Editor’s note: Here’s the second installment of our Epiphone: 75 Years of Great Tone series. Check back on July 10 for our third installment. Part 1 is here.
By 1949 all amplifiers were now being produced in the AC version only. The Kent took the place of the Coronet and came covered in a yellow tweed plastic coated fabric. The traditional E logo was now emblazoned on the grill cloth. The Century underwent a design change during the 50’s to a rectangular plywood box 20”x 16” x 8 1/2” deep. Vibrato was the newest highlight of Epi amps and this model had controls for both speed and intensity.
A new picture window design came into play during the 1955 lineup. The chassis was housed in a pressed fiber cabinet and the front edge was shaped like a window frame. These new models were higher wattage than previous issues with the Dreadnaught driving a 9 tube configuration for 50 watts. To go with the new look, Epiphone released a carrying case made of fiberboard with webbed strapping.
In 1957 Gibson’s parent company, Chicago Musical Instrument, acquired Epiphone. The old line was discontinued and in 1959 a new era of tube amps were ushered in, manufactured at the Kalamazoo, Michigan facility. The Devon, Century, Zephyr and Emperor were a carry over by name only because the circuitry was actually the Gibsonette, GA20T, GA40 and GA77 respectively. The tube amps produced from 1959-61 were made in such small numbers that these early EA series have become highly sought after and very collectable. The EA5 Emperor, produced from ’59-61, the EA10 Deluxe, made from ‘59-61 and the EA12RVT Futura ‘61-67 were some of the more popular amps in the 1960’s. By 1965, Blues great Mike Bloomfield could be seen using a Futura with four 10” speakers at the Newport Folk Festival as he performed with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band.
One of the most interesting and innovative amps was the Professional which came in several varieties. The Professional guitar was sold with the amp and the controls for the amp were housed on the guitar’s pickguard, including a 5 section “Tonexpressor” switch. The amp was then controlled by the guitar via a cable attached to the multi-prong jack. This unit was produced from 1962-66 and was definitely ahead of its time. It was also during this time period that reverb was introduced as a standard effect on the Epiphone line. The biggest seller in ‘62-63 was the EA 28RVT, equipped with reverb and tremolo.
“Mr. Tambourine Man”, the iconic Byrd’s hit from 1965, was recorded using an EA14RV, more commonly known as the Epiphone Ensign. This grey vinyl 50 watt combo had two 10” speakers and was forever captured recreating Roger McGuinn’s jangling intro to this famous song penned by Bob Dylan. In fact, in this time period, a variety of Epiphone amps graced the albums of countless artists and bands that had cropped up in the recording revolution fueled by the British Invasion. By the end of ‘65, Epi had 12 models in the lineup.
Up to now, all Epiphone amps had been the tube variety, but by 1966 at least four solid state models were introduced. The EA100, EA101, EA550RVT Superba and EA600RVT Maxima only lasted one year. The Maxima, shown to the left, came in at 100 watts and boasted four 10” speakers in two separate cabs. In the ’66 catalogue, Epi stated, “In many respects, the amplifier has become more amazing and dazzling than the instrument it was designed to compliment.” Competing for space on ever expanding stages with new amplifier companies popping up was becoming difficult for Epiphone. The Epiphone amp line was discontinued in 1967 but certain models were shown through the 1968 catalogue.