1960 Rivoli FOUNDED IN THE 1870S BY ANASTASIOS NIKOLAOS Stathopoulos, Epiphone Guitars marks 140 years of instrument making this year. Though founded as a mandolin and banjo manufacturer, Epiphone nonetheless has a rich history in bass building, from its debut of upright basses in 1941 to its current roster of electric and acoustic bass guitars. By the time it was acquired by Gibson in 1957, Epiphone had built a strong reputation for upright basses, but with the growing popularity of semi-hollow and solidbody electric basses, Epiphone switched gears.
Designed by Gibson and manufactured in Epiphone’s factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, from 1959 to 1970, the Epiphone Rivoli remains among the most beloved semi-hollow basses, after an early adoption from such players as Chas Chandler of the Animals and Jimmy Page with the Yardbirds. The Newport and Embassy Deluxe are two solidbody bass designs from the Kalamazoo era, the latter being the bass of choice for Mike “Doc” Holiday of Paul Revere & the Raiders.
Following a shift in emphasis from domestic to import models in the ’70s, Epiphone moved production first to Japan’s Matsumoku plant, and then to facilities in Korea. The company had limited success with such bass designs as the 5120, 1820, and Genesis, but it bounced back in a big way in the 1980s and ’90s with nods to the iconic Gibson EB bass designs. In 1997, Epiphone unveiled the Jack Casady Bass, the first in a series of signature-model basses that would include the Vinnie Hornsby Les Paul Standard Bass, the Allen Woody Rumblekat, and the Nikki Sixx Blackbird.
Looking to dig deeper into the story behind a juggernaut of guitar and bass manufacturing? Check out The Epiphone Guitar Book by Walter Carter, which chronicles the company’s 140-year history. Visit epiphone.com to see what the company is up to these days, and be sure to stop by its various social media outlets to wish the company a happy birthday. Here’s to 140 more!
Embassy DeluxeEB-0 Jack Casady SignatureAllen Woody Rumblekat