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Brief Epiphone History

#1 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 08:43 AM

I've been searching for this thread for days. It was written by a fellow posted who calls himself "Larens". I thought I'd copy and re-post it so it was easier to find:

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1957- Chicago Musical Instrument (CMI) purchases Epiphone (announced May 10, 1957). It had previously acquired Gibson in the spring of 1944.

December 19, 1969- ECL Industries Inc. ( "Ecuadorian Company Limited"-incorporated in Delaware and a U.S. subsidiary of a Panamanian corporation of the same name)officially takes over CMI. Norlin is an amalgamation of the first syllable of ECL's chairman's first name, Norton Stevens and the last syllable of CMI's president M.H. Berlin's last name.

1970- ECL's U.S. operation becomes "Norlin Industries Inc." and the Panamanian corporation becomes "Norlin Corporation". CMI remains a subsidiary of the U.S. operation.

End of US built Epiphones, enter the short life of pre-FT Japan built Epis. These models were numbered with four digits, beginning with the number six, (6xxx). I have seen one incident where a 6xxx model number was suffixed by the letter E. Since the model was not electrified, it may have been an attempt by the Matsumoku factory to identify this guitar as an Epiphone model. Presumably they were Aria model numbers. This nomenclature lasted about 6 months when the "FT" nomenclature was resurrected. These models are, for all intents and purposes, identical to the early FT models that followed.

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August 1970- Epiphone production in Kalamazoo is halted. Domestic Epiphone guitars are still shipped into early 1971.

1971- Beginning in the spring of 1971, Norlin imports Matsumoku/Aria-made models from Japan which have been re-branded as Epiphones. These models use the familiar blue "Kalamazoo"-type Epiphone interior labels and early models make use of actual left-over Kalamazoo labels bearing the "Union Made" designation.

Continued use of the Blue 'Kalamazoo' label. Very early models had the "Union Made" lined out and "Made in Japan" rubber stamped in lower right. Over the years the black in has faded on these edits. -- buyer beware

Enter the Norlin, Japan built FT models:

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The first year (1971) the model nomenclature was carried-over from the Aria models. In 1972 new model designations using the alpha prefixes "FT", "EA" and "ET" were used on these imported Epiphones.

1972- A merger of Norlin Industries Inc. and CMI operations creates "Norlin Music Inc." A few years later the name was again changed back to "Norlin Industries Inc.

1975- Matsumoku begins production of a Japan-exclusive line of higher-end Epiphones. These at first are sold only in Japan but by 1979 the arch top line is distributed world-wide.


Enter tan colored "Lincolnwood labels.

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1975- Norlin opens the Nashville operation producing the higher volume instruments such as the Les Paul models while the Kalamazoo operation, now antiquated, continues making the lower volume models. By 1977 the corporate center of Gibson's universe was Nashville.
Epiphone corporate operations are moved to Lincolnwood, Illinois. At about this point Epiphone began using the "Norlin" square label replacing the blue K-Zoo-type label. The higher-end line of Matsumoku-made Epiphone labels continue to reference "Epiphone/Kalamazoo"

June 1979- Norlin merges Gibson Inc. into Norlin Industries Inc. and Gibson ceases to exist as a manufacturing operation becoming only a brand name as Epiphone had previously become.

Exit "FT" models. Replaced by "PR" models

Quote

1979/1980- The "FT" acoustic line is replaced by the "PR" Presentation line of acoustics. The "PR" series continues production in Korea after production is moved there in 1983.

July 1983- he decision to close the Kalamazoo factory is made and a year later in September,1984 operations ceased in Kalamazoo. For the last year of operation the Kalamazoo factory diversified into making things like clock cases, water bed frames and conversion van parts to keep the employees working.

1983- Most Epiphone guitar production is moved to Korea and contracted out to Samick. Matsumoku continues to make the higher-end line of Epiphone instruments in Japan. Some Epiphone instruments at this point in time are also made in Taiwan and Indonesia

January 15,1986- "Gibson Guitar Corp." is created when Henry Juszkiwwicz, David Berryman and Gary Zebrowski purchases Norlin's fretted instrument division. GGC later becomes Gibson Musical Instruments (GMI).

