Gibson Got This Right


This is a 61 Epiphone Wilshire. One of my all time favorite non ES guitars. They reissued it in 2009.

This is a 61 Epiphone Wilshire. One of my all time favorite non ES guitars. Yes, it’s in the wrong case. They reissued it in 2009.


This is the very well executed reissue done in 2009.

This is the very well executed reissue done in 2009. Note the three way and the jack are located differently. This was changed in 62 so it’s still accurate.

When I was a gigging teenager back in the Stone Age, I used to borrow a 61 or 62 Epiphone Wilshire from a friend of our lead singer (whose actual name was Charlie Rocker-really). It was all beat up and the case was falling apart but it was the only guitar  I could get my hands on that I could get any kind of  “Claptonesque” tone out of. I played a 330 back then and it would feed back long before I could push the amp into overdrive. So, whenever I could, I would borrow this old P90 equipped Wilshire. I’ve owned a number of vintage Wilshires, both from the P90 era and from the mini hum era but the stop tail 61’s and 62’s are my favorites. They were also the only Gibson made guitar from the era that had a pair of P90’s and a stoptail ABR-1 combination. Remember, SG Specials and LP Specials had wraptails. Original Wilshires are around but they are pretty rare and will cost you around $5-$6K which isn’t that bad considering how good these guitars are. But there is an alternative.

In 2009, Gibson released the limited edition mouthful called the Epiphone Custom Historic USA 1962 Wilshire Reissue. Seriously, that’s what they called it. They only made a couple hundred of them and put a sticker price of nearly $5000 on them. I’m not sure what the street price was but they apparently sold out very quickly. The fact that you could get a real one at that time for about the same price didn’t seem to stop anyone. So, why am I writing about these now? They’ve been around for years now. Well, because I have one in my hands and it’s a very nice guitar. Nice like you close your eyes and it feels like a vintage one. Nice like it sounds like a vintage one as well. OK, it’s not an ES but it’s still a very cool guitar. The design was stolen from Leo’s Telecaster. Look close-it’s a rounded off Tele with a double cutaway. And it’s light and comfortable to play. The really cool thing is you can find them at a very reasonable price – there’s usually one or two on Ebay for around $2000 and sometimes less. The only problem is the neck join is a little unstable you can detune the guitar by pulling on the neck-just like the original. And don’t confuse it with cheapo Wilshire “Pro”or the recent “Phantomatic”.

Gibson is getting a lot of stuff right lately. I don’t know what’s come over them but the Memphis built 335’s are getting raves from all corners of the internet. The Rusty Anderson ’59 335 and the Warren Haynes ’61 335 are getting to be all the rage out there. I will write those up as soon as I get my hands on one. It’s great to see that they seem to have responded to a lot of the online criticism they were getting. They are about as close to getting it right as they have ever been and maybe these are the vintage guitars of the future. And maybe not. The good news is that these guitars can be in your hands for a few thousand dollars. That’s still a lot of money for most players but if they are as good as everyone says, then it sure beats spending five figures on a vintage one if what you’re going to do is play the crap out of it. We all knew they could do it. We just couldn’t figure out why they weren’t doing it. Maybe they were just too busy coming up with such brilliant variations like the Holy Explorer and the Reverse Vee. But those were released the same year as the Epiphone Custom Historic USA 1962 Wilshire Reissue, so I’m flummoxed. And I don’t flummox that easily.

9 Responses to “Gibson Got This Right”

  1. Tim Ports says:

    Thanks Charlie. I have not had the pleasure of playing a Wilshire, vintage or reissue, but I have a 1960 Epiphone Coronet and it is about the best guitar of its kind I have ever owned. Sounds better than any juniors I have played. And the neck is very 59ish. Count me as a fan of the early 60’s Epiphones.

  2. Nick says:

    Yes,Gibson is getting a lot right these days. Just bought a Memphis Custom ’59 ES 345 in blonde. Very impressive and feels very close to vintage ones I have played/owned. I’m told it’s a limited run,not sure but if you get a chance please review one (or the ’64 version) and let us know what you think. Rock on.

