While today most everybody is familiar with Epiphone guitars, in the late-'20s Epiphone was known primarily as a banjo company. At that point, they'd had greatest success with their highly-ornamented "Recording" line of banjos. Building off that success, Epiphone launched the "Recording" line of six-string guitars in late 1928. The Recording line included models A through E (higher in the alphabet meant increasingly higher levels of appointments), and while there was little consistency with the specs, all of the Epiphone Recording guitars featured inventive designs, remarkably different from the guitars that become popular in the '30s.
Unfortunately, the Epiphone Recording series were the victim of poor timing: when the stock market crashed, the musical instrument market crashed along with it. The Recording line was never a strong seller because it didn't have the high-profile celebrity endorsements other brands had. As Epiphone restructured its entire line in 1931, they abandoned the Recording guitars in favor of the new Masterbilt line, which led to Epiphone's decades-long focus on archtops. Ultimately, Epiphone was one of the only banjo companies to survive the Great Depression by transitioning to guitars, but because of the bad timing of their initial launch, the Recording series was lost to time.
This Epiphone Recording B is #48 and appears to have been made in 1929. Its unique, asymmetrical shape is typical of all the Recording guitars, and it is instantly recognizable. The Recording guitars were offered in two sizes, and this is the smaller 13-7/8" across "Concert" size. It features a flat (as opposed to carved) Spruce top that was gently arched across curved braces. Its sides and arched back are made of 3-ply laminate Maple that shows beautiful Birdseye grain. While some later Recording guitars have pin bridges glued to the top, this one uses the earlier trapeze tailpiece and floating bridge design.
Because of their insufficient ladder bracing, many Recording guitars have not survived the years in playable and good-sounding condition. But fortunately, a previous owner took great pains to optimize the sound and playability of this incredible Recording B. It's hard to imagine there are many examples that play and sound as good as this one.
At one time, it looks two cracks compromised the structural integrity of top, so these were repaired properly with cleats on the inside. The top was also refinished in a fitting prewar-style sunburst, and the original floating bridge design (which left a lot to be desired) was replaced with a more conventional Brazilian Rosewood bridge and bone saddle. Fortunately, the original bracing pattern and trapeze tailpiece design were retained. These specs are such a big part of the tone that these guitars produce.
In addition to the top repairs, the neck was reset, and the fingerboard was re-planed and re-fretted. The guitar also has a new nut. As a consequence, it plays beautifully all the way up the fingerboard. While the other repairs optimized the guitar's structural stability and the tone it produces, these repairs ensured it plays nicely with low action and proper intonation.
This 1929 Epiphone Recording B has tone somewhere in between a flattop and an archtop. It barks like a blues box, and it chunks like an archtop. Its tone is warm andresonant with somewhat spooky quality—capturing a distinct old-time sound, unlike modern guitars. It still sports its original banjo tuners, and the over-the-top engraved celluloid peghead overlay makes it obvious this guitar is like nothing else on the planet. This Recording B is a rare and impressive historical piece, but it's also a functional instrument with rich, refined tone. Quality hardshell case included.