58809 Emperor Concert

Close-up #26: 1949 Emperor Concert
SN 58809

When the owner of an old Epiphone guitar sent us these photos a few years ago, we were quite excited – read on to find out why. 

The "blue" label inside the instrument has both the model and serial number typed: "Emperor Concert" and "58809". According to our current research this SN indicates a manufacturing date of early 1949.

58809 Emperor Concert

The "Emperor Concert" model appeared for the first – and last! – time in the price list of March 15, 1948 – annonunced under "new models" along with Epiphone's first cutaway guitars. There were "Concert" versions of both the Emperor and DeLuxe – although to this date I have never seen or heard of a "DeLuxe Concert" (if you have, please let us know!). Prices for the "Concert" and "Advanced" (=cutaway) models were the same – actually the highest price of any Epiphone instrument at the time. 

1948 price list

The special feature of the "Concert" was the soundhole: Instead of f-holes, it sported a single opening below the fretboard end – where the round soundhole on acoustic guitars is usually placed. But this soundhole has a unique trapezoid shape – why that?

58809 Emperor Concert

This soundhole shape was not a stylish gimmick, but necessary because the guitar's top bracing was basically identical to Epiphone's regular f-hole archtops: The location of the "parallel" tonebars as visible in Triumph SN 55788 explain the straight sides of the single soundhole.

As documented in Fisch/Fred p212, it was guitarist Johnny Smith (1922–2013) who helped Epiphone to design the Concert model. Today, only 3 Emperor Concerts are known to exist: Johnny Smith's personal example (see Fisch/Fred p213, SN unknown, with replacement neck made by John D'Angelico), a sunburst example with SN 58825, and the blonde example SN 58809 featured here.

58809 Emperor Concert

The headstock and fretboard are identical to the regular Emperor models.

58809 Emperor Concert

The back and sides show off beautifully flamed maple.

58809 Emperor Concert

The owner of this truly remarkable Epiphone Emperor Concert shared this equally wonderful story:

"It’s a long story but my father worked for the Epiphone company from the late '40s until they moved away from New York area in the early '50s. When I was born, the Stathopoulo family gave him this guitar as a gift.  It was always treated as 'sacred' in our family so it's only been played a handful of times and has been in its original case pretty much the whole time."

(Dec 11, 2016)