  3. RAB says:

    I’ve always been a big fan of the classic year Epiphones, both ES and SB (Epi for solidbody!) models. I currently have an an amazing ’62 Riviera and just picked up a ’63 Wilshire (mini buckers and factory stop tailpiece) that sounds wonderful. It is one of the first “batwing” headstock models and has a number of transitional features! I had s super rare 1961 Crestwood Custom, factory stop tail, dot inlays, bikini logog badge, gold plating and mini stickered PAFs. I prefer the ’63 Wilshire for playing because the body balance is better…everyone should have an old Epi solidbody in their guitar arsenal!

  4. Brian says:

    Beautiful guitar. I’ve never played one, you have me intrigued…I admit to a weakness for P90s.

  5. stefan says:

    I agree re better built quality in recent years. I think a lot of the improvements can be accredited to Mike Voltz who since his induction as product manager in the Memphis plant has improved things considerably. First thing he did when he started in 2011 was to give all 335s a long neck tenon. You also don’t get fretboards being a mile away from the body anymore.

    But nothing beats Golden Era Gibson and with the numbers they churn out each year I can’t imagine the current Gibson line to ever reach ‘vintage status.’

    As for the Wilshere RIs: I am really puzzled they sold out so quick at that price point.

  6. Ollie says:

    I didn’t have a Wilshere but I did have a lovely 60’s Olympic (bateing headstock) for a while and you’re absolutely right about these Epi solids. Fantastic little guitars. Brilliant to play. Love em.

  7. RAB says:

    Yes, the batwing Epis are underappreciated…they not only play well and sound good, they are very light…that can be a big plus when playing those long 4 set gigs vs. using my ’56 LP Standard Conversion…at 8.8 lbs it tends to put a groove into these aging shoulders!

  8. Kevin Purcell says:

    Couldn’t agree more re: Wilshires. I have a ’62 Crestwood myself – great sounding guitar. I also got to play one of the recent CS reissues of the Wilshire, and they’re not at all bad. I think of all the solid body guitars I’ve had over the years the Crestwood is easily the most resonant and vibrant – it sounds extremely loud unplugged (louder than it has any right to sound!). Just a wonderful fun guitar to play. Nice to see the Wilshire/Crestwood love Charlie!

  9. Don Butler says:

    I recently got one of the new Memphis ES-335TDC’s. It’s a `63 Block Reissue. I had 30 days to return it if I wanted.. I decided to keep it and sell a couple of things instead. I’ve been intrigued for the last couple of years by these and have seen the improvments that they’ve made at the NAMM Shows. They’ve brought a body showing the cedar rim liners, spruce expansion plates and the 1.20″ long bushings for the stoptail studs. They’ve also taken to using Hot Hide Glue for the neck/body joint and the fingerboard to neck join. these improvments are miles above what they made 5 years ago.
    Warren Haynes has been a friend of mine for over 30 years. I’ve played both his original 335 and the prototype they gave him to sign off on the series. I also saw and played the Rich Robinson model at NAMM.
    I must say that I feel the folks at Memphis are making some incredible guitars and are close in comparison to the original semi’s. People do seem to forget that trying to compare a new guitar to one that’s been played(vibrated) for 50+ years is impossible.
    But, suffice to say these new guitars are a huge step in the right direction to equaling the Golden Era Gibson’s.
    I do wish that they would get their pickup making together (or just buy Throbaks). The new MHS(stands for Memphis Historic Series) pickups sound like a blanket over your amp. I put a set of late Sixties T-Tops in mine with a pair of Throbak A-4 magnets and it’s magical! My other little gripes are the Nylon used for the bridge saddles is Not the same material as the originals and I find it too soft and soaks up the string vibrations. Easily fixed with some brass saddles.
    Growning up I had many friends that had nice ES-335’s(this was the late Sixties…) that I had access to. I really feel that the new guitars coming out are exceptional. I think this one I have is a better guitar than the `81 Dot Neck (Kalamazoo made) reissue I played for a number of years. I bought that guitar new!

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