1962 Epiphone Coronet, as made famous by Johnny Marr
One of the holy trinity of Gibson-made solid-body Epiphones - beautiful symmetry from open-book headstock to fully rounded body, one P-90, and lashings of mojo. No surprises to find one of these among Johnny Marr's favourite guitars. It really is something.
£20K. That's what Gibson spent to buy Epiphone in 1957. Only, Gibson never meant to buy all of Epiphone . . . or so the story goes. Epiphone's fortunes were in decline in the post-war years - the passing of Epi Stathopoulu, the man who gave the company its name and its success, the bickering and fall-out of the two sons who took over from him, a decline in quality and a lack of innovation were all conspiring to bring Epiphone to a standstill. But one standstill can be another platform. And, purely by chance, Ted McCarty, then President at rival Gibson, had been harbouring a dream to get back into upright double-basses. And Epiphone were famous for them. So, that's what he bought, only later to realise that the $20K he'd spent had bought him everything - brand, designs, stock, parts, the whole lot. Never part of the plan, but an opportunity too good to miss - and a lot smarter in hindsight than investing in a double-bass business, however good.
Unexpected plan achieved, a new plan was needed: sell cheaper versions of existing Gibson models under the Epiphone brand. A brilliant market-expanding idea, though, again with hindsight, it's ironic that Gibson themselves were the early pioneers of the imitation business that was to plague all US guitar brands in the late 60s and 70s. But the good news is that McCarty gave some free rein to the Epiphone designers to do their own thing too. And so they did. Epiphone had never before made solid-bodies - and now they could. Cue the Crestwood, Coronet and Wilshire. Some say alternatives to the double-cut Gibson Les Paul Junior - and, yes, there are some similarities. But roll-forward to 1962 and you have this beautifully symmetrical and rounded-edge range. And just before the re-styles that took inspiration from the (come on, let's face it, uglier) early-60s Fender offsets and batwing headstocks. A beauty to behold.
The Coronet's been in and out of fashion ever since - from Del Shannon to Johnny Marr to James Bay - though it's this 1962 symmetrical version that Johnny Marr picked up, restrung in Nashville tuning (with the strings from a 12-string replacing the bottom E to G strings), and used to bring the magic to William It Was Really Nothing and Half A Person. This one comes with a standard set of strings - and of course that smoking P-90. William, the song needs to be rewritten: not nothing, it really is something ;-).
See & Hear It In Action
Full run-through with Norm's Rare Guitars : Norm's Rare Guitars, a place of pilgrimage for the vintage lover and collector - one day, I will walk through those doors ;.-). In the meantime, thanks to Marc Agnesi for the history, spec and some class Stones-y riffing on this 1962 Coronet.
Kenny Rardin takes us through the 62 Coronet: And maybe a little less high adrenaline than Norm's review, but Kenny Rardin just makes the 62 Coronet sing. For all its simplicity, it packs an enormous punch.
Be the first to hire this perfect body cherrybomb!
Number of Frets
2 x 3-on-a-plate Kluson Deluxe
Gibson-made dog-ear P-90
Compensated, straight wraparound tailpiece
The first solid-bodies out of the Gibson-owned Epiphone workshop were the Crestwood and Coronet in 1958. And the holy trinity was complete with the release of the Wilshire in 1959. The Crestwood was a high-spec, bells-and-whistles guitar - 2 Epiphone New York pick-ups, tune-o-matic bridge, gold hardware. By comparison, the Coronet was the entry-level. Some even say it was a student guitar, though the full-scale neck and a price tag higher than a Gibson SG Junior, released in 1961, may have put it a bit above a student's pocket.
The originals came with hard-edged bodies, but evolved to the rounded edge that this one has in 1960. It just feels great to pick up. And despite a solid mahogany body and neck build, it's light as a feather - while delivering all that mahogany resonance you'd expect.
There's also a beauty to its simplicity. The compensated bridge/tailpiece, rather than the tune-o-matic and stopbar on the Crestwood and Wilshire, the single P-90 dog-ear pick-up, the uncluttered two-knob set-up. It's the purest form of electric.
When it comes to vintage guitars, I'm a sucker for a naturally aged finish, and this one ticks all the boxes. Very few dents and dings on this one, but the lacquer crazing is as delicate and unique as a fingerprint - creating a refracted glow in the gradual fade of the cherry finish. Gorgeous!
Plenty of dig from that rosewood fretboard. And lashings of power. Deep sustain from the mahogany build, all the warmth you'd expect from a high-output P-90, plus the brightness and cut that comes from positioning it at the bridge.
Let's face it, Ted McCarty turned a misunderstanding about what he was buying into an act of inspiration, giving the Epiphone workshop the space to build their own guitars, using the same materials and parts that Gibson were putting into the Gibson range. Not all mistakes are unhappy ones. And I wouldn't be saying that if all he'd bought was Epiphone's double bass business.
Sources & Links
All the specs, all the history at Guitar HQ: This is just a fantastic and indispensable reference, not just for the Coronet, but for all those glory-day Gibson-made Epiphones!
And more of the same from Vintage Guitar and Bass: And, yes, it's true an Epiphone Coronet in 1966 would have cost you more than a Gibson SG Junior.
Epiphone 1962 Guitar Catalogue: Hats off once again to Vintage Guitar and Bass for this image of the original 1962 catalogue. The catalogue pictures the Coronet with the so-called "New York" pick-up, some of the old Epiphone stock that Gibson used up before replacing with their own P-90.
How Gibson bought all of Epiphone by mistake: Utterly indebted to Rod Brakes at Guitarist Magazine for all the insights into that happy mistake that led to Gibson acquiring the full Epiphone business in 1957.
Johnny Marr's 1962 Epiphone Coronet: Page down through the brilliantly researched Smiths On Guitar to find the story behind Johnny Marr's most iconic guitars from The Smiths years - and that Nashville tuning. And spend more time on the page - the best website for insights into Johnny Marr's (and Andy Rourke's) gear.