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

The 10 best songs ever played on an Epiphone guitar

Everyone loves a list, so I thought I’d put one together containing what I think are the ten best songs ever played, either live or on record, on an Epiphone guitar. I’m sure there will be much disagreement, so please feel free to argue in the Comments.

I could have filled the list several times over with Beatles’ songs, but instead limited it to three, one each for Lennon, McCartney, and Harrison, all of whom played Epiphone guitars at some time during the Beatles’ career and afterwards. You can read more about the Beatles and their Epiphone guitars in this excellent feature.

Read on for Fretboard’s run-down of the 10 best songs ever played on an Epiphone guitar, and don’t forget to tell us what you think.

10. Champagne Supernova/ Oasis

Noel Gallagher’s famous Union Jack guitar was a specially made Epiphone Sheraton II, and was made available by Epiphone as a signature model called the Supernova, as a tribute to this track from the band’s second album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?

9. Close to Me/ The Cure

Guitarist Porl Thompson rejoined The Cure in 1983 and played an Epiphone EA-250 between 1983 and 1986. Close to Me, from the album, The Head on the Door, was released as a single in 1985.

8. Last Nite/ The Strokes

The Strokes guitar player Nick Valensi uses an Epiphone Riviera with Gibson P-94 pick-ups as his main guitar. He has several models of the guitar including a red 12-string. Epiphone produced two signature models, the Elitist Nick Valensi Riviera P94 in 2005, and two years later, a standard Nick Valensi Riviera P94. Valensi also plays a Casino and a Dot fitted with P94s.

7. Taxman/ The Beatles

Written by George Harrison with a solo by Paul McCartney. Lennon, Harrison, and McCartney had all acquired Casino’s by the time this track was recorded and McCartney used his for the solo on Taxman.

6. Paint it Black/ The Rolling Stones

Keith Richards’ is known to have played an Epiphone Casino throughout 1966, both live and in the studio. Paint It Black was recorded in March 1966 and released as a single in the US and UK that year, hitting number 1 in both countries. It was also included in the US release of the 1966 album, Aftermath.

5. Boom Boom/ John Lee Hooker

John Lee Hooker. The great bluesman played a Sheraton for long periods of his career, and indeed, Epiphone launched a John Lee Hooker signature model Sheraton shortly before his death. Hooker’s early work, such as Boogie Chillin’ was recorded before the introduction of the Epiphone Sheraton, so I’ve gone for Boom Boom, released in 1961.

4. California Girls/ Beach Boys

In an interview with his brother-in-law, and Beach Boys keyboard player, Billy Hinsche in 1981, published by Guitar One magazine in 2001, Carl Wilson explained that he used an Epiphone acoustic on California Girls and Sloop John B. He also used a Sheraton during live performances with the Beach Boys in the early seventies and had a couple of 12-string acoustics in his collection at the time of the interview.

3. Yesterday/ The Beatles

Paul McCartney played an Epiphone acoustic when the Beatles appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, and still uses one to play Yesterday in live performances.

2. Little Red Rooster/ The Rolling Stones

Brian Jones’ slide guitar was a key element of the Stones version of the Willie Dixon-written, Howlin’ Wolf classic. During a live perfomance of the song on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1965, Jones played it on an Epiphone Casino. He is known to have regularly used the guitar during that period.

1. Revolution/ The Beatles

John Lennon famously sanded down and lacquered his Casino during recording of the White Album. His newly blonde Epiphone Casino is prominent on the promo film for this track. The guitar also appears in The Rolling Stones’ Rock and Roll Circus Film, the Beatles’ Let it Be, and The Beatles’ concert on the rooftop of Apple Records in London. Epiphone later released a couple of John Lennon signature model Casinos, one of which is a replica of the sanded down model.

So there you have it. Fretboard’s pick of the ten best songs ever played on an Epiphone guitar. I’m sure you’ll disagree, so please let me know what you think in the comments.