Vintage Epiphone Al Caiola Custom??

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by Robal, Aug 14, 2006.

  1. Robal

    Robal Supporting Member

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    Anyone have any experience with these guitars, made in the 1960s? Pretty rare, apparently. 25.5" scale, mini-humbuckers, hollow body but no f holes, a Varitone type circuit with individual switches rather than rotary selector . Here's a picture of one: http://www.normansrareguitars.com/st...php?itemid=242 Barry Tashian of the Remains (a 60's band) plays one.
     
  2. Todd Lynch

    Todd Lynch Member

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    Hip gtr - no experience though.
     
  3. Robertito

    Robertito Member

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    Is it hollow, or semihollow? Looks cool.
     
  4. Marty s Horne

    Marty s Horne Member

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    Interestingly, Al Caiola, one of the most recorded guitarists in history, had no hand in designing this guitar. It was brought to him after it was built and offered to him as an endorsement which he accepted. Today in his eighties, Al is playing guitar for Steve Lawrence and Edie Gorme using a single pickup Heritage hollowbody archtop. Barry Tashian as was stated used this model with the Remains (I have their album) but replaced it with a vintage Tele when he joined Emmy Lou Harris' Hot Band.
     
  5. billyguitar

    billyguitar Member

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    I didn't know they were 25-1/2" scale. Are you sure? These being made in the Gibson ownership period I wouldn't think so since there is no thinline Gibson with that scale length.
     
  6. Marty s Horne

    Marty s Horne Member

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    It was indeed 25 1/2" scale.
     
  7. tim gueguen

    tim gueguen Member

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    The guitar in the shot above isn't an Al Caiola model. That's an Epiphone Professional and matching amp. At the following link you can see a Caiola. http://www.normansrareguitars.com/store/pics.php?itemid=242
    While I've never seen a Caiola in person I have seen an Ibanez Caiola copy in the flesh, although it was a bolt neck and and not a true set net copy.
     
  8. Robal

    Robal Supporting Member

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    Last week the Remains played in LA, for the first time since they opened for the Beatles 40 years ago at Dodger stadium. Barry Tashian played his Al Caiola Custom through a Vox AC 30 (??) with the band (all original members), and I thought the guitar sounded quite nice. Ostensibly a jazz guitar, Barry used it to rock pretty hard (in a 60s pop music kinda way). The Remains sounded great, by the way. That caught my interest.
     
  9. Marty s Horne

    Marty s Horne Member

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    Wow I can't believe the Remains are back. In the mid 60s, they were Boston's #1 band and were the opening act on the Beatle's U.S. tour. The keyboard player I worked with in Boston played with Vern Miller from the Remains.
     
  10. snarkle

    snarkle Member

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    I was lucky enough to pick up a beautiful sunburst Al Caiola Custom from Gruhn's a few years back, and it's among the best thinlines I've played...although the impatient will not want to spend the time it takes to work out all the options available through its somewhat bizarre tone-switching system.

    A few points:

    The 25 1/2" scale length/thinline combination is perfect for heavy strings and altered/dropped tunings...I keep mine in DADGAD most of the time.

    It's fully hollow, but the lack of f-holes helps keep feedback controllable at up to medium-loud volumes.

    The neck (on mine, at least) is wide and thin, like a 1960 335. The body is deeper than a 335-style; more like a thinline Gretsch.

    The mini-humbuckers seem really well-suited to this guitar; rich, but with a lot of detail.

    That's about all I know...except that the only notable guitarist who has used this model (other than Barry Tashian and Mr. Caiola himself) is Tom Verlaine...which makes sense, given his interest in unusual clean tones.

    I'd be very tempted to buy one as a backup; even now the Gibson/Epiphone thinlines remain among the best bargains in the vintage world.
     
  11. Robal

    Robal Supporting Member

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    snarkle:
    Please check your pm. I have a question about the tone-switching system on your Caiola Custom. Thanks!
    Robal
     
  12. JasonH

    JasonH Member

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    The Al Caiola Customes are fantastic guitars. The specific one at Norms that you are refering to I actually bought. Like all great old Jazz guitars, these guitars can rock as well. The 5 switches are "filters" that give you different shaped sounds (BB king, Larry Carlton, late Beatles, Bob Marley, etc). The only limitation (if you call it that) is that you can't have both pick-ups at once. That said this can be achieved by a new pot that when pulled, utilizes both pick-ups. I have looked at the electronic component, but I didn't want to break the factory seal. They come in custom (mini humbuckers) or standard (p-90s). I prefer the mini humbuckers. Hollow bodys give you a mid rangey punch by nature, and the minis compliment this, whereas the p-90s accentuate this (in my opinion too much). These are musts for the studio!!!
     
