Will Ray's Bottom Feeder: Modified Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II
This classic archtop reissue got a revamp from its eBay seller that included replacing the two original humbuckers with three P-90s and installing a Bigsby vibrato arm.

Three P-90s and a Bigsby remake a jazz box into a rockabilly raver.

I’ve always liked the look of the Epiphone Joe Pass model, but not being a big fan of humbucking pickups seemed to keep me from getting one. That is, until I came across this one on eBay. It’s a Korea-made 2005 Epiphone Joe Pass Emperor II model with several significant modifications. The seller removed the two stock humbucker pickups and installed three StewMac Golden Age P-90 pickups. In addition, he also replaced the original trapeze tailpiece with a Bigsby vibrato and removed the pickguard. It went from being a jazz guitar to a rockabilly monster. Honestly, the P-90s had me at hello! That was all I needed.

When you’re on the fence about a guitar, never be afraid to ask the seller some questions.

The seller also mentioned in the listing that “it might need to be rewired,” and I believe that scared off many potential buyers. That concerned me, too, so I contacted the seller about it and he responded that it was difficult to wire up, but believed all of the pickups now worked correctly. My gut told me to go for it.

Here’s a close-up look at the modifications that transformed this guitar from a jazz box to a rockabilly ripper. The new appointments were immaculately installed.

Bottom Feeder Tip #357: When you’re on the fence about a guitar, never be afraid to ask the seller some questions. The answers can either help to persuade you or dissuade you from buying the instrument. Also, never discount your gut feeling.

I kept an eye on the guitar, then made my move and snagged it for $250 plus $34 shipping. I wasn’t sure what to expect when it arrived, but to my surprise I discovered the guitar came packed in a really nice hardshell case. I opened the case and there it was … just winking at me as if to say, “Come play with me!”

The elegant and truly classic Epiphone “tree of life” headstock inlay has appeared on some of the company’s top models since the 1930s.

First thing I did was plug it into a small practice amp to test the pickups. All three pickups sang out loud and clear. Whew! That was a relief. And the pickup installation and wiring were excellent. It was wired just like the triple P-90-equipped Epiphone Riviera P-93s that I am very familiar with. Basically, there are volume controls for all three pickups, and a master tone knob. The 3-way switch gives you the neck and middle pickups; neck, middle, and bridge pickups; or the middle and bridge pickups. So, the middle pickup is always included with the 3-way, but you can also turn off the middle pickup with its volume control and use the 3-way to give you neck, neck and bridge, or bridge individually. And if you turn down the neck and bridge pickups, you can get the middle pickup by itself for a total of seven different pickup combinations.

Another thing that struck me was how low the action was. It was a joy to play. So, is it a keeper? Yeah! For now, anyway. You know how that goes. Check out my MP3 recording of this guitar at the PG website. It can really swing or rock out with the best of them. I’ll probably keep it with low action, because it forces me to play a little differently, which I really like.

It’s not difficult to replace the wiring in your pickups, but it takes some finesse. Here’s a step-by-step guide.

Hello and welcome back to Mod Garage. After numerous requests, this month we’ll have a closer look at changing wires on a single-coil pickup. As our guinea pig for this, I chose a standard Stratocaster single-coil, but it’s basically the same on all single-coil pickups and easy to transfer. It’s not complicated but it is a delicate task to not destroy your pickup during this process, and there are some things you should keep in mind.

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The emotional wallop of the acoustic guitar sometimes flies under the radar. Even if you mostly play electric, here are some things to consider about unplugging.

I have a love-hate relationship with acoustic guitars. My infatuation with the 6-string really blasted off with the Ventures. That’s the sound I wanted, and the way to get it was powered by electricity. Before I’d even held a guitar, I knew I wanted a Mosrite, which I was sure was made of fiberglass like the surfboards the Beach Boys, Surfaris, and the Challengers rode in their off time. Bristling with space-age switchgear and chrome-plated hardware, those solidbody hotrod guitars were the fighter jets of my musical dreams. I didn’t even know what those old-timey round-hole guitars were called. As the singing cowboys Roy Rogers and Gene Autrey strummed off into the sunset, the pace of technology pushed the look and sound of the electric guitar (and bass) into the limelight and into my heart. Imagine my disappointment when I had to begin my guitar tutelage on a rented Gibson “student” acoustic. At least it sort of looked like the ones the Beatles occasionally played. Even so, I couldn’t wait to trade it in.

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Need an affordable distortion pedal? Look no further.

We live in the golden age of boutique pedals that are loaded with advanced features—many of which were nearly unthinkable a decade or so ago. But there’s something that will always be valuable about a rock-solid dirt box that won’t break your wallet. Here’s a collection of old classics and newly designed stomps that cost less than an average concert ticket.

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