Epiphone launches Bluegrass Collection instruments

The Epiphone instrument company, once a chief rival to Gibson guitars, mandolin, and guitars in the early part of the 20th century, became more-or-less an authorized Gibson copy builder after Gibson bought the company in 1957. Not immediately, as Epiphone continued to make instruments that competed with Gibson until that company was sold in 1969, but moved quickly to Asian production after Gibson was sold again in 1986 to Henry Juszkiewicz, David Berryman, and Gary Zebrowski.

Though a few classic Epiphone designs from the ’50s and ’60s remain in the catalog, most of the line consists of replicas of the more costly Gibson guitars, offered as nearly identical-looking instruments at a dramatically lower price.

Gibson hasn’t made banjos since their facility was destroyed by flooding in 2010. When Gibson mandolins, and then Dobro guitars, were reintroduced several years later, banjo fans began to hope that they might soon see five strings under the Mastertone brand again too. But it wasn’t to be. Since 2010 the only thing Gibson offered for banjo pickers were from Epiphone.

This week the company has announced a number of new instruments as the Epiphone Bluegrass Collection, which includes three banjos and three mandolins made as clones of their former Gibson big brothers, and an electric mandolin built like the Gibson Firebird guitar.

This would seem to be the closest one can get to buying a banjo from Gibson these days, and the newly-introduced models include a copy of the Earl Scruggs Golden Deluxe model, made to resemble the Granada banjo he played most of his career. This banjo was famously known for its combination of a maple neck and a mahogany resonator, and the various Earl Scruggs banjos offered by Gibson before 2010 were their best sellers by far.

The new Epiphone Earl Scruggs Golden Deluxe matches the specs of the Gibson model, but is gold plated, and is offered at only $1299 with hard shell case. Scruggs had resisted offering a lower-cost version of his banjo while he was alive, as did his sons, but his grandson has now approved this new Epiphone model.

Also offered in this new collection are a Mastertone Classic banjo, copied from the Gibson RB-3, which sells for $999, and a Mastertone Bowtie open back selling at $799. The 3 copy includes a hard shell case and the open back comes with a gig bag.

Over on the mandolin side, Epiphone has a new F-5G Cremona Sunburst model, which the company says is the finest mandolin they have built to date, offered with solid maple and spruce components, and a rectangular hard shell case for $1499. Also available is the F-5 Studio, Vintage Sunburst Satin mandolin, also solid wood, with a gig bag, for only $599.

The four string electric Mandobird with a vintage sunburst sells for $399 with a gig bag.

Epiphone is keeping their A model mandolin, the MM-30S A-Style with a vintage sunburst at $219. This mandolin has a solid spruce top with plied mahogany sides.

A video with Charlie Worsham and Wyatt Ellis demonstrating the new models shows them to be fine sounding instruments.

All of these instruments in the Bluegrass Collection will be available from authorized Epiphone dealers worldwide. Additional model details can be found online.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.