1985/1986- While Henry J and company were negotiating for the Gibson name, three former Gibson employees, Jim Deurloo, Marvin Lamb and J.P. Moats were working their own deal to take over the former Gibson factory at 225 Parsons Street in K-Zoo and begin making "Heritage" guitars.

June, 1989- Gibson opens up their Bozeman, Montana acoustic operation Gibson having previously used the Nashville factory whose climate was determined to be unsuited for acoustic production.


Hopes that clears some things up regarding dates and such. For more fascinating information check out " Gibson Guitars: 100 Of An American Icon" by Walter Carter.

If I were one to wager, my bet would be that the PR-720S, the subject of the original post, was made by Samick and dates to September of 1991.

Have to go mend my nets and tend my lines.


Larens

~~~~~~~
"Fair" is never "Even" --- me again.
"... and Bob's your uncle," --- TWilson
"The closer you get to civilization, the less civilized humans become" --- me again.
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that the Ark was built by a lone amateur and the Titanic by a staff of highly educated, highly trained engineers." ... Jimmy John's.

Guitars = Chick Magnet
Guitar Hero = Guy Magnet
You do the math.

"If you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music," Briscoe Darling
"If it ain't got a hole, it ain't got no soul," me, TommyK

#2 User is offline   Red 333 

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 02:12 PM

Larens was just one of many identities of a very knowlegeable contributer who was banned multiple times, unfortunately. Every time he re-established another identity, he would wind up banned again eventually, LOL. I think he may still be contributing to the Guitar Doctor forum (under another name you'd recognize), which is the forum that grew out of EpiWiki's demise.

Red 333

#3 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 03:35 PM

I think Larens is still a member, but just lurking.
~~~~~~~
"Fair" is never "Even" --- me again.
"... and Bob's your uncle," --- TWilson
"The closer you get to civilization, the less civilized humans become" --- me again.
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that the Ark was built by a lone amateur and the Titanic by a staff of highly educated, highly trained engineers." ... Jimmy John's.

Guitars = Chick Magnet
Guitar Hero = Guy Magnet
You do the math.

"If you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music," Briscoe Darling
"If it ain't got a hole, it ain't got no soul," me, TommyK

#4 User is offline   Red 333 

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Posted 24 August 2010 - 04:47 PM

View PostTommyK, on 24 August 2010 - 03:35 PM, said:

I think Larens is still a member, but just lurking.


Many of his other banned identities still show up in the Members section, and some of his posts under those various names are still preserved and can be accessed through the profile page there, but I don't think he is able to be here any more (unless it is under a new name). He was briefly active earlier this year, but was banned again quickly for something or other.

He-who-can-not-be-named (the Admins don't like it): if you are lurking (and can't post), hello.

Red 333

#5 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 08:44 AM

In 1960, Gibson put in another big building at the north end of the Gibson plant and moved all of their Epiphone people out of the start up facility into it (the official address was Bush Street).
By 1966, Epiphone sales amounted to some $3 million a year.

One of the most significant dates in Gibson/Epiphone history, however, is 1965. This is the year Maurice Berlin retired and his son Arnie Berlin (the "in" in Norlin) took over CMI. For the first time in Gibson's history it was under the control of college educated bean counters rather than guys who knew the business of designing and building guitars. 1965 is the year new automatic neck machines were installed that not only turned out a pencil thin neck and changed the traditional headstock angle. All but the guitars built in the Custom Division on the third floor of the Daylight Plant were placed on high speed conveyor belts for finishing and the elaborate inspection system put in place by Ted McCarty was dismantled leading to guitars being sent out that would once never have left the factory. McCarty himself just phoned it in in 1965, purchased Bigsby and left in spring 1966.
__________________________________________________


"I play so rough - I stomp 'em"
Bukka White

#6 User is offline   Red 333 

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 11:15 AM

Good additions, Zombywolf. One can't underestimate the impact of McCarty on Gibson and Epiphone. Indeed, it was under McCarty's presidency that Gibson purchased Epiphone (which was once Gibson's biggest competitor), and that Epiphone models became in many ways a mirror image of Gibson models. This was done (for those of you who don't know, and have some interest), so Gibson could expand thier market into dealerships that otherwise would not have been able to sell Gibson-branded guitars, since then-existing Gibson dealers had exclusivity rights to geographic areas.

