In the first half of the 20th century, Epiphone was one of Gibson’s biggest competitors, so Gibson did the smart thing – they bought Epiphone in 1957. Gibson kept the brand name and started re-working the product line-up. In 1958 they introduced the thinline semi-hollowbody Sheraton electric guitar.
The original Sheraton was a set-neck twin-pickup model that used the same body as the new Gibson ES models. The big differences were the “Frequensator” tailpiece, multi-ply body binding and lots of inlay work on the headstock and fretboard. The pickups on the originals were New York single-coils.
As time went on there were specification changes, of course. In 1961 mini-humbucker pickups were swapped in and Grover tuners were added, and in 1962 the Epiphone “Trem-o-tone” tailpiece became available.
In 1970 manufacturing was moved to Japan, and full-sized humbuckers became the new standard for the Sheraton. In 1986 the Sheraton II was launched, with a stop-bar tailpiece being the only real change. As time moved on, production moved to Korea, with minor spec changes here and there.
So, the guitar I have was made in China last year, and it was finished by the factory in a gaudy Union Jack paint scheme over Alpine White. It has a laminated maple body and top with a mahogany center block (making it semi-hollowbody), and it is churched-up with single-ply white body binding.
The neck is mahogany,and it has a normal 24.75-inch scale. The 12-inch radius fretboard is bound, and it has 22 medium-jumbo frets hammered into it, as well as v-block pearloid fret markers. The neck profile is a 1960s profile SlimTaper C with a 1.68-inch wide nut.
The headstock is pretty darned big, 3-ply bound, and it has the traditional Epiphone vine of life inlay. Grover tuners are mounted to that headstock, and they are gold-plated, as is the LockTone Tune-o-matic bridge. There is no pickguard...
The electronics package includes a pair of Gibson USA mini humbuckers that are wired through two volume knobs, two tone knobs, and a 3-way selector switch. Did you expect anything different? I didn’t think so…
It is a lot heavier than expected, coming in at 8 pounds, 11 ounces, but it balances well on a strap so maybe that extra bulk prevents neck dive. It is a very easy playing guitar with a good action, and the frets are better than anything that is coming out of Gibson’s Memphis factory. It has good sustain and can achieve a sweetly mellow jazz tone, or can get some bite going for rockabilly or early rock and roll.
I like this Epiphone Sheraton a lot – it looks good, plays well and sounds good, enough so that I feel that it is just as good as a Gibson ES-whatever for a whole lot less money. How much less? These things have a list price a list price of $1349.00 and a street price of around 900 bucks, which includes Epiphone’s lifetime limited warranty, Gibson’s 24/7/360 customer service, and a really nice hard case. Or if you are really cheap, secondhand instruments can be had for around $600. Such a deal!