-ups are mini humbuckers and each has a volume and tone control. The Tunomatic bridge is partnered by a lovely Frequensator tailpiece. The Epiphone Riviera was initially available with a sunburst finish and from 1965 in cherry. Like the 335, there was a 12-string version of the Riviera, which shipped from 1965 to 1969.

For reasons known only to those running the company at the time, Gibson chose to price the Epiphone Riviera almost identically to the Gibson ES335. It should have been no surprise to the company that the 335 outsold the Riviera by around 8 to 1 for the six-string and 5 to 1 for the 12-string. The Gibson brand was far stronger than that of Epiphone, and presumably most customers didn’t see the sense in shelling out for what they thought was an inferior model when they could have the real thing for the same $400 price tag.

Epiphone re-started production of the Riviera in the 1980s and produced a signature model named for Jefferson Airplane guitarist, Jorma Kaukonen. The Epiphone Jorma Kaukonen Riviera Deluxe had classic humbuckers instead of the mini version, dot inlays on the fretboard, and a Vibrotone tailpiece coomplete with tremelo arm instead of the Frequensator on the original Riviera.

Currently, Epiphone makes a signature model named for Strokes’ guitarist Nick Valensi. The Epiphone Nick Valensi Riviera P94 has, as the name suggests, Gibson P-94 pick-ups instead of humbuckers, a Trapeze tailpiece, and is finished in Antique Natural.

You can buy the Epiphone Riviera here on Amazon

Check out this video of an Epiphone Riviera in action

Epiphone Byrdland

The Epiphone Byrdland, part of Epiphone’s Elitist range of guitars, is a stunningly beautiful archtop hollow-body electric guitar that was born to play jazz.

Originally designed and built by Gibson in 1955, the Epiphone Byrdland takes its name from its two designers, jazz guitarists, Billy Bird and Hank Garland.

The current incarnation of the Byrdland has a single Venetian cutaway, the same as the original Gibson Byrdland. Gibson modified the cutaway between 1961 and 1968, using the deeper and more rounded Florentine cutaway.

The carved solid spruce top is complemented by AAA flame Maple sides and back. The maple/rosewood neck is a five-peice job, having been three-piece on the original Gibson model between 1955 and around 1965. Fingerboard is ebony with trapezoidal inlays and the nut is bone. Tuners are Grover with Imperial buttons, which really look the part in 24K gold.

Down at the other end, the neck is set at the 24th fret, and the rhythm and treble humbuckers each have volume and tone control pots. There’s also a three-way pick-up selector, making it easy to switch between rhythm, treble, and both pick-ups. And the lovely 34K gold tailpiece and black scratchplate look perfect next to the carved spruce top.

Click here to see Epiphone Byrdland guitars currently listed on Amazon

The Byrdland has been available in a number of finishes over the years, including Natural, Sunburst, Wine Red, VIntage Cherry Sunburst, and Ebony. The Epiphone Elitist Byrdland is available only in Natural.

Interviewed in 2004 by Epiphone, The Byrds’ Roger McGuinn described his Epiphone Byrdland as ‘a beautiful guitar, probably the most beautiful guitar I’ve seen in my life! The, wood, the gold hardware and pickups, made with Japanese precision, it’s just gorgeous’ High praise, indeed.

50 Years of the Flying V

Epiphone’s Korina Flying V 1958 was created to celebrate the fiftieth birthday of the original Gibson Flying V. The Flying V was originally issued in 1958 as part of a futuristic guitar line-up that included the Gibson Explorer and Moderne and is one of the most easily recognisable guitars ever made, thanks to its v-shaped body and pointed head. Despite being adopted by no less than Albert King and Lonnie Mack, the Flying V proved less than successful and was discontinued in 1959.

Click here to see a list of Epiphone Flying V guitars on Amazon.

Throughout the early sixties the V was adopted by players as diverse as Dave Davies and Jimi Hendrix and the resultant surge in popularity persuaded Gibson to re-issue the Flying V in 1967. The re-issued version had a funkier pickguard and replaced the original bridge and string-through tailpiece with the stopbar tailpiece used by Gibson on most of its other electric guitars. Some re-issued models also had a Vibrolo Maestro Tremelo arm.

There have also been a handful of signature versions of the Flying V, including Jimi Hendrix and Lonnie Mack versions.

The Epiphone Korina Flying V 1958 has, like its namesake, a body made from Korina, a brand name for Limba, a wood with similar characteristics to mahogany but which is significantly lighter. The Epiphone has a mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard and the string-through tailpiece featured on the original 1958 model. The pick-ups are Alnico Classic Humbuckers. It’s available in a natural Korina finish and an ebony finish.

The imuso.co.uk website reviewed the Epiphone Flying V and described it as ‘the kind of guitar that Birds of Prey would play if they had fingers. If you think you are cool and you haven’t got one of these, you were wrong about being cool. It’s that simple.’ Now, the reviewers idea of ‘cool’ and mine would appear to be somewhat different. But that doesn’t hide the fact thet the Korina Flying V 1958 is a fitting tribute to a great guitar.


The Epiphone Les Paul – How The Very First One Was Built

f there’s a single electric guitar range that’s synonymous with Epiphone , and in particular its Gibson copies, it’s the Les Paul. Epiphone currently lists 19 Les Paul guitars in its line-up, including legends like the Les Paul Custom, Les Paul Studio, and the Les Paul Junior.

While it’s widely assumed that Les Paul designed the original guitar which bore his name for Gibson and that Epiphone later made less expensive versions from factories in Korea and Japan, this only scratches the surface of the real, much more interesting, story.

Paul started building what eventually became the Gibson Les Paul in 1941, using Epiphone parts and facilities in Epiphone’s New York factory. The Log, as Paul nicknamed that first guitar was made by attaching an Epiphone neck, fingerboard and body parts to a 4in by 4in board. Les Paul then took a couple of body halves from an Epiphone and attached them either side of a centre block.

Sometime later, while he was in Chicago, Paul took The Log to the Chicago Musical Instruments Company, which owned Gibson. He was politely, but firmly, shown the door. The words of CMI’s president, MH Berlin, who described The Log as a ‘broomstick with pick-ups’, must have stung, but they didn’t discourage him from designing and building guitars. Eventually he managed to attract Gibson’s interest and in 1952, the first Les Paul solid body electric guitar was produced, and the rest, is history.

The Gibson Les Paul, in its many and various models, has become arguably the most recognised electric guitar shape on the planet. Only Fender’s Stratocaster comes close. Almost every great rock and blues guitar player has owned and played at least one. And even guitarists like Eric Clapton who later became identified with other makes and models, played some of their best riffs on a Les Paul.

And of course, the Les Paul was introduced to a whole new set of fans when it was used as the basis for the controller in the video game, Guitar Hero III.