Epiphone’s history really begins with Epi Stathopoulo’s father, Anastasios. His father established a large instrument factory that made violins, mandolins, lutes and traditional Greek lioutos. When his father died in 1915, Epi was left in charge of the factory. He started to label instruments with the House of Stathopoulo brand in 1917.
Epi Stathopoulo would later become the fonder of Epiphone. He combined his name with phone to create the brand name and he registered it in 1924. The House of Stathopoulo bought Favoran Banjo Company in 1925. The house of Stathopoulo officially became Ephiphone Banjo Co in 1928.
Epi embraced Jazz music and led the industry towards making guitars, no longer focusing on mandolins and banjos. He obtained his first patent at 24. Epiphone invented the extension truss rod design, the first pick-up with individual pole pieces and the Toneexpressor. A full line of f-hole archtop guitars was introduced by Epiphone in 1931. Epiphone became a premier guitar company.
Epiphone introduced 12 models and among their top models were De Luxe, Brodway and Triumph. In 1941, Les Paul was experimenting in the Epiphone factory and his experimenting eventually brought forth the Les Paul “log” as well as the first solid-body electric guitar.
Epi passed away in 1943, leaving his brothers in charge of the company. His brother Frixo sold his stock in 1948 after disputes with his brother Orphie. After the war, the company begins to struggle. They were producing very few instruments.
Epi had a great vision for the future of music and the guitar. Many great visionaries themselves played Epiphones including, George Van Epps, Harry Volpe, Howard Roberts ,Joe Pass and the Beatles.
Chicago Musical Instruments bought Epiphone in 1957. They were Gibson’s parent company and they made Epiphone a division of Gibson. In 1958, they introduce a new line of acoustic and electric guitars.
Epiphone began serving country music in 1961. Ernest Tubb outfitted his band with Epiphones and Marshall Grant played his upright Epi base in Johnny Cash’s band. Then the Beatles started playing Epiphones.
In 1970 Epiphone began to have a great deal of competition from Japan and so they moved their production there. Both Epiphone and Gibson were acquired by Henry Juszkiewicz , David Berryman and Gary Zebrowski in 1986. The Epi line is expanded and by 1992, they offer nearly every style of guitar that the value-conscious player could want.
Epiphone’s reputation is further enhanced by the Nashville USA Collection in 1993. These were limited edition models. They were also the first American-made Epiphones in more than 20 years. Epiphone continues to produce great guitars to this day.