Epiphany Part II

These aren't mini humbuckers. They are single coils and they don't sound like P90s. Maybe a little like 50's DeArmonds. They are long on midrange and have decent highs. The lows are mellow. They call them NY pickups because they were from the NY era at Epiphone. Not for the metalhead.

What the heck does this guitar sound like? I’ve been playing for the past 90 minutes and it just keeps surprising me. Many of you know what a huge Beatles fan I am, so when I sit down to put a guitar through its paces, I often play Beatles tunes. You can get close on a 335 to certain Beatles tones-like Paperback Writer (done on a SG) and quite a number of “middle” Beatles (Pre Sgt. Pepper). But you can’t often nail it. Granted, some of that has to do with the amp and I don’t have a Vox but I was playing “I Feel Fine” on the Sheraton and, whaddya know, it was spot on. You need punchy mids and not a lot of anything else to get that tone. This guitar has punchy mids. I tried “You Never Give Me Your Money”-the guitar solo and the highs just weren’t there. I tried “The Night Before” and nailed it again. Mids again (and some reverb). The little descending riff in “Help” sounded pretty darn close too. I’m not an expert on what song was played on which guitar but I’m starting to think this guitar is sorta kinda Gretsch-like. I know, a Gent is full hollow and has humbuckers. I can tell you this much-it doesn’t sound like a 335. It airier, if that’s a word. It’s definitely more acoustic sound probably as a result of the “frequensator”. ┬áIt can mimic a Casino, in some ways. I think it’s one part the single coils and perhaps two parts the trapeze tailpiece that gives it a somewhat similar tone but these pickups don’t really sound that much like P90’s unless you count the hum. Closer to a single coil DeArmond like Guild and Gretsch both used in the late 50’s. The neck pickup is very mellow sounding-probably good for jazz if I knew how to play it. The Sheraton really shines in the middle position and the bridge pickup position. But there is another element that has just blown me away. I generally play a 64 335 because of the neck. It’s not too big and not too small. You know the rest. I don’t play 59’s because there is just too much neck for my little hands and, while I don’t mind the wide flat neck of a 60-62, it isn’t my favorite. The neck on this Sheraton is not like any Gibson neck. I’ve played all the Gibson hollow bodies, all the solids and a zillion semis and there is plenty of range in the neck carves but none of them have a vee profile that I’ve found. OK, some early acoustics have it. My little 57 Fender DuoSonic has a vee neck and I really like playing it. I’ve played a couple of 50’s Teles and Strats with a big vee and this neck is pretty close if memory serves. It’s kind of rounded at the lower frets but the vee becomes more and more evident as you move toward the 12th fret. Very comfortable to play even with my small hands. The neck profile is worth the price of admission here. By late 1961, the 5 piece vee neck was gone from the Sheraton and the wide flat one piece Gibson neck was in its place. That means there were less than 100 Sheratons made with this neck. While they are hard to find and not inexpensive when you do find one, an early Sheraton is a treat. Not terribly versatile but how many of you own only one guitar that does it all. Next, I’ll talk about the other Epiphone semi-the Riviera.

4 Responses to “Epiphany Part II”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, thanks for the detailed review. Sounds like a tasty git-fiddle with a great-shaped neck and useful/interesting tones. Combine that with hard-to-beat looks and insane rarity and what’s not to like? Best, RAB

  2. Retreads says:

    Now you’re really making me drool. Vee necks are my favorite, though I only own one at the moment (acoustic-maple-jumbo-type). There’s nothing like that offset peak that fits the offset pocket in your hand. I can do things on a vee that I can’t on any other neck – namely wrapping over the top and playing the two bass strings with thumb when necessary.

    Thanks for writing about these Epiphones. I know that I’ve harassed you in the past about writing/procuring some.

  3. SunburstPB says:

    Thanks for the great and insightful reviews on the Sheraton. You have convinced me that a pre-61 Sheraton is my next guitar and has pushed the 63 ES-330 down a notch. What amp have you been playing it through?

  4. OK Guitars says:

    I have been playing it through a ’60 tweed Tremolux with an outboard Fender tube reverb. Also played it through my little ’54 Supro Spectator. A pre 61 Sheraton is going to be tough to find as they only made 72 of them. Some 61’s also have the vee neck but you start seeing the mini humbuckers. You can find a couple of photos here-a ’60 with NY pickups and a 61 with mini hums. Both have the Epi vee neck though.

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