By the way, after McCarty left Gibson, the man who was appointed to take his place as president of Gibson was Stan Rendel (Arnie Berlin had been appointed president of CMI, the parent of Gibson; M.L. Berlin remained chairman, but McCarty didn't like a go-between and didn't respect Arnie, which is why he left the company and bought Bigsby).

Under Rendel's presidency, many of the construction techniques of the McCarty era (and before) were changed: necks became laminated and were given volutes, and acoustic guitar braces were beefed up to crazy proportions. This was done to eliminate warranty claims, as dictated by the eventual new owners of CMI. This was ECL (Equadorian Company Limited), which eventually changed its name to Norlin (which was the combination of the names of ECL chairman Norton Stevens and CMI chairman M.L.Berlin).

Rendel, who had been a veteran VP of manufacturing for CMI (they owned many musical intrument companies besides Gibson) tried to build a quality product, (one time, he went so far as to destroy a quarter of a million dollars worth of ES guitars because they were substandard), but his corporate masters at Norlin made increasing demands on him to cut expenses and increase profit in a shrinking marketplace, and he had to change manufacturing techniques in response. This is one of the reasons Gibson stopped Epiphone production in the US and contracted the making of Epiphone-branded guitars in Asia.

Rendel was president until 1973, and opened Gibson's Nashville plant. This effectively eliminated production in Kalamazoo, though it was new Gibson ownwers Henry Juszkiewicz, Dave Berryman, and Gary Zebrowski who eventually made the final decision to shutter the plant, and who helped some of the remaining employees to set up Heritage Guitars in the old factory.

This information was condensed and combined from Walter Carter's Gibson Guitar: 100 years of an American Icon, and Gil Hembree's Gibson Guitars: Ted McCarty's Golden Era.

Red 333

#7 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 01:57 PM

Can anyone confirm my recollection that ECL's (Ecuadorian Company, Limited) business prior to the purchase of CMI was in the manufacturing of cement and beer in South America?
~~~~~~~
"Fair" is never "Even" --- me again.
"... and Bob's your uncle," --- TWilson
"The closer you get to civilization, the less civilized humans become" --- me again.
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that the Ark was built by a lone amateur and the Titanic by a staff of highly educated, highly trained engineers." ... Jimmy John's.

Guitars = Chick Magnet
Guitar Hero = Guy Magnet
You do the math.

"If you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music," Briscoe Darling
"If it ain't got a hole, it ain't got no soul," me, TommyK

#8 User is offline   zombywoof 

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Posted 26 August 2010 - 03:17 PM

Some folks think Rendell dealt the final blow to Gibson and others that he saved the company. All I know is that under Rendell we got long scale, square shoulder guitars that were so standardized you could not tell one from the other.

Me, I just avoid Gibsons made after 1964 and prefer those made before 1960.
__________________________________________________


"I play so rough - I stomp 'em"
Bukka White

#9 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 08:56 AM

Bump
~~~~~~~
"Fair" is never "Even" --- me again.
"... and Bob's your uncle," --- TWilson
"The closer you get to civilization, the less civilized humans become" --- me again.
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that the Ark was built by a lone amateur and the Titanic by a staff of highly educated, highly trained engineers." ... Jimmy John's.

Guitars = Chick Magnet
Guitar Hero = Guy Magnet
You do the math.

"If you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music," Briscoe Darling
"If it ain't got a hole, it ain't got no soul," me, TommyK

#10 User is offline   el capitan 

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Posted 10 December 2010 - 10:51 AM

View Postzombywoof, on 26 August 2010 - 03:17 PM, said:

Some folks think Rendell dealt the final blow to Gibson and others that he saved the company. All I know is that under Rendell we got long scale, square shoulder guitars that were so standardized you could not tell one from the other.

Me, I just avoid Gibsons made after 1964 and prefer those made before 1960.

Zombywoof,
I always thought 1968 was a bad year when they screwed scratch plates to the tops.Between then and 1970
they didn't use labels and put Gibson parts on Epiphones & vice-versa.
Would you like to tell us what happened '64-68?
This post is great-better than most!

