1984 Epiphone Sheraton, as made famous by The Edge
Well, to be honest, you could point to almost any guitar and find a picture of The Edge playing it. But this one bought shortly after being blown away by a Bourbon Street guitarist playing his heart out in 2002.
To my regret and to my shame, I can't remember the Bourbon Street bar's name, nor the guitarist's name. But the band opened up with an electrifying cover of Bob Dylan's Tangled Up In Blue, and just shook the place for 3 hours solid from there. A lost afternoon, the best of afternoons. This guy played on the stage, on the bar, out in the street - and this guitar just sang. As it has for so many others: John Lee Hooker, Matthew Followill, Tom Delonge, and, most famously, Noel Gallagher (check out the close-relative Epiphone Supernova in the collection). It makes it into the "As Made Famous By" collection with The Edge playing it on the video for All Because Of You, the 2005 release from How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. A different question as to whether he played it on the studio recording, but when he crashes into the final as-close-to-a-lead-solo-as-you'll-get-from-The-Edge bars, I know that sound, and I'm back, lost & happy, on Bourbon Street.
See & Hear It In Action
All Because Of You: U2's sixth single from the 2004 album How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb. The Edge gives the Sheraton a tour of New York City - and teeters on the brink of a full-on guitar solo.
Number of Frets
Maple & Mahogany
5-Layer Laminated Maple
Matsumoku MMK 75 Humbuckers
Epiphone Stopbar Tailpiece
Epiphone have been producing Sheratons since 1958. Like Fender Telecasters, they're one of those guitars that prove the maxim "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", with only occasional changes to spec over the last 60 years.
There have been some changes. From Mini-Humbuckers to Standard Humbuckers, from Frequensator tailpiece to Stopbar. But broadly this is the same guitar, and one that, in the early years of manufacture in Japan and Korea stood up to the quality of the earlier US-produced models.
Advertised when bought in 2002 as a 1994 model, it's always been a bit of a mystery. Because it doesn't look like the Sheratons built in Samick's Korea plant in the 90s. The old-style Epiphone signature, the 7-digit serial number, the extension of the mahogany neck layers into the block, the top-hat knobs with reflector inserts, the body label with brown splotches. Other things, small things, but definitely different things.
After many years of happy ignorance, the big reveal came when lifting out the pick-ups: stamped "MMK", printed with "75". Which was only a few clicks away from identifying this as an Epiphone made in the Matsumoku, Japan factory. Matsumoku was already home to the Aria range of guitars, which many of us remember with misty eyes as a high quality, low-cost entry-point when an original Gibson or Fender was beyond your pocket. Cutting costs and with an "if you can't beat them" spirit, Gibson moved all Epiphone production to Matsumoku in 1970, where it stayed before transitioning to Korea in the mid-80s.
The case is solved. But really what's most staggering about this guitar is the intricacy of the design: the old thick-style script Epiphone signature and Epiphone "Tree Of Life" inlay, both in mother-of-pearl, the intersected Block & Triangle mother-of-pearl and abalone fretboard inlays, the 5-layer fretboard binding, the 6-layer top body binding, even the 5-layer tortoiseshell pickguard. It's a beautiful piece of work, for what was at the time a relatively budget guitar.
And it plays, just as it looks: beautifully.
Sources & Links
Identifying the Matsumoku Sheraton: The big reveal, thanks to the detailed insights of frenchie1281734003 on The Gibson Forum.
Epiphone History & Build Locations: Epiphone's own history. In particular highlighting the near-demise of the Epiphone brand in the late 60s, with the rise in popularity of foreign-made copies, to the extent that early 70s Matsumoku-built Epiphones were rebrands of those copies.
In Praise of the Pre-1996 Epiphone Sheratons on TDPRI Forum: It's not just us. The build and finish quality of the early Made In Korea Epiphones, which were based on the Matsumoku designs, gets top marks on the Telecaster Discussion Page Reissue Forum.