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Epiphany

These are crazy rare (only about a dozen made in 59 and 60). It’s an Epiphone Sheraton in blonde with NY single coils. One of my favorite guitars ever. Too bad I sold the two that I’ve had.

Didja ever notice how every time you write the word “Epiphone”, the spell check changes it to Epiphany? It’s really annoying and I wish it would stop. That said, this post is about Epiphones. Sheratons to be more precise. With prices of Golden Era 335’s (58-64) out of reach for so many and 345’s and 355’s getting there as well, it’s time to reassess what you are spending your money on. The same folks who made those wonderful Gibsons made Epiphones as well from 1958 until 1969 or so. Not just the same company but the same craftspeople on the same line in the same plant with the same wood.

The Sheraton is, essentially, a mono ES-355 with a few changes. Sheratons went through a lot of changes from the debut year of 1959 until the end of the American era in 1969. The first iteration had single coil “NY” pickups left over from Epiphone from when it was a different corporation. They are excellent pickups but not particularly loud or powerful. I really like them but they aren’t for everybody. Fidelity is excellent but they won’t drive your amp into saturated distortion heaven. They lasted until early 60 when they were replaced by Gibsons own mini humbuckers. The minis are a bit like a full size humbucker with manners. The DCR is usually in the lower 7K range and the tone is somewhat more balanced. They are rarely muddy at the neck and rarely overly bright at the bridge. There are PAF minis as well as patent number minis on 59 to 69 Sheratons. Nice pickups.

Up until 62, Sheratons had 5 piece necks with Grover tuners. The 59-early 61’s had a wonderful V profile. Mid 61 and later had a slim C profile. This is the short headstock. The long headstock started in 64. You know what that looks like. They still use it today.

The neck profile went through some changes as well. The first Sheratons (59 through early 61) used the five piece V profile short headstock neck left over from pre Gibson times and they are wonderful. My favorite neck of all time. A V profile can be very deep but there is virtually no shoulder making it a joy for players with smaller hands (like me). It feels slim and fat at the same time. The next neck iteration still had the short headstock and some were five piece (some were one piece) but the V profile was gone. These necks were wide (1 11/16″) at the nut but fairly slim front to back. Not as slim as a 61 335 but more like a 62 or 63. The long Epi headstock that is still there today showed up in 64. 64’s and most 65’s still had the wide nut (and even a few 66’s) but they were quite slim (.80″ or so at the first fret). From 66 until the end of the USA run, the nut went to 1 9/16″ and the profile was generally the same as 66-69 335’s. Fingerboard is Brazilian until 66 or so. Inlays are very attractive MOP with abalone triangle inserts.

Finally, the one thing I don’t like about Sheratons…the tailpiece choices. The Frequensator is a two piece trapeze that is OK but I would prefer a stop tail. Bigsbys are not common but they are a huge upgrade from the absolutely awful “Trem-O-Tone”. The Trem-O-Tone is perhaps the worst vibrato tailpiece ever designed. They simply don’t work well and they don’t stay in tune. I’ve had sideways Vibrolas that work way better than one of these. Avoid it if you can. Change it if you can’t and keep your hands off it if you have to have it.

This is the Trem-O-Tone vibrato tailpiece. The best use of this is on somebody else’s guitar.

You can still get an early Sheraton for under $20K. I sold a V neck 59 with mini hums last month for $16K. With mono 355’s pushing over $30K, that’s a steal. You want to go to town for cheap? Buy a Sheraton with issues. Rout for full size humbuckers (Throbaks are my favorites) and add a stop tail. Instant 335 at less than half the price. I’d put that up against any new Gibson 335 in a heartbeat.

61 and 62 Sheratons. Both with mini hums and Frequensator tailpieces. Most players would be happient with this iteration of the Sheraton.

6 Responses to “Epiphany”

  1. Andy C says:

    I prefer the gibson built epi’s in almost every instance including collectability. to your point, acquired for much more down-to-earth prices.but down the line these will be so much rarer and represent a time and a place in Gibson history.

    And barry taschian played an epi al caiola with The Remains, so you know they have great pedigree!

  2. RAB says:

    Charlie, as you know this is one of my favorite topics! I love the short head stock Sheratons! Any short headstock Sheraton (or Riviera!) is crazy rare…way rarer than a Burst! I had a mint blonde ‘62 Sheraton (with the Frequensator tailpiece) that I gigged regularly until our buffoonish lead singer put a “nice” ding into the headstock wacking it with his harmonica! These are imminently playable and usable guitars. Currently filling that niche is my ‘62 Riviera, stickered mini-PAFs, Royal Tan finish and Frequensator tailpiece. A poor man’s Sheraton!

  3. RAB says:

    My ‘62 Riviera…

  4. Frank says:

    I own golden era 33x guitars and a 1967 epiphone riviera. the riviera absolutely keeps up with them. fantastic guitar!

    this is my guitar:
    https://youtu.be/ef7tvVtQ9Dc

  5. RAB says:

    Any other Classic Year Sheraton or Riviera fans out there?

  6. RAB says:

    Frank, your Bigsby-equipped Riv is a real beauty! I’d love to have a short headstock stop tailpiece Riv but I’ve only ever seen one in a photo (a 1963, supposed special order) example! Best, RAB

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