Guitar Aficionado

The Guitar Collection: Howlin' Wolf's 1965 Epiphone Casino

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This fall, Epic Ink will unveil The Guitar Collection, a lavishly oversized tome showcasing the most culturally important, historically significant, and visually stunning guitars ever made, from Billy Gibbons’ “Pearly Gates” 1959 Gibson Les Paul, to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Number One” 1962 Fender Stratocaster, to Eric Clapton’s “Crossroads” 1964 Gibson ES-335TDC. Presented in a custom-made leather guitar-style case, this package is a superb collector’s limited edition that is a fitting homage to these instruments from the world’s most exclusive public and private collections.

Guitar Aficionado’s new Nov/Dec issue, on stands soon, contains an in-depth story on the making of this ambitious new tome as well an excerpt of the guitars featured within. As an added bonus, we’ll be spotlighting one more legendary instrument from the Collection here every Wednesday.

Copies of the book are available at www.theguitarcollectionbook.com as well at select high-end retailers like John Varvatos.

And now, without further ado…

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EPIPHONE CASINO
From the Collection of Experience Music Project

Made in 1965 and played by Howlin’ Wolf

The Epiphone Casino was an unusual choice for the musicians who are most closely identified with the model—blues legend Howlin’ Wolf and Beatles Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and George Harrison. The Casino had the thin, double-cutaway body that Gibson had introduced with its innovative semi-hollowbody ES-335 in 1958, but the Casino’s body was fully hollow, which made it more prone to producing feedback—a problem for any guitarist playing at high volume. And it had single-coil pickups in an age when most guitar makers were putting double-coil humbuckers on their top models.

Moreover, the Casino was an Epiphone. Gibson’s foremost rival in the 1930s had fallen on hard times and been acquired by Gibson in 1957. Epiphones of the 1960s were made at the Gibson factory but did not carry the prestige of a Gibson. The hollow body and the single-coil pickups did have more of an old-time blues sound (that appealed to Paul McCartney, the first Beatle to purchase a Casino), but The Beatles and Howlin’ Wolf could have afforded the Gibson version, the ES-330, or a Gibson model in the ES-335 semi-hollowbody family, the genre of guitar preferred by most blues guitarists.

Production of Epiphones in the Gibson factory in Kalamazoo, Michigan, lasted only until late 1969, when Gibson put the brand on a line of Japanese-made guitars. Still owned by Gibson, Epiphone remains an import brand today.

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