Emperor Concert s/n 58825 : pictures
Guernseys auctioneers wrote Feburary 2014:
“This is one of only two Epiphone Concert model guitars that Epiphone made for Johnny Smith in the late 1940s. It is similar to an Epiphone Emperor model, but it differs in several ways, the most obvious being its distinctive trapezoid-shaped soundhole. It also has larger dimensions than an Emperor and the curvature of the body is slightly different.
The uniquely shaped soundhole was similar to the triangular design that Johnny Smith helped Gretsch design. Smith said the following about his design in pages 212 and 213 of the book Epiphone—The House of Stathopoulo by Jim Fisch and L.B. Fred: Smith: “The guitar I designed [with Epiphone] was quite similar to the guitar that I designed for Gretsch. It had a similar soundhole, [that was designed] to not disturb the bass bar [internal bracing]. [Epiphone’s] intent was to put it into production. It was a little different shape than the Epiphone Emperor. This was an 18-inch-plus body.”
The guitar that Epiphone gave Smith had a natural finish and an ebony fretboard, while this example has a sunburst finish and rosewood fretboard, typical of Epiphone guitars during the immediate post-war years. The neck on Smith’s guitar was damaged sometime after he got it, and he had John D’Angelico make him a new neck, which of course had the signature D’Angelico headstock. Smith also preferred to replace the shorter bass side Frequensator tailpiece with an additional longer treble sidepiece, which is seen on his Epiphone Concert.
Smith says that he wasn’t entirely happy with the guitar that Epiphone made him, so it’s possible that this guitar was Epiphone’s second attempt to please him. However, Smith’s biggest complaint concerned the instrument’s size, so perhaps Epiphone’s plans to give this guitar to Smith changed before he even knew about its existence. Smith did admire the Emperor that he played for years, saying that it was better than the Gibson Super 400s and L-5s that he tried.
This guitar was part of Akira Tsumura’s collection before it was purchased by its present unknown owner.”