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Royal Olive (hint: it’s a color)

Royal Olive sunburst, Not the most attractive finish concept from the Kalamazoo folks. But rare? On a Casino, you bet.

Royal Olive sunburst, Not the most attractive finish concept from the Kalamazoo folks. But rare? On a Casino, you bet.

Here it is without that pesky hangtag in the way. This ones a bit faded. It's even uglier when it isn't.

Here it is without that pesky hangtag in the way. This ones a bit faded. It’s even uglier when it isn’t.

 

I don’t always give Gibson/Kalamazoo era Epiphones enough coverage here. They are great guitars and I’ve mentioned how much I love my 59 Sheraton. Recently, I acquired a pretty rare one. It’s a 61 Epiphone Casino. That’s the first year they made them and that’s pretty rare to begin with. Casinos had their own color scheme at the beginning. Most of them were a color called “Royal Tan” which was, essentially, a washed out sunburst. Neither Royal nor tan. But these early Casinos are somewhat different from the “Beatle” Casinos that get all the attention. The headstock was different for the first few years-it was shorter and more Gibson like than the long headstock associated with Epis from ’63 on. Paul’s had the short headstock but John and Georges had the long one. A lot of the features follow a similar timeline as the Gibson 330 which is nearly the same guitar. The inlays on the early ones were dots but they switched to little parallelograms at some point in 62 at around the same time the 330 went to blocks. The pickups went from having black covers to having nickel ones during 63.  Ok, so I got a 61 and there aren’t very many of them. But this one is different from any 61 I’ve ever seen. There was another color in the Epiphone/Gibson palette called “Royal Olive.” Not exactly Royal, but definitely olive. This is a green to yellow sunburst that is pretty strange-a kind of so ugly it’s attractive vibe. Royal Olive Epiphones are not that rare in the Sorrento model (single cut-one or two mini hums-thin body). But this is the first Royal Olive Casino I’ve run across. Sunbursts tend to fade over the years and it would have been easy to have just considered this one an oddly faded sunburst but it is quite distinctly green. As some of you may know, the back of a 330 and Casino sunburst is solid brown. This one is solid brownish green (not sure what they were thinking here). The previous owner wasn’t even aware that the guitar was Royal Olive-he described it as sunburst. But he had the hangtag and it said “Special” with the letters RO written next to it. I pointed this out, of course and arranged to buy it. I won’t say it’s the only one-they made a few hundred Casinos in 61 and I’m sure a few exist in this color. The 61 catalog offers the Casino in Royal Tan or “shaded” finishes. I assume the shaded was a more conventional sunburst while the Sorrento was offered in RO. The 62 catalog touted RO as a “striking new color” but, again, only on the Sorrento. The 62 catalog also shows the Casino with nickel pickup covers and parallelogram inlays. I guess they had a lot of dots and black covers to use up  because just about all of the 62’s I’ve seen have the 61 features. casinos, like 330’s are wonderful old guitars but they have their limitations. They will howl like an impaled werewolf at high volume and the upper fret access isn’t quite like a 335. But, at civilized volumes or just sitting on the couch, they are great. I love the rarities and the oddball colors but any Casino is worth owning. They tend to command a “Beatle” premium which is kind of strange because some iconic Beatle guitars don’t. Country Gents and Tennesseans are downright cheap. Hofner basses aren’t all that pricey either. SG’s are up there but probably not because George played one. And I think the little Ricky 325’s are as high as they are because they are so rare. But a 60’s Casino? That relatively big number (compared to most other Epiphones from the era) is The Fab Four talking.

According to the catalog, Royal Olive wasn't an option. Nor was a trapeze tailpiece. Also the text says shell guard and it's clearly white. Didn't they have proofreaders in 61?

According to the catalog, Royal Olive wasn’t an option. Nor was a trapeze tailpiece. Also the text says shell guard and it’s clearly white. Didn’t they have proofreaders in 61?

Iconic photo of John with the "stripped" Casino on the Apple rooftop.

Iconic photo of John with the “stripped” Casino on the Apple rooftop.

10 Responses to “Royal Olive (hint: it’s a color)”

  1. RAB says:

    Charlie, thanks for featuring this super rare bird early Kalamazoo-made Epiphone! As you know, I am a big fan of the early year, short headstock Epis, currently represented by my ’62 Riviera! It is Royal Tan but I happen to LOVE this Royal Olive finish; I think it is cool! Wonder if they made any Royal Olive Rivieras?! Keep these old Epis coming!

  2. RAB says:

    More typos, note the Casino catalog blurb touts “powerful humbucking pickups!” Ha!

  3. Rob says:

    Man, that Windsor model with the Florentine and what looks to be a mini floats my boat.

  4. Rod says:

    The Epiphone Windsor is a new one to me, never seen or heard of it before. Looks like a single pickup Sorrento to me. I suppose the same as the ES125T cutaway but with a mini humbucker.

  5. RAB says:

    Looking more closely at the Windsor in the above catalog it appears to have one of the single coil “New York” Epi pickups as opposed to the later mini bucker! Gibson was using up old-stock Epi parts as available…

  6. cgelber says:

    I haven’t seen a Riviera yet in RO. This was the first non Sorrento I have ever seen in RO.

  7. RAB says:

    SUPPA rare!

  8. Rod says:

    Given Gibson’s ‘creative’ copy writing, who knows what pickup appeared on the production Windsors!

  9. RAB says:

    Yes, the Gibson catalog writers seemed to use the terms “powerful, adjustable polepieces” and “humbucking” pickups interchangeably!

  10. Rod says:

    In my experience, the ‘adjustable polepieces’ don’t actually do anything, Seth Lover said he only put them on humbuckers to give the advertising copywriters a selling point. Mind you, moving the whole pickup away from or closer to the strings does affect the response and therefore volume of output.

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