The Zephyr De Luxe Regent was Epiphone’s second-from-the-top electric guitar produced from the late 1940s through the mid ’50s. The instrument went through several name changes, from Zephyr De Luxe Cutaway, in 1948, to Zephyr De Luxe Regent, in 1950, to the DeLuxe Electric, by 1954. In Epiphone nomenclature, the word “Zephyr” indicated “electric” and the word “Regent” indicated “cutaway.” For the sake of clarity the term Zephyr De Luxe Regent will be used in this article to refer to all incarnations of the instrument.
The Zephyr De Luxe Regent had cosmetic appointments generally similar to the Epiphone De Luxe Regent, which was its acoustic cousin. However, the Zephyr De Luxe Regent did not share the same construction techniques with the carved top acoustic De Luxe Regent; the electric variation had a laminated (plywood) body. Epiphone utilized laminates in an effort to reduce troublesome feedback. The outer ply on the rims and the back of the 17 1/8” body often featured flamed or birdseye maple and the top was faced with spruce.
The curly maple neck of the Zephyr De Luxe Regent was fitted with a rosewood figerboard inlaid with a pearl and abalone “split V-block” design. Prior to 1951, truss rod adjustment was at the body end of the neck and subsequently on the headstock, with a white plastic truss rod cover. The headstock was inlaid with the Epiphone name and a vine pattern often referred to as the “tree of life” and was equipped with Epiphone’s exclusive “16 to 1 ratio enclosed tuners.” These tuning machines had plastic pearloid buttons and the enclosed backs were stamped with the Epiphone “E” logo. Other features included multi-ply binding on the body and headstock. The neck was bound with single-ply binding and featured parallel white stripes inlaid approximately 1/8” from either edge of the fingerboard. The f-shaped sound holes were not bound. The tortoise shell celluloid pickguard with multiple bindings was secured to the body with a bent metal support and a small metal cleat which was attached to the side of the neck. The Frequensator tailpiece secured the strings which then passed over a rosewood bridge. All metal parts were plated with gold. The instrument was available either in a natural blond finish or in a golden brown sunburst.
Like the name of the instrument, there were minor cosmetic changes over the years, but they were not always consistent. The period between 1953 and ’56 (approximately) saw the Zephyr De Luxe Regent sometimes featuring a maple-faced to and sometimes spruce. Likewise, the fingerboard inlay was sometimes the split V-block and sometimes pearl “clouds” (which was the inlay pattern on the acoustic version), and the headstock sometimes had the tree of life and sometimes had a large flower (used on the ’50s Broadway acoustic and some ’50s De Luxe acoustics). These variations have been seen in all combinations and there seems to be no logical pattern to them.
The Zephyr De Luxe Regent was equipped with two pickups, though there were some single-pickup cutaway instruments produced. The 1948 literature introduced the new “Tone Spectrum” pickup, which was a single-coil model with adjustable polepieces, approximately 1 ½” by 3 ¼”, encased in cream-colored plastic. The pickups were controlled by a single Volume and “Mastervoicer” Tone controls mounted on round aluminum plates perpendicular to the strings in the lower treble bout. Pickup select was accomplished with a three-way slider switch mounted on a gold-plated metal base. In 1949, the Tone Spectrum pickup was enclosed in a metal case with a cream-colored plastic surround. This pickup was approximately the size of a humbucker.
In 1950, the Mastervoicer mounting plates were discontinued and the contols were installed in a line parallel to the strings. Control knobs were the familiar octagonal pointer knobs in white plastic. The other important change of this year was the redesign of the Tone Spectrum pickup, which then measured 1 1/8”, by 3 ½”. This is commonly referred to as the “New York” pickup, though that term was never used in company literature. By 1951, the Volume and Tone controls were angled away from the strings. Some Epiphones were equipped with DeArmond pickups between 1954 and ’56, though the Tone Spectrum pickup was specified for the Zephyr De Luxe Regent in all company literature.
This is a very collectible guitar – a full-body cutaway electric with aesthetically pleasing ornamentation. However, as a “performance guitar,” certain features leave a bit to be desired. The most commonly Zephyr De Luxe Regents are from the ’50s, and equipped with the smaller Tone Spectrum (New York) pickups. These pickups can vary in tonal quality; many produce a rather thin sound and are subject to feedback when amplified much beyond that comfortable in a small room. It often takes a great deal of experimentation with the controls on an amplifier to get an acceptable sound. The pre-1950 models with the larger pickups tend to have a fuller range of response, with plenty of bass and a much more pleasing sound, though feedback can still be a problem. The most noted modern player of the Zephyr De Luxe Regent, Duke Robillard, had Gibson mini-humbucking pickups installed in his, with wonderful results, though such a modification cannot be recommended due to the negative result in vintage value of the instrument.
Circa 1953, the neck coutour of the Zephyr De Luxe Regent, as on most Epiphone instruments, changed somewhat to a fuller, rounder shape. Prior, the shape was a slight V and not as full.
The Zephyr De Luxe Regent is a wonderful example of the meticulous craftsmanship and beauty produced by the Epiphone employees. Given an understanding of the shortcomings of its pickups, this can be a fabulous addition to any vