Epiphone has been making fretted instruments since 1873, when it was founded in Greece by the Stathopoulo family. By the early 20th century Anastasios Strathopoulo moved his family to New York where they established a shop at 247 West 42nd Street. Sons Epi and, the musically named, Orpheus took over the business in the 1920s, with Epi, a Columbia University honors graduate assuming leadership. Under Epi, the business was incorporated under the name Epiphone, acquired a plant in Long Island, and began making one of the most popular lines of banjos of the time.
Epiphone and Les Paul
Initial forays into guitar making were not successful until Epiphone developed its Masterbilt line of Archtop guitars modeled on Gibson's successful instruments. Gibson and Epiphone remained bitter rivals until Gibson acquired Epiphone in 1957.
In the early 1950s, Les Paul, one of the country's most popular guitarists, began experimenting at the Epiphone factory with the development of a solid body electric guitar. Originally dismissed as “the log”, the Les Paul guitar came out as Gibson's answer to Fender's wildly successful Telecaster. With the declining fortunes of Epiphone, Les put Gibson president Ted McCarty in touch with Epiphone's Orpheus Stathopoulo, leading to Gibson's acquisition of Epiphone.
Today, Epiphone has become Gibson's value priced line, with acoustic, electric, and bass guitar counterparts to each of the most desired Gibson instruments. Gibson quality and Epiphone innovation are the hallmarks of every Epiphone product from the Epiphone Les Paul Ukulele to the value priced Epiphone Player Packs to the high end artist and signature Epiphones like the John Lennon Casino. Epiphone can be your entry into the world of Gibson, with models like the Epiphone B.B. King Lucille hollow body electric, the Epiphone Zakk Wylde Les Paul , the Epiphone Hummingbird PRO Acoustic-Electric Guitar, and the Epiphone Les Paul Custom Black Beauty. You can also think of Epiphone in its own innovative models, like the Wilshire Phant-o-matic, the Wildkat Royale, and the Epiphone Broadway Hollow Body Electric Guitar. Yes, Epiphone still makes great banjos and mandolins.