1963 Epiphone Newport Deluxe

When Gibson president Ted McCarty negotiated the purchase of Epiphone in 1957, he believed that he was acquiring Epiphone’s upright bass business. However, he quickly realized that Gibson’s parent company, CMI, had in fact purchased all of Epiphone’s names, designs patents, machinery and existing stock of parts for its guitar line as well. For well over a decade – until 1970, when Epiphone production moved overseas – the Epiphone line was produced in the same factory as Gibson and with many of the same parts. In many cases, the equivalent Epiphone and Gibson models had similar price tags, and some Epiphone guitars actually had more upscale features than their Gibson equivalents.

Epiphone never built a bass guitar before the Gibson takeover, preferring to concentrate on their upright line. Gibson introduced their first Electric Bass model in 1954 and replaced it with the EB-0 in 1959, which complemented the existing semi-hollow EB-2 (1958). When Fender released the two-pickup Jazz Bass in 1960, Gibson responded by revamping its solidbody bass models. In 1961, the EB-0 was given a new body – its original double-cutaway slab, appropriated from contemporary Les Paul Special and Junior guitars, was changed to the new SG shape. At the same time, a totally new model was introduced with the same SG body but a second pickup: the EB-3.

At the same time that these changes were made to the Gibson models, Epiphone released its first basses. The Rivoli was a re-branded version of the EB-2, but the solidbody Newport was unique. Although it sported the same pickup, controls and 30.5” scale as the EB-0, its symmetrical double-cutaway body with rounded edges was different from anything released under the Gibson name. The standard Newport EBS model – “S” for single pickup – listed for the same $210 as the revised EB-0. In 1962 it was offered with a built-in Fuzztone effect, and from 1962 to 1965 it was offered with six strings. From its debut in 1961 until 1963, it was also offered as the Newport Deluxe EBD with a second pickup.

However, the Newport Deluxe was not an EB-3 with a different body. Despite sharing the same pickups – a big humbucker at the neck and a mini-humbucker in the bridge position – the wiring was quite different. In place of a standard pickup selector switch, the EB-3 sported a 4-position varitone control that employed capacitors and a choke to drastically alter the bass’s tone in most positions. Reaction to this feature has always been mixed, with many players claiming that only two of the four varitone positions results in a usable sound. The Newport Deluxe, by contrast, has a standard pickup selector switch with standard volume and tone controls for each pickup. The simpler wiring permitted a lower price than the EB-1 ($285 vs $310), but some players preferred the Epiphone’s more intuitive setup.

The Deluxe version was discontinued at the same time that all other Newport models were given a modified body shape and a 4-in-line headstock, so all double-pickup Newports have the older silhouette. Only 89 Deluxes were built during their 1961-3 run compared with 411 standard Newports. The Newport Deluxe was replaced by the Embassy Deluxe, a long-scale bass with two Thunderbird pickups.

 

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