1996 EPIPHONE T-STYLE BY WILL RAY
Once in a while, I’ll get on a kick where I just want
to find a Tele-style guitar that’s
different from the ones I own.
I found this guitar some time
ago during one of my daily eBay
searches. It’s a 1996 Korean-built
Epiphone solidbody that definitely strayed into Fender territory.
I liked the blonde color and
maple fretboard—an unusual
twist for Epiphone. This particular guitar also came with GFS
pickups, which I had heard
great things about. The auction
also included the original Epi
pickups, as well as a hardshell
case. I figured this would be
a great time to audition some
GFS pickups and get an unusual T-style at the same time. So
I lay waiting in the bushes for
the auction’s final seconds and
pulled the trigger, snatching
victory from all other bidders.
Actually, it turns out I was the
only bidder, and I snagged the
guitar for $175, plus $40 shipping. When I paid the seller
with PayPal, I reminded him to
also include the original pickups, which was fortuitous.
When the guitar arrived, it
looked really cool but had very
heavy strings on it. I immediately changed them, but as I
did, part of the nut broke off
under the low E. Bummer! It
was a clean break though, and
luckily I was able to Super
Glue it back on. I used a clamp
and let it sit overnight. In the
meantime, I emailed the seller,
explained the nut problem, and
asked for a $25 partial refund
to replace the nut. However, it
turned out the seller was having
hard times and sounded destitute, so I dropped the issue.
The next day, when I removed
the clamp and finished restringing the guitar, I was treated to a
really sweet-playing instrument.
However, when I plugged it in
I was a bit underwhelmed with
the sound. The tone was good,
LEFT: At first glance, you might mistake this for one of Leo Fender’s iconic Telecasters. But it’s actually a Korean-made Epiphone. ABOVE RIGHT: Despite the Fender-inspired six-in-line tuners, this guitar’s logo, “Gibson”
engraved truss rod cover, Gibson-style nut, and sculpted headstock reveal the true story. BOTTOM RIGHT:
This guitar arrived sporting aftermarket GFS pickups.
but it didn’t have quite enough
balls. I decided to revert to the
original Epiphone pickups, and
when I reinstalled them, I liked
the sound much better. The Epi
pickups were hotter and they gave
the guitar a nice, spanky tone.
Bottom Feeder tip #2872:
When buying a modified guitar,
always ask for the original parts
if they’re available.
I ended up selling the
GFS pickups for $40 and the
hardshell case for $50 (I’m a
gig-bag guy), bringing the total
cost of the guitar with shipping down from $215 to $125.
When I paid the seller with PayPal, I
reminded him to also include the original
pickups, which was fortuitous.
All right, that’s more in my
Bottom Feeder Tip #678:
Don’t be afraid to sell off extra
parts you don’t need. They can
pay the way for more cheap
guitars down the road.
So is it a keeper? Sure—for
now anyway. It’s an unusual
Epiphone, it plays great, sounds
pretty good, and has a cool vibe.
Plus this purchase allowed me to
check out some new pickups I had
heard about. Yeah, I’m happy.
WILL RAY is a founding
member of the Hellecasters
guitar-twang trio. He also
does guitar clinics promoting his namesake G&L
signature model 6-string,
and produces artists and
bands at his studio in Asheville, North
Carolina. You can contact Will on Facebook
and at willray.biz.