Did You Know? Epiphone


The Epiphone story begins in 1873, when the Stathopoulo family left Greece and headed to Turkey where Konstantinos Stathopoulo established himself as a lumber merchant. The family also established a store that sold and repaired lutes, violins, and bouzoukis. By 1890, Konstantinos’ son, Anastasio, opened his own instrument factory. At age 40, Anastasio left Turkey and headed to the United States because taxes on Greek immigrants under the Ottoman Empire were too expensive. On March 25, 1909, he filed his only patent for an Italian style bowl mandolin.

The Epiphone Name is Born

When Anastasio died, his son, Epi, was just 22 years old. Epi’s mother passed away in 1923 and he assumed ownership of controlling shares. He phased out old world style mandolins and began producing a line of banjos, the most popular instrument at the time. As the business grew, Epi gave the company its name – Epiphone. The name stems from his name as well as “phone,” the Greek word for sound. It also reflected on the fact that Epi was building on his father’s dreams; the Greek word “epiphonous” meaning one sound on another.

Epi became both president and general manager, and the company began production of banjos, tenor banjos, banjo mandolins, banjo guitars, and banjo ukuleles under the Epiphone name. The Epiphone Banjo Company was making banjos for Selmer/Conn and Continental Music by 1928. That same year, the company also introduced their first line of acoustic guitars to compete with Gibson. This marked the beginning of the Epiphone/Gibson rivalry.

The Epiphone/Gibson Rivalry

The rivalry between the two companies grew through the 1930s. By the middle of the decade, Epiphone guitars were among the best in the world. As the ’30s came to a close and America was about to enter WWII, the rivalry remained. Both companies produced “pitch-changing” Hawaiian guitars that were very similar (the precursor to the pedal steel). When Epi passed in 1945 with leukemia, his younger brothers, Orphie and Frixo, took over. The Gibson/Epiphone clash continued.

After much arguing about company matters, Frixo sold his share to Orphie. The factory was moved from Manhattan to Philadelphia in 1953, but many of the craftsman wanted to stay in the city. Epiphone began to struggle financially and, in 1957, the rivalry came to a close when Gibson president, Ted McCarty, purchased Epiphone. He brought the brand back to life with a new line of instruments.

A Brand New Start

At the NAMM Show in July, 1958, the Epiphone line was revealed. Orders for 63 amps and 226 guitars took place at the show. The brand continued to grow and, by 1965, would account for 20% of the total instruments shipped out of Kalamazoo. From the early to mid-’60s, Epiphone saw even more improvements. Unit sales increased five-fold from 1961 to 1965. Over the next 15 years, the company would see an increasing product list, with a production inventory of over 20 steel-string flat top and electric guitars.

A Growing Brand

The Epiphone line offered 43 various models across a range of styles and budgets by the 90s. By 2004, demand for Epiphone instruments was so high a new factory was opened in China to keep up with demand. This marked the first time the brand had its own dedicated factory since merging with Gibson 47 years before.


Want to learn more? Check out Epiphone’s website.

Cassidy is the Digital Marketing Manager at Making Music and has recently begun her career in the music industry. In May 2017, she graduated from the Crane School of Music with a double degree in Music Business and Music Theory. Upon graduating college, Cassidy did an internship with DANSR, Inc. in Illinois before moving to Southern California where she was the NAMM intern for six months. Her favorite instrument is the clarinet, but she also enjoys dabbling with guitar, piano, ukulele, saxophone, and flute.

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