In June of 1948, Gibson debuted a "Finger Rest Pickup" on an L-7 model at the NAMM music industry trade show. This unit, now known as the "McCarty" pickup after Gibson's chief engineer, incorporated one or two floating P-90 pickups into a custom pickguard designed to convert acoustic archtops for electric play. Around the same time, one of the Epiphone partners, Frixo, designed a double floating pickguard pickup system for his own '47 Emperor, using a pair of Epi "Tone Spectrum" single coil pickups. By November of 1950, the Epiphone conversion pickup was listed in the company's price list as the "Epiphone Spectrum Pickup in Pickguard Unit" and came in single and double versions, for cutaway or non-cutaway guitars. Like the McCarty, the Spectrum could be ordered as a factory option on a new guitar, or added as an aftermarket part. The McCarty pickup remained in Gibson's catalog until 1970, and was a popular option for their carved top guitars. The Spectrum pickup, by contrast, is now so rare that even the most diligent collectors have never even seen one, much less had the opportunity to play one of the fabled units.

Meantime, Epiphone debuted its new Triumph Regent model in 1949. The cutaway version of Epis most popular professional archtop, the Triumph Regent was manufactured in New York for only about three years, and is accordingly a much scarcer item than either the non-cutaway Triumph, or its competitor, the Gibson L-7C. The Epiphone cutaway design was deeper than Gibson's, allowing greater access to the uppermost frets, and cutaway Epis generally tend to have greater acoustic projection than their Kalamazoo rivals as well.

This stunning blonde beauty is from that debut year, and is the earliest cutaway Triumph we have seen here to date. The Spectrum pickguard pickup is factory fitted: made of polished black bakelite, this "C-1" model has volume and tone controls, and a screw-on mini-jack of the type used on postwar DeArmond pickups. The twin single coil pickup has adjustable poles, like the DeArmond 1100 Rhythm Chief, and are remarkably similar in tone, with the clear airy responsiveness and a slight microphonic quality, prized in the DeArmonds, that capture some of the soundboard resonance in addition to the magnetic response of the strings alone. Completely self-contained and non-invasive, the entire Spectrum unit may be detached without a trace by removing just three small screws.

Unplugged, the guitar is a classic Epi; so acoustically powerful that one wonders how often the pickup was required in the first place. Triumph Regents are among the very few cutaway guitars that can compare favorably in volume with their noncutaway contemporaries. (It's only a pity Epiphone didn't make more of them. Production tapered off sharply after 1953, and dwindled to a mere handful by the firm's demise in 1956.)

This remarkable instrument has been preserved in truly astounding condition, with all original hardware and finish, and free of pick, buckle, thumb or fingerboard wear. Binding is tight, tailpiece is solid, and apart from a few random lacquer nicks, the brilliant blonde finish looks much as it must have when it first left the factory, way back in the Truman administration. The solid carved back has attractive figure, and the matching maple neck is a welcome contrast to later versions of the model, which were built with darker mahogany necks. Action is smooth and low over freshly dressed original fretwork, and the neck has a comfy medium C profile, quite contemporary in feel. And the original brown hardshell case is every bit as fine as the guitar itself, with its Epiphone logo in raised plush on the inside of the case lid.

A rare opportunity to acquire a truly pioneering instrument, in gleaming condition, from the dawn of the modern jazz guitar. One only: call now.

Year Condition Color Case
1949 Near Mint blonde Original Hard

Joe Vinikow
Seattle, WA
8:19 AM
Monday through Saturday, 10am-7pm Pacific TIme.

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