Epiphone BB King Lucille

For as long as I’ve been able to play the guitar, BB King has been my favourite guitar player. There’s something about his style which manages to capture the joy and misery of the blues in one note. And the way he wrings the neck of his beloved Lucille to extract every last ounce of vibrato and sustain from it is sensational.

I’ve been lucky enough to see him live twice. On the first occasion, at the Edinburgh Playhouse in 1989, the theatre was absolutely jumping. Everyone was dancing by the end and there was a couple in front of us who looked they were having a particularly good time.

The story of BB’s guitar, a Gibson acoustic he was playing in the late forties, is the stuff of legend. He named it Lucille after a woman who was at a gig he was playing in Arkansas in 1949. A fight broke out over the woman, that caused a fire to start and the place was evacuated as it burned down. Rather than run for his life however, King went back into the joint to retrieve his guitar. On finding out that the woman over whom the fight had broken out was named Lucille, he gave the guitar which nearly cost him his life, the same name. And he’s called every guitar since, Lucille.

[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”B0002GZSM2″ locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31iGbGgibJL.jpg” width=”225″]The Epiphone B.B. King Lucille is a semi-hollow body archtop with no f-holes and was designed by the great man himself. It’s based on the Gibson ES-355 King played from around 1958 onwards. He used to stuff the soundholes with rags to prevent unwanted feedback. “I don’t want feedback – unless I want it. And a lot of times with the S-holes if you really crank it up and the amplifier is close to you, you will get feedback. I’m no technical person, but I do know that. I know how to get feedback from Lucille when I want it. But only when I want it,” he told interviewer, Walter Carter.

The Epiphone B.B. King Lucille features two humbuckers with Vari-tone control, gold hardware, laminated maple body and top, and a set maple neck with rosewood fretboard and block inlays. The tailpiece is a TP-6 fine tuning unit and the headstock is emblazoned with the name ‘Lucille’. The Epiphone BB King Lucille comes in ebony and has stereo outputs.

If you want the ultimate Epiphone B.B. King Lucille, Rock for Kids is auctioning one, signed by the great man himself, on 5 December 2008. You can see the guitar here.

It won’t make you sound like BB on its own, but with the right amp set-up and a lot of practice, you might just get close.

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 Sheraton

[easyazon-image align=”right” asin=”B0002GZQGU” locale=”us” height=”500″ src=”http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41xwGHv01zL.jpg” width=”224″]The Epiphone Sheraton was one of the first Epiphone electric guitars to be made following the purchase of the company by Gibson, appearing a year after the Casino in 1959. The Epiphone Sheraton is a double-cut thinline, semi-hollow-bodied guitar with twin humbuckers.

Check out the Epiphone Sheraton II Archtop Electric Guitar at Amazon

The Sheraton’s body was based on Gibson’s ES-335 and had the same twin rounded horns and the electronics in the same place. One key difference between the ES-335 and the Epiphone Sheraton was the tailpiece. The Gibson used a stop, or sometimes a vibrato, tailpiece, while the Sheraton employed a Frequensator. The Frequensator allows for longer bass strings and shorter treble strings, though this arrangement is sometimes reversed by guitar players. The other difference was the fretboard inlay: the Sheraton had a block and triangle inlay.

Later, the company introduced the Epiphone Sheraton II which swapped the Frequensator for a stop tailpiece. This version became much more popular than the original Sheraton. Both guitars were notable for being played by blues legend John Lee Hooker. Epiphone introduced a John Lee Hooker signature model shortly before the great man’s death in 2000. This guitar along with Epiphone’s other Sheraton II models now has a black on orange/yellow sunburst colouring rather than the black on deep red colour of the original Sheraton and Sheraton II.

Other notable Sheraton fans include Oasis’ Noel Gallagher, and the guitar which Epiphone custom-made for him, the Supernova, is closely based on the Sheraton and the Epiphone Dot.

The Sheraton II is still in production but the original Sheraton hasn’t been made for several years and is now pretty rare. The current Sheraton II has a laminated maple body, three piece maple neck, and a rosewood fretboard. It still features those lovely twin humbuckers.

Know anyone who has an original Sheraton? Ever played one yourself? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add the details to the article.

Check out the Epiphone Sheraton II Archtop Electric Guitar at Amazon