  13. willhutch

    willhutch Supporting Member

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    I spent about 20 minutes with one. The very one JasonH owns. I thought it was cool guitar with a very unique personality. The native tone of the insrument was very smooth and mellow. Not particularly punchy or huge sounding, but very warm. It was well-balanced between lows and highs with good sustain. The varitone-like circuitry gave an extremely wide variety of useful tones. The neck on this guitar was bizarrely thin, but not uncomfortable at all. The guitar was very playable. This particular guitar was well setup with appropriate action, good frets and neck adjustment. The amount of tension on the strings was just right for me.

    All in all I say this is a well-made, quality instrument. It has many unique and usefull tones and a very cool mojo of its own.
     
  14. SilverSowanZion

    SilverSowanZion Member

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    I just bought a 1966 Epiphone Al Caiola Custom in walnut. No BS, it is the best playing guitar I have ever picked up. I own a few gems and this outshines them all as far as playability is concerned.

    I can't believe these aren't worth more. I mean, VG PG says mid $3k...but given the rarity and bad ass-ness...
    If you want a Riviera...this looks cooler and has more tonal options. The adding of a push-pull pot could be useful for tapping into both pickups, but honestly, you don't need it.

    Al Caiola Custom + 60's Fender BF (any model) Reverb = Win. Landslide. Blow-out.

    Such a great guitar. Good golly.
     
  15. snarkle

    snarkle Member

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    Good score...

    And I'm with you on the value...between their rarity, tone, and versatility these should really command a premium.

    I'd love to find a Standard to complement my Custom...anyone out there got one they'd want to trade away?
     
  16. JasonH

    JasonH Member

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    Good score indeed! Although I ended up with a '68 Al Caiola Custom, I originally fell in love with them trying a '66 at the Hollywood, Sunset GC. I actually like it better than the vintage 50s-60s LPs with PAFs I was looking at. And you're right about them being underrated. The market for a AC (with mini humbuckers) in good condition is usually in the 4ks even though the Price guide puts them in the 3Ks - Especially for a guitar so rare that even The Beatles couldn't get them - they loved Barry Ts, but Brian and Mal couldn't get one because they were too hard to find. They match-up fantastically to just about any amp, although I personally prefer to play mine though a vintage AC-30 a 62 Fender Bassman or a Savage glass 30.
     
  17. ALCaiolaCustom

    ALCaiolaCustom Member

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    I actually have a late 60's custom for sale currently. Give me a call sometime 313.215.6986 -Tom
     
  18. sleek

    sleek Member

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    Mmmmmmm....'60's Epis....

    Yeah, those things are schweet.

    They have one at the Hollywood Guitar Center I visit on occasion...

    My #1 is a similar vintage Epiphone Riviera with the minis and all. I think that '60's Epi hollow and semi-hollows are the last great deals out there.

    Also, I love the minis in these guitars. I play large rock, and the minis have just enough extra jangle to make the sound of the strings cut through big distortion...and they also do the trick of de-metalfying high gain amps...which is to say, minis through a JCM2000 or 5150 just give you big, rich rock tone.

    BTW, in addition to the Caiolas mentioned here, there was a slightly down-market version with P90s, the "Caiola Standard", which I would LOVE to have...like a Casino, but with more tonal options and without the feedback!

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Robal

    Robal Supporting Member

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    After playing my sunburst Caiola Custom for a few years, I was never able to "bond" with the Tonexpressor switches. (And I happily played a Music Man Steve Morse for years, which has a bazillion tone/switch combinations). Indeed, I think one of the reasons this guitar is not as highly valued is that the Tonexpressor is too cumbersome for many guitarists and its quite easy to get weak sounds out of it. I found there were only a couple of switch combinations on the CC that were really useful, particularly live; others were just too bassy, muddy, thin, or trebly, etc. Moreover, the stock Caiola Custom does not allow you to play both pickups at the same time, which is pretty limiting. The bridge mini-HB has a lot of bite and the neck mini-HB is warm and full; how great would they sound together? My solution: I had a good guitar tech make an exact replacement size control plate with the standard Gibson set up of vol, vol, tone, tone, 3-way pickup switch. The replacement plate dropped in place and I put the original Tonexpressor plate place away in a box. I can always put it back by hooking up a few wires, so it's easy to reverse. With the new controls I get to blend the volumes of both pickups to taste and the tones I get are even better than before with the overly complicated Tonexpressor switches. It also feels more familiar, like my ES-330 TD, and I can tweek it on the fly by feel. This simple change made a good guitar even better, IMHO.
     
  20. jads57

    jads57 Supporting Member

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    There's one for sale here in St. Paul.Mn. Willies American Guitars. I beleive it's hollow like a ES-330, not sure about all of the switches though.
     
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2009

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