Guitar for the Fabs
Many pickers my age started playing guitar because of The Beatles. Even if we have gone down different musical roads, we can still look back at how cool we thought those four lads from Liverpool were. There’s even a whole book devoted to just their gear (Beatles Gear by Andy Babiuk). Several of their instruments became very popular because of their association with The Beatles, particularly the iconic Hofner Beatle Bass, The Gretsch Country Gentleman, the Rickenbacker 325 and 360/12 and, of course, Vox amps. There are a few other instruments that while not quite as “iconic” as those mentioned above, were nevertheless well known because of The Beatles: the Epiphone Texan, the Rickenbacker 4001 bass and—last but not least—the Epiphone Casino.
Paul McCartney got his Casino in 1964 and used it beautifully, playing the solo on “Ticket To Ride.” John and George got theirs in 1966. George played his some but moved on to other guitars. Lennon on the other hand seems to have really bonded with his. He had it painted “psychedelic” then later had it stripped down to natural. Personally, I think the stripped one looked really cool when they played the roof concert. I should also say that I own a Gibson ES-330, which is basically the same P-90 pickup hollowbody as the Casino, so I am familiar with this sort of guitar.
Epiphone makes at least four models of the Casino: from the Archtop Collection, the basic Casino and the Elitist Casino; and from the Historical Collection, the “Inspired By” John Lennon Casino (this one), and the “Inspired By” John Lennon Revolution. I owned a John Lennon signature Casino for a while but found that the neck was slightly too small for my comfort. The IBJL (“Inspired By” John Lennon) Casino actually has a neck very much like my ES-330; a nice rounded old-style Gibson shape, very comfy. It features USA-made Gibson P-90s, laminated maple/ birch body with laminated maple top. The neck is mahogany with a rosewood fingerboard (1.62" at the nut), and the standard 24.75" scale length.
In case you’re unfamiliar with the Casino (or 330) it’s important to say that this is a hollowbody. Unlike the ES-335, which has a center block that runs through the body, this is fully hollow, so feedback can be more likely. My ES-330 howls like mad with roundwound strings on it, so I use it with flatwounds, which are a bit more feedback proof, and I play jazz with it. Our review Casino is slightly more heavily built than my 330, and so seems a bit less susceptible to feedback. Because it’s a hollowbody you should expect less sustain as well.
Don’t Let Me Down
The IBJL Casino comes in two-tone sunburst, and the Revolution model has a natural finish. It’s a nice looking guitar and definitely has that classic look. P-90s are big single-coil pickups, which can buzz at times but have a wonderful, airy almost-acoustic quality when played clean—and they’re hot enough to sound cool distorted with plenty of treble bite when needed. For many, P-90s are the best pickups around, as they easily fit into most any style of music. The Casino does have some sweet tones and a really breathy, near-acoustic quality at low volumes. When cranked up it did get more difficult to escape the feedback, but by just backing down the volume on the guitar a bit I was able to still crank it and get rid of the unwanted howls. The bridge setting with distortion can really sizzle, and sounded bluesy and real good.
Another nice thing is that being a hollowbody, the Casino is much lighter than its 335 cousin. One of the things I like about these is that if you pop some flatwound strings on ‘em, they do make a wonderful jazz box, being thin-bodied and having the strings much closer to the body than a standard archtop. You can stay comfortable if, like me, you like to rest your forearm on the guitar as you would on a solidbody. With an archtop, the strings are too high off the top for that type of hand position. So, if you’re a Strat player who wants a fat jazz tone and an easy switch, this could be a great guitar for you.
The Final Mojo
The “Inspired By” John Lennon Casino is a darn nice axe. Like many guitars, it does need a basic setup from your local repair shop … nothing unusual, but for best playability I would suggest it. Did I mention it has quite a nice hardshell case? Tone-wise, I would rate this at 4.5 stars for its great tones. If someone ever invents a humbucker that actually sounds like a P-90 they’ll be a winner, but meanwhile these Gibson P-90 pickups have tone to the bone and you won’t need to swap them out for anything else. The two-tone finish is vintage looking, but I do prefer the more refined look of a smoother transition from dark to light—but that’s just a nitpick and this finish looks true to the original. So, bottom line? Great vintage rock or blues tones and nice woody jazz tones. This might not be your number one guitar, but it would be an excellent number two guitar.
you’re looking for a nice playing, lightweight axe with some great tones.
you need a high volume feedback-free axe with high fret access.