By Alan Schulman
The 1953 Epiphone Zephyr Emperor Regent is perhaps the ultimate example of Epiphone’s 30-plus year manufacture of jazz guitars. Originally built to surpass Gibson’s Super 400 in what was then a decade-old battle for supremacy in the jazz guitar category, the Epiphone Zephyr Emperor Regent had just about as curvaceous a figure as any Gibson—an aesthetic homage to Epihone’s founder, Epaminondas “Epi” Stathopoulo—who had died during the war.
A bountiful 18 and ½-inches wide with rounded cutaway, this beautifully appointed Epi featured a flamed spruce top with flamed maple back and sides and a beautiful, deep sunburst finish. In addition, this rare bird has seven-ply binding on the body and three-ply bound f holes, with a single bound rosewood fingerboard with two subtle white inlaid lines running the entire length of the fretboard.
The neck sports stunning pearl block inlays with an abalone inlaid "V" and a triple bound peghead with the signature Epiphone "Vine " inlay. The electronics, while sophisticated for their time, were appointed with “bakelite” knobs and buttons that make them a bit kitchy today, but were counterbalanced by three original "New York” pickups. These pickups lacked the punch of their Gibson P-90 counterparts, but were wired to a superior six pushbutton pickup selector that, at the time, gave Epiphone the last word in pickup switching.
The patent pending Frequensator tailpiece is Epiphone’s signature “period” on this wonderfully appointed jazz guitar—one no serious jazz guitar collection should be without.
Alan Schulman, the Eclectic Collector, is a jazz guitarist and collector who resides in Harlem, NYC. He has appeared with such noted jazz artists as Herbie Hancock, Wynton Marsalis, Anita Baker and Michael Feinstein.