Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Six String Side: Circa 1978 Epiphone SC 450

When I started this blog over ten years ago, I stated that it was a "Bicycle and guitar oriented elixir....". Well, the "guitar" part sort of got pushed out by the bicycle stuff, but I've always been playing. In the Easter post, I mentioned playing my '90 Strat, and someone suggested I detail the fleet, so here ya go. Hopefully ya'll enjoy the change in pace. I'll post something periodically throughout the year. Here's #3

Circa 1978 Epiphone SC 450. Note- The red line on the upper bout is a reflection of my red camera body. 
 This guitar has quite the history with me. I'll have to go waaaaay back to my younger days to start this story. In fact, back to when I was barely twenty! I've had this guitar the longest of any that I own currently.

Back in 1981 or so, I was dating a woman from Chicago. No.........not a suburb of Chicago, but really from the South side of Chicago. Near to 83rd and Western, as I recall, for those familiar with the city. Anyway, I had gone to her parents home on a visit with her. She had been wheeling me around to meet old friends, see old sites, and since she knew I liked guitars, she took me to Guitar Center. As far as I was concerned at the time, it may as well have been heaven. I still remember the scene vividly.

Three rows of guitars hanging from three of the stores four walls. The center of the store was lined with more guitars on stands and amps in neat lines. There was a loud cacophony of guitar noises going on due to the gaggle of guys cranking out riffs in about five different keys and tempos so that the dissonance was deafening.

The "SC" in SC 450 means "scroll". The upper bout features this distinctive feature.
I didn't care about the noise, although today that would drive me nuts! Anyway, I was approached by a salesperson to see what I might be interested in. Of course, in 1981, if you were a rocker and liked guitar, you wanted to sound like Edward Van Halen. So, the sales person found out what my budget was, and brought over two completely unrelated to Van Halen's "Brown Sound" type guitars. Of course he did. He was just trying to move some old inventory.

The first was a Les Paul Recording Model guitar. An odd beast, but I knew what a Les Paul should look like, and this thing, with its odd ball pick ups and a million knobs and switches, wasn't it. Besides, it had a head stock repair, which was poorly done, by the way. Okay- no sale. The second guitar was a mysterious, sexy, curvy chunk of wood that had "Epiphone" on the head stock. Hmm.......Pretty cool. How much?

I can't remember exactly what the price was, but it was North of $200.00 and I had $188.00 and some change to my name. I told the sales person this, and he said he'd have to go talk to the manager. Well, after about ten minutes, the sales person comes back with a rather abrupt answer, "You can have the guitar, but no case at that price!"

So, I left the store with a brown guitar under my arm and an empty pocket. Fortunately, I was to go home the next day and my trip back was free. I wrapped the guitar in a blanket for the trip home, and for the next twenty years, that's how I transported it wherever I went in life! About 15 years ago, I traded for a red Squire Strat, (gave that one away to an old friend), and got a gig bag in the deal which this guitar now resides in when not being played.

I could go on and on with stories that have to do with this guitar. For the sake of brevity, I shall not go down that path. I will say that I did modify the strap button placement from behind the neck/body joint to the upper bout. The strap is a gift from the guy I bought my first guitar from and went to High School with, Jim Skyrme. The strap is literally screwed to the body at the upper bout. I hadn't heard of Strap Locs just yet! I also lost the truss rod cover back in college at some point.
The only number on the entire guitar is stamped behind the head stock.

The SC 450 was part of the efforts of Gibson, Epiphone's parent company, to find a new way to market the old name. These guitars were an experiment of sorts, being made in Japan, and were cheaper than their Gibson counterparts. The styling of the SC series was somewhat reminiscent of the older Gibson guitars which also featured a scrolled upper bout.

The SC series featured three models- The simple, bolt on neck SC 350 with twin humbuckers, the SC 450 with glued in neck, twin humbuckers and coil splitting switch, and the SC 500 which had the same neck/body construction and electronics as the 450, but had rectangular fret board inlays, a bound head stock and neck, and an optional Leo Quan Badass bridge. The 450 and 500 were constructed of maple with a three piece body and three piece neck featuring "Gibson-esque" tilted head stock, angled neck joints, and three on a side tuner arrangement. These guitars also featured a long-ish 25.5" scale and 24 fret necks.

For the first twenty plus years I owned this guitar, I never even knew what it was, besides the fact that it said Epiphone on the head stock. I had seen maybe one or two others during this time, both in the optional natural maple finish instead of the stained brown, like mine is. Since then I have seen a few all black ones as well. Finally, a person somewhere put up a site on these little known guitars and I learned the history. Apparently, these were produced from 1977-1979, but I have seen some places claiming 1976 dates on these. At any rate, there aren't a whole lot of these around, and I happen to like mine very much.


Doug said...

That's a beautiful guitar. I've never seen an Epiphpne quite like it. The scroll is unique. The color and scroll give it the look of a classic violin or cello.

Dave said...

I like the cream 'buckers in there. It's a nice match for the body.

And Doug-superb choice with your Ellis!

Doug said...

@Dave Thanks! Dave Wages built mine back in 2008. He's one of the top builders in the country. Even better, he was great to work with. He built me a great riding bike.

Kris said...

Lovely guitar, jsut great to play - so smooth. My Scroll story is a bit similar. I saw it in the window of a small second-hand guitar shop in Copenhagen back in'89. It had three rusty strings and a price tag of DKK 1200 (around USD 165 bsck then), but negotiated it down to DKK 900 (USD 125). I have used this guitar ever since. At some point I had a Gibson SG junior as extra guitar, but I always preferred my Scroll, despite it being ridiculously heavy. Just love the long, slim neck with its 24 frets.