The Beatles were – and still are – one of the biggest bands to ever walk the earth. But why did The Beatles use Epiphone guitars and not the more expensive Gibson models? Let’s find out…
If you were George Harrison or John Lennon in the 1960s and 1970s, the world was essentially your oyster. They had millions in the bank, worldwide fame, and they were part of one of the greatest bands in history. As guitar players, George and John could have used any brand or model they liked.
So why, then, did The Beatles tend to favor Epiphone guitars over their more expensive Gibson alternatives? John Lennon famously loved and played his Epiphone Casino throughout The Beatles’ time as a band. But why not a Gibson ES-330 model?
Why The Beatles Used Epiphone Casino Guitars
Ironically, it was the bass player in The Beatles, Paul McCartney, that first started using an Epiphone Casino. McCartney acquired one in 1964 and George and John, the guys that actually played guitar in the band, were so impressed by the tone and playability of the guitar that they went out and bought one for themselves.
The Casino then became an integral part of The Beatles’ live performances, alongside their VOX amps, and studio work. The Epiphone Casino was used during the latter – and best – part of the band’s recording work. John Lennon even used his during The Beatles’ last ever live performance.
George Harrison had an off/on relationship with his Casino. If you check out videos of The Beatles playing live or recording, you will see that George used an array of guitar models. The biggest fans of the Epiphone Casino in The Beatles were John and Paul – both used the guitar more or less exclusively on records and when playing live.
Harrison, arguably the best guitarist from a technical perspective in the band, used a range of guitars during The Beatles’ time. Harrison owned and used the following guitars at one time or another while recording and playing live with The Beatles:
- 1957 Gibson Les Paul
- 1961 Fender Stratocaster
- Fender Telecaster
- Gibson J-200
- Epiphone Casino
Epiphone Casino Specs & Features
- Fully hollow thin-line body with sunburst finish
- Double-cutaway styling, laminated-maple construction
- Glued-in mahogany neck with rosewood fretboard
- Kluson tuners on a narrow Epiphone headstock
- Two single-coil P-90 pickups with chrome covers
- ABR-1 Tune-o-matic bridge
Why Didn’t John Lennon Play Gibson?
The idea that John Lennon couldn’t afford a Gibson ES-330 is just stupid; the guy had millions in the bank and was one of the world’s most famous musicians. He could have used any guitar he wanted. The reason he used an Epiphone Casino was that he loved the way it played and sounded.
Even today, Paul McCartney says the Epiphone Casino – the one used during The Beatles’ heyday during the 1960s – is his favorite guitar of all time. And that is a huge statement to make from a man who could probably buy and sell both Gibson and Fender if he wanted to and still have plenty of change left over.
Lennon also attempted to modify his Casino by stripping off the finish. He did this because he’d heard that it would improve its tone and make it sound better. The Casino used P-90 pickups as well that, when combined with its hollow-body design, created an amazing, screeching tone that is best heard on the tracks “Ticket to Ride,” “Taxman” and “Good Morning, Good Morning.”
The Beatles’ use of the Epiphone Casino propelled the guitar to massive global sales, surpassing the Gibson ES-330. Keith Richards and Brian Jones both used the Epiphone Casino on early Rolling Stones records. Blues-rocker Gary Clark Jr and alt-country artists Steve Earle and Dwight Yoakam were also big fans of the Casino.
Is The Epiphone Casino Still Worth A Buy?
The Epiphone Casino is a great guitar and is still around today – you can pick one up for $699.99. The modern Casino is more or less identical to the one used by George and John; it comes with two P-90 picks, a SlimTaper D neck, a hollow body design, and is made from a combination of maple, basswood, and mahogany.
Because of the nature of the Casino and its use of P-90 pickups, it is predominantly used in blues and country music. It has a bright, spritely tone that lends itself beautifully to these genres. Ditto jazz music. But you could definitely use the Epiphone Casino in a slow, sludge metal setting – especially if you wanted some seriously massive tone.
Josh Homme used a similar model – the Epiphone Dot – during the recording of Songs For The Deaf, and the guitar work on that record is some of the best sounding ever committed to tape. Chelsea Wolfe also loves to use hollow-body guitars tuned to D Standard and, again, she always has a wonderful, deeply organic guitar tone.
RichardRichard has been playing guitar for over a decade and is a huge fan of metal, doom, sludge, and rock music in general – though mostly metal. Having played in bands and worked in studios since the early 2000s, Richard is a massive music production geek, a fan of minimalist recording techniques, and he really likes old-school guitars.
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