Epiphone Harry Volpe | 1955
Vintage original 1955 Harry Volpe Electric Archtop. Super rare guitar, super rare pickup. One of the rarest Epiphone guitars made. Harry Volpe's prolific career as a performing Jazz guitarist, teacher, and guitar endorser culminated in the the creation of his signature Epiphone archtop. Approached by Epiphone in what would be their final years as an independent company, Volpe drafted specifications for a guitar suited to both the professional and novice player.
The 15-1/4" Maple laminate lower bout with a 3-1/3" depth are a comfortable dimension for just about any sized player. Add to that a 1-3/4" nut with a 50's Gibson-style full C neck profile and suddenly a C7 flat-5 isn't so daunting. This guitar is in Pristine condition as seen in the photos.
The unique thing about the Harry Volpe guitar is the extra spacing between the strings (wider neck width) which was the result of the guitarist's style of playing (finger style picking) and an attempt to market it to the novice player, some who may have bigger fingers. The contract was signed and the guitars came out in '55. He got royalties for about a year and a half , then the royalty payments stopped in '57 when Gibson bought them out
and it was discontinued at that point.
The solitary DeArmond neck pickup has enough bite to unsettle the mellowest jazz cafe and excite the darkest blues house.This guitar is full of amazingly warm, round, woody hollowbody tone. The tone is so incredible it is worth the extra work you have to do with your hands.
Harry Volpe was also associated with John D'Angelico in NYC. For a while he was also associated with Gibson and their L5/Super 400, then he endorsed Gretsch's Synchromatic 400. Apparently he "designed" a guitar for Epiphone, but it is not known what came out of that, as the company was sold shortly after.
Harry was almost as much a guitar pioneer as Django and was a well-known figure at the time as a performer and teacher. He had his own music store/studio and teaching academy and in time would count Joe Pass, Johnny Smith and Sal Salvador as some of his students. He was the first guitar player to be on the staff at Radio City Music Hall. If you have heard any of Django’s solo guitar material it’s easy to see similarities between his and Harry’s styles. Obviously they got along very well musically and personally, as the pictures from their jam sessions show. Aside from the fact that it’s cool to have all the information available on Django’s only trip to the United States.
Manufactured between: 1955-1957
-Figured Primavera (white mahogany) top, back and sides
-15.25" body width
-3.625" body depth
-Solid one piece mahogany neck
-Brazilian rosewood fingerboard with pearl dot inlays
-Enameled metal headplate
-Solid bone nut
-Hex-key adjustable truss rod
-1.75" nut width
-Single-ply celluloid body binding
-De Armond single-coil pickup
-1 Vol. 1 Tone controls
- Nickel hardware
-Compensated "lightning-bolt" rosewood bridge with trapeze tailpiece
-Plate-mounted open-back Grover tuners
-Dark tortoise pickguard
-Clear Lucite barrel knobs