Gibson's Kissin' Cousins
Arch rivals in the hotly contested battle of the 1930s and '40s to top the market in archtop guitar sales, Epiphone and Gibson have enjoyed a familial relationship ever since Gibson purchased the New York-based manufacturer in 1957 and moved its operations to Kalamazoo. Having originally bought Epiphone to acquire an edge in the double bass market, Gibson discovered there were a great many benefits to having this sister brand to work with. On one hand, it gained access to many storied Epiphone models and designs. On the other, it provided a means of widening the parent company's distribution reach by selling Epiphones through previously non-Gibson dealers.
Epiphone's History in Kalamazoo
The production of Epiphone guitars designed and made in Kalamazoo commenced in 1959, with a range of instruments that provided unique shapes, pickup arrangements and tonal signatures not seen on comparable Gibson models of the day. Definitely underappreciated in their day, they nevertheless represented some of the highest quality and best sounding instruments of their generation … right alongside their cousins wearing the Gibson brand.
Undervalued, Yet Played by Legends
While few Epiphone models achieved the status of the Gibson guitars manufactured right alongside them, they did find their way into the hands of many notable artists. Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter, Paul Gilbert and Steve Marriot, among others, are but a few of the players who embraced the tone and build quality of these Kalamazoo-built Epiphone instruments. Of course, best known of all are John Lennon, George Harrison and Paul McCartney, who all played semi-acoustic Epiphone Casinos at one time or another during their days with The Beatles, helping to make the Casino perhaps Epiphone’s best know instrument of that era.
The Wilshire is Born
First released in 1960, the Wilshire featured two P-90 pickups, a three-on-a-side headstock, and a solid mahogany body and one-piece neck. It benefited, however, from Gibson’s fully intonatable ABR-1 bridge and stop tailpiece, all in all offering a straightforward instrument with up-market features, at a relatively affordable price. All of these characteristics are represented with the utmost respect for detail and accuracy on the 1962 Epiphone Wilshire, including the recessed Epiphone headstock design, softly rounded body horns, and rounded early ’60s neck profile. Sonically, the mahogany body and P-90 pickup combination offers a blend of sweet resonance and cutting, textured tone that helps this model excel at everything from blues to rock to grunge.
Solid Wood and Solid Tone
A long-time sleeper of this Epiphone range, the solid-body Wilshire model represented amazing quality and value throughout the '60s. Originally intended as something of a rival to Fender's Stratocaster, offering similar upper-fret access and curvaceous body lines, the Wilshire actually provided similar features and tones to that of Gibson’s own Les Paul Special, at a price closer to that of the more affordable Les Paul Junior.
The Wilshire Returns
With original examples virtually unobtainable today, the new 1962 Epiphone Wilshire offers a rare opportunity to acquire one of these seminal Epiphone electrics. This historic reissue includes an original style Epiphone hard case, a numbered Certificate of Authenticity in leatherette binder, vintage-style coiled guitar cord, commemorative picks, a commemorative T-shirt and a 1962-style thin leather strap. The Wilshire will be available at select retail locations beginning in March 2009, at a suggested retail price of $4,832 in the USA.