#11 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 20 April 2011 - 09:00 AM

Bump
~~~~~~~
"Fair" is never "Even" --- me again.
"... and Bob's your uncle," --- TWilson
"The closer you get to civilization, the less civilized humans become" --- me again.
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that the Ark was built by a lone amateur and the Titanic by a staff of highly educated, highly trained engineers." ... Jimmy John's.

Guitars = Chick Magnet
Guitar Hero = Guy Magnet
You do the math.

"If you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music," Briscoe Darling
"If it ain't got a hole, it ain't got no soul," me, TommyK

#12 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 01:18 PM

Bump.

About time to do this again to prevent it from falling off the face of the internets.
~~~~~~~
"Fair" is never "Even" --- me again.
"... and Bob's your uncle," --- TWilson
"The closer you get to civilization, the less civilized humans become" --- me again.
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that the Ark was built by a lone amateur and the Titanic by a staff of highly educated, highly trained engineers." ... Jimmy John's.

Guitars = Chick Magnet
Guitar Hero = Guy Magnet
You do the math.

"If you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music," Briscoe Darling
"If it ain't got a hole, it ain't got no soul," me, TommyK

#13 User is offline   Fungus 

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Posted 05 March 2012 - 01:44 PM

Hey this is a pretty nice little bit of history here. Thanks.

#14 User is offline   DrRogerFisher 

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 03:28 PM

Recently found an excellent Epi history:
"Epiphone: The Complete History" by Walter Carter (1995).
Easy read and very informative from the early days to '95; many great pics too.
Carter is the former historian for Gibson Guitar Corporation and the author of ten books on guitars, so he's a pretty reliable source, and confirms most of what was posted here.
My favourite part was the section describing the sale and transition to Kalamazoo in late '50s, including a "naming committee" for the new Gibson/Epis.
Roger Fisher
London, Canada
My Link

#15 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 08:20 AM

View PostDrRogerFisher, on 27 March 2012 - 03:28 PM, said:

Recently found an excellent Epi history:
"Epiphone: The Complete History" by Walter Carter (1995).
Easy read and very informative from the early days to '95; many great pics too.
Carter is the former historian for Gibson Guitar Corporation and the author of ten books on guitars, so he's a pretty reliable source, and confirms most of what was posted here.
My favourite part was the section describing the sale and transition to Kalamazoo in late '50s, including a "naming committee" for the new Gibson/Epis.


Does it discuss to run-up to Norlin? i.e. the Ecuadorian Company, Ltd's decision to diversify beyond their borders due to the fear that the political shift (Castro) in Cuba might visit Ecuador?
~~~~~~~
"Fair" is never "Even" --- me again.
"... and Bob's your uncle," --- TWilson
"The closer you get to civilization, the less civilized humans become" --- me again.
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that the Ark was built by a lone amateur and the Titanic by a staff of highly educated, highly trained engineers." ... Jimmy John's.

Guitars = Chick Magnet
Guitar Hero = Guy Magnet
You do the math.

"If you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music," Briscoe Darling
"If it ain't got a hole, it ain't got no soul," me, TommyK

#16 User is offline   DrRogerFisher 

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Posted 28 March 2012 - 12:24 PM

View PostTommyK, on 28 March 2012 - 08:20 AM, said:

Does it discuss to run-up to Norlin? i.e. the Ecuadorian Company, Ltd's decision to diversify beyond their borders due to the fear that the political shift (Castro) in Cuba might visit Ecuador?


ECL, founded in 1913, mainly made beer and cement, but under a new president they expanded in 1962 seeking more profitable markets, mainly North American music and electronics companies; politics may have been a factor, but I can't find any reference to that. It was when ECL bought CMI in 1969 that they changed their name to Norlin.

Norlin’s subsequent selling off of its CMI divisions (including Gibson & Epi) was apparently caused by several factors. Carter says by the early ‘80s Norlin was in deep trouble, had already sold off its Ecuadoran beer & cement holdings, and had “mismanaged CMI into a shambles”. Norlin shareholders “rejoiced” in 1986 when they finally sold off the Gibson/Epi music divisions.

More insight was provided in “The Day the Music Died: Rooney, Pace and the Hostile Takeover of the Norlin Corporation” by John F. Uggen (found at Business & Economic History Online, 2010, Vol. 8 http://www.thebhc.or.../2010/uggen.pdf )

The main factors in Norlin’s demise seemed to involve: (1) the lingering effect of mid-70s recession and the subsequent decline in the music industry, (2) the early ‘80s hostile takeover wars, and, to my mind the most important factor, (3) the different executive perspectives of Norlin’s corporate bean-counters versus the previous CMI lovers of quality guitars.

I think I was very fortunate to purchase two 1963 Epis, when "value" (quality at an affordable price) was CMI's mantra.
Hope this helps.
Roger Fisher
London, Canada
My Link

#17 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 10 April 2012 - 08:25 AM

I found a site that explained ECL's decision to diversify. It had to do with the Cuban revolution and fears that a similar revolution would hit Ecuador, so diversifying outside of Ecuador seemed the best course of action. I posted a link here to that site, about a year ago. The powers that be thought the history lesson was too 'political'. [sneaky]


CMI, I think also had brands like Olds, Selmer, etc. I remember a reference to the bad-old Norlin years on an 'Olds', brass instrument page. I don't think the Olds brand survived.

edit: It appears your link is to that site. I couldn't get it to work earlier. Thanks for the re-post.
~~~~~~~
"Fair" is never "Even" --- me again.
"... and Bob's your uncle," --- TWilson
"The closer you get to civilization, the less civilized humans become" --- me again.
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that the Ark was built by a lone amateur and the Titanic by a staff of highly educated, highly trained engineers." ... Jimmy John's.

Guitars = Chick Magnet
Guitar Hero = Guy Magnet
You do the math.

"If you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music," Briscoe Darling
"If it ain't got a hole, it ain't got no soul," me, TommyK

#18 User is offline   pfox14 

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 04:34 AM

Walter Carter mentions another cool factoid in his book about why CMI/Gibson originally wanted to purchase Epiphone in the first place. Because of their upright basses. Ted McCarty knew Epiphone made good basses and wanted Gibson to acquire that part of Epi, but wound up getting the whole company for about $25,000.00. Epiphone had been in dire financial trouble for a long time after the death of Epi Stathopoulo in 1943. The two remaining brothers Orphie & Frixo did not get along and it caused a steady decline at Epi during the 50s.

#19 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 13 April 2012 - 09:22 AM

View Postpfox14, on 13 April 2012 - 04:34 AM, said:

Walter Carter mentions another cool factoid in his book about why CMI/Gibson originally wanted to purchase Epiphone in the first place. Because of their upright basses. Ted McCarty knew Epiphone made good basses and wanted Gibson to acquire that part of Epi, but wound up getting the whole company for about $25,000.00. Epiphone had been in dire financial trouble for a long time after the death of Epi Stathopoulo in 1943. The two remaining brothers Orphie & Frixo did not get along and it caused a steady decline at Epi during the 50s.


Yup, family squabbles can kill a company. "FINE, JUST LOAD IT ALL UP... I'M DONE!" [cursing]
~~~~~~~
"Fair" is never "Even" --- me again.
"... and Bob's your uncle," --- TWilson
"The closer you get to civilization, the less civilized humans become" --- me again.
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that the Ark was built by a lone amateur and the Titanic by a staff of highly educated, highly trained engineers." ... Jimmy John's.

Guitars = Chick Magnet
Guitar Hero = Guy Magnet
You do the math.

"If you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music," Briscoe Darling
"If it ain't got a hole, it ain't got no soul," me, TommyK

#20 User is offline   TommyK 

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Posted 17 February 2013 - 03:05 PM

bump
~~~~~~~
"Fair" is never "Even" --- me again.
"... and Bob's your uncle," --- TWilson
"The closer you get to civilization, the less civilized humans become" --- me again.
"Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that the Ark was built by a lone amateur and the Titanic by a staff of highly educated, highly trained engineers." ... Jimmy John's.

Guitars = Chick Magnet
Guitar Hero = Guy Magnet
You do the math.

"If you've got time to breathe, you've got time for music," Briscoe Darling
"If it ain't got a hole, it ain't got no soul," me, TommyK

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