Sunday, September 22, 2013

The first appearance of the Epiphone Texan - c.1958

These guitars baffled me for some time with their odd features.  I tried to get my hands on one but I just couldn't find an early example.  This 1958 Texan ended up coming to me.

What makes these so special

is the fact that they are an enduring example of Epiphone and Gibson history.  The body and the neck on the early Texans were made in 2 different factories.  When Epiphone sold to Gibson they shipped all the leftover parts to Philadelphia to Kalamazoo.  Gibson began building guitars out of them using everything they could.  This guitar uses two parts from Philadelphia and the rest from Kalamazoo.

The first part from Philadelphia is the mostly finished neck.  The back of the neck shows off the 5 piece laminate construction and subtle V shape found on 1950s era Epiphones.  It appears that Epiphone used Mahogany-Maple-Mahogany for the main neck structure and glued Walnut wings on the sides of the headstock.  The thrust rod cover is direct from Epiphone as well housing the hex nut on the end of the rod.  These covers must have run out early because many of the Philadelphia necked texans have a plastic cover that was most likely made by Gibson.  It's rare to find these with the shaped brass cover.

The second part that Gibson decided to re-use from Philadelphia is the laminate, unkerfed lining.  I had heard stories of solid lined Texans but I had never seen it up close.  My 1954 Epiphone FT-210 Deluxe Cutaway has the same lining so it must have been in the parts shipment from Epiphone.  

The tone

One major tonal difference in these Texans and a similar year J-45/50 is the fact that these necks are designed for a longer scale length.  A longer scale length means that the strings have to be tighter in order to sound the same note.  A higher string tension generally results in 2 things: a slightly stiffer feel and a bit more volume.  

If you haven't played many late 50s J Gibsons then this difference will be unnoticeable.  Even if you have played a lot of them the feel and tone is very familiar.  The biggest difference in player experience is the smaller nut width and subtle V shaped neck.  I found the neck to be very comfortable but a bit smaller than what I'm used too.

Is a buyout era Epiphone Texan for you?

If you interest in vintage guitars find its roots in history, design and the search for great tone then they definitely deserve a hard look.  I joke with friends about how having an American made Epiphone is the quickest test for people who like guitars.  The majority of players will see the name one the headstock and associate it with the current day market.  That guy will keep on walking and buy him a Taylor.  But every once in a while this guitar will stop someone in their tracks and make him question whether it was made in New York, Philadelphia or Kalamazoo.

Do you have one of these that you would like to sell?  I'm looking for another.  Please email me about what you have for sale.

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