Friday, February 23, 2018

Reviving My 1973 Epiphone J200 Want-to-Be

January 3, 2012 by  
Filed under Random Notes

I have to admit I have been blessed with more than a few great acoustic guitars.  One of my favorites is my first REAL guitar, and it’s not even a good instrument by most standards.  It is an Epiphone made in Japan.  It is somewhat of a copy of Gibson’s famous J-200.  J-200s are huge maple body guitars which produce rich booming bass tones.  They have solid spruce tops.  Epiphone’s J200 copies were built with plywood sides with thin maple veneer and plywood tops with thin spruce veneer.  Thus my Epiphone should sound pretty sorry.  But it is actually has a very sweet, balanced sound and a great feel with perfect action.


I arrived at college in 1973 in my 1971 Chevrolet Impala with my sister’s 6-string Harmony guitar and immediately discovered that I was hauling around a toy.  So I looked at a host of guitars in the local music stores and found myself returning several times to play this big, blond maple Epiphone.  The day I made the final purchase I remembered playing this guitar in Mainstream Music in the Mainstream Mall in Greenville, Mississippi no less than two hours.  Laying down the cash, it was finally mine!

The “investment” was $200 + tax (which was 5% at the time) or $210.  My first gigs came shortly thereafter and I initially played with a very good AKG D1000E mic. See picture below.   Oh yea, I still have it too.

Hues Corp 1975-9-25

Later I installed a Barcus-Berry pickup in the Epiphone, and luthier Doc Savage of Monroe, Louisiana install the jack in the lower bout. I hated witnessing him drill a hole in my almost new guitar, but endpin jacks had simply not been invented, yet.  It was great being able to play without being connected to the guitar mic location.   That old Epiphone and I saw many bars and honky-tonks as well as several college campuses and coffeehouses.  I wrote my first songs on that old Epiphone.  I treated it pretty good and it treated me pretty good, too.

Mainstream Festival Side Shot-cropped

As more advanced pickups were developed I incorporated them into my latest guitars purchases, such as my Martins, Lowdens, Larrivees, Collings, Taylors, etc.  All of these high end guitars should outplay the Epiphone “hands-down”, but for the last couple of years I found myself practicing at home on my trusty old 1973 Epiphone.

The Epiphone had it’s issues.  In my youth I thought the black pickguard was not attractive, so I removed it.  Well it’s not the dumbest thing I did in college, so I’m OK with it.  Then I removed the internal label. It was orange like some Gibson labels, and who likes orange?   Later in life, when I began to collect guitars I decided to NEVER buy a guitar without a label (serial number) as it is a sign of a stolen instrument. Oh well, I think I still have the receipt on this one.

The original tuners were replaced sometimes in the 80s and were in need of replacement again.  And the sound of the vintage Barcus-Berry pickup could not hold a candle to current technology pickups.

So …..

This weekend I installed a fresh set of high end Gotoh tuners and a new K&K Pure Mini pickup.  I left the two sets of old screw holes unfilled, to add to the character!

After phonecalls with pickup manufacturer K&K, I was convinced it was OK to use the K&K Mini Pure Western passive pickup on my plywood-topped guitar.   I have this same pickup installed in my cedar-topped Lowden and I have been very pleased with the natural sound it delivers.

The Future

After transforming this old beater guitar with new tuners and pickup I’m anxious to hear how she sounds in church on Sunday morning.  She’s played the bars and dives.  Who knows, she might serve some of her old customers again, this time in church.


The Process

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One Response to “Reviving My 1973 Epiphone J200 Want-to-Be”
  1. STEVE FURY says:

    Doc Savage was my neighbor and a great friend. I had the same guitar that you did at that time. Same finish,everythin. Later I bought a tobacco sunburst one on money I won from a slot machine at lunch, second pull ,which I somehow got Steve Earle to autograph. Last year I bought another Epiphone J-200 NATURAL FINISH. I love these guitars I only wish mine was electrified! Doc was a great guy!

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