1941 Epiphone "Soloist Emperor"
For a short while this was the undisputed “Crown Jewel” of my Epi collection. Although I knowingly paid twice over of what it probably was worth; I still cannot get over the fact that I was so privileged to get hold of this. I simply had to stare in total awe at those figured woods a few minutes each day... until it was time to let go again. It now resides in L.A., in the biggest and best private collection of Epiphones worldwide.
This is a historically important instrument, as it is Epiphone's first ever experimental cutaway guitar, made in direct response to Gibson’s Super 400 Premier which was introduced shortly before (a lot more detail can be read in the book by Fisch & Fred “Epiphone-the House of Stathopoulo” on p87). Allegedly only 3 Soloist Emperors, and just one Soloist DeLuxe, were ever made before another historic event, the second world war, arrested Epiphones' further development of a full lineup of cutaway models.
Also it is believed that Epi Stathopoulo himself was long of the conviction that the cutaway would be no more than a short lived trend. The better balance and response from the non cutaway body would eventually make the cutaway go out of fashion again. Of course, it never did. In the end regular cutaways were not introduced until 1948 or 1949, by then dubbed “Regent”. Nowadays, 1949 to 1953 Regent models are the most sought after Epiphone guitars.
Because this evidently was a demonstration model, Epiphone used the finest woods throughout. Besides the aforementioned wavy maple back one could drown in, it has the finest grain spruce top which is quite remarkable seen the body width. The result is loud yet overall bright for such a big volume soundbox. The pickguard had decayed but it now has a careful repro guard, however carefully reusing the bindings of the original.
This guitar is also featured in an article by George Gruhn and Walter Carter in the May 2011 issue of Vintage Guitar Magazine (page 50-52).