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jdogric12

When did Epi start making LP's?

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I don't remember seeing any Epiphone Les Pauls until the mid to late 80's (I'm far from expert though). Surprising really considering how many other companies were or had been making Les Paul copies from the early 70's on.

I like your songs by the way. I haven't listened to them all, but I particularly like the 'Rosslyn' one up to now.

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This is a topic that has a few different facets to it. The Epiphone Les Paul, officially licensed by Gibson and Mr. Les Paul to use the body design and name, began production in 1989.

 

From 1985-1988, Epiphone produced guitars called the Les Paul 1, 2 & 3. Though, I think that the official name was LP-1, LP-2 & LP-3, but I'm not certain. These guitars had flat bodies, bolt necks and were more akin to the super strat guitars of the era, with H, HH & HSS configurations, as well as Steinberger tremolos. Around that same time, Epiphone produced a limited run of flat-bodied set-neck Les Pauls that no one knows the official name of. These were more like the current Les Paul guitars, but with a slab body instead of a carved top. Sort of a cross between a Special and a Studio in today's terms.

 

Now here is where Epiphone history gets tricky. in mid the 1970's, there was a run of Epiphone "Les Paul" guitars made at the Matsumoku factory in Japan. People have doubted their existence and argued over the validity of these guitars to no end and Epiphone wont acknowledge them. Well, Dave Berryman wont acknowledge them, but they were before his time during the Norlin era anyway. People have studied these guitars to great extent and they indeed came from Matsumoku. The conclusion that has been reached by some people by inspecting various elements of these guitars and lining it up with a few known fact about Epiphone's history in the 1970's, is that these guitars were actually made by Burny along side of other LP copies like Greco and Tokai coming out of Matsumoku at the time, just re-badged for Epiphone, most likely for the Japanese market as a test run of sorts.

 

If you have ever read anything about Epiphone's history in the 1970's pertaining to Matsumoku, you might have read something along these lines:

 

"Epiphone production in the United States shut down and moved to Matsumoto, Japan. However for the first few years of production, Epiphone guitars made in Japan were actually rebranded designs already produced by the Matsumoku Company."

 

This line comes directly from the Epiphone website. Everyone assumes that they are talking about the ET and EA series guitars, and even Epiphone's own wording is quite vague. But if you study the ET series, you will notice that they are actually throwbacks to original Epiphone designs that no one else was using. And the EA series, though a common body design, was still somewhat unique to Epiphone, though many companies had adopted this particular body style by that time...and the previous quote could apply to the EA guitars, but really, I feel that it is referring to the Les Pauls that Epiphone wont admit to.

 

As an aside, the verbiage in the quote I posted is relatively new to Epiphone's history page. This line came from other sources originally, and it seems that Epiphone has adopted it within the past couple of years.

 

If you look at the ET and EA series guitar and compare them to other guitars from Matsumoku that may be similar, you will come to the conclusion that there is no way that these guitars were merely "rebranded" as Epiphones. There would have been at least a little bit of brand-specific tooling going on, at least for the necks and routing. But with the Matsumoku Les Paul, it is an exact match to the Burny model in every way except the logo on the headstock. An "off the shelf" guitar, if you will. It is possible that these guitars were made in an unofficial capacity by Epiphone or under a special agreement with Japan for Japan only. It was Norlin, who knows what they were thinking???

 

So, "unofficially" the 1970's Matsumokus were the first Les Pauls made by Epiphone. The first "Gibson Licensed" official Les Paul that could be considered a budget version of a Gibson was in 1989. The stuff inbetween may have had the Les Paul name, but were something else for a different era.

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