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1951 Epiphone Zephyr Emperor Vari-Tone

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Serial #: 63178, blue NY label

Body size at lower bout: 18 3/8" Scale length: 25 1/2". Nut width: 1 11/16" Body depth: 3 3/8"

Finish: Tobacco sunburst finish, nitrocellulose lacquer type

Materials: Highly figured arched flame maple back and sides; arched spruce top; solid maple neck with 5-ply walnut/maple centerstripe; ornate vine style mother-of-pearl/abalone peghead inlay and split-block fingerboard inlays; solid Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard with inlaid perimeter stripes, deluxe seven-ply body binding, triple-bound fingerboard, headstock and soundholes.

Hardware: All original gold hardware including epsilon logo tuners, three original gold "New York" pickups, original Frequensator tailpiece; original white octagonal "Carousel" pointer knobs and six button "Vari-Tone" pickup selector; original compensated Brazilian rosewood bridge; original frets, hex-key adjustable truss rod. Original pickguard in case, additional vintage-correct triple bound nitrocellulose pickguard installed.

Notes: Making its debut in 1951, the Zephyr Emperor was Epiphone's electric version of their legendary Emperor Regent cutaway acoustic archtop. The first examples bore the designation "Zephyr Emperor Vari-Tone" after the unique six pushbutton pickup selector switch system. (The Vari-Tone designation was quickly dropped after a few months, one might guess after a reminder that Gibson had been using the same term for their patented tailpiece height adjuster for over a decade.) Renamed the Zephyr Emperor Regent, and finally simply the Emperor Electric, the big guitar was Epi's top-of-the line electric model, equivalent in price and prestige to its main competitor, the Gibson Super 400CES, which was introduced that same year.

Featuring a deeper cutaway than its Gibson rival, the Zephyr Emperor facilitated upper fingerboard access by two to three frets over the cutaway Super 4, and was equipped with three adjustable "New York" style pickups, with the cream colored housing on either side of the gold cover. The earlier examples of the model, like this one, have a soundboard of arched fine grained spruce, rather than the arched maple used after 1954. Discontinued after Gibson purchased the Epiphone company in 1957, the Zepyhr Emperor has been championed by players as diverse as Harry Volpe, Duke Robillard and even Elvis Costello ever since.

The guitar is one of the earliest examples to surface, and surely one of the finest overall as well. The tiger maple body is deeply figured, the abalone and pearl inlay is exceptionally ornate, and the all-original sunburst finish is unusually free of pick, buckle, or thumb wear. The fingerboard is smooth and straight, the tailpiece bend is solid, and original multi-ply binding is tight to the body. The neck has a gentle C profile, remarkably contemporary in feel, and the string action is low and fast over smoothly dressed original fretwork. The single-coil "New York" pickups are clear and detailed, and the exclusive Vari-Tone pickup selector (later copied by Guild for their X-375 model) permitted unprecedented variation in tone colors at the touch of a button. As extravagant as a Coupe De Ville, the Zephyr Emperor Vari-Tone is 50's technology at its most exuberant. It's got everything but the tail fins. Call now.

Setup: The frets have been precision leveled, recrowned and polished; bridge height adjusted; bridge compensation set; string slots at nut and bridge inspected and recut as necessary; bridge foot contour inspected and fit to top as necessary; bridge radius inspected and recurved as necessary; bridgewheels and tuners lubricated; fingerboard and bridge oiled; body and neck cleaned and hand polished. This instrument is strung with medium gauge flatwound strings (.013-.057). The guitar will accommodate lighter or heavier gauge strings, according to preference. String action is set at 5/64" to 6/64" at the 12th fret, with moderate relief for acoustic playing with medium strings. The action may be lowered or raised to your requirements with the adjustable bridge.

Case: Original deluxe brown Lifton plush lined Epiphone hardshell case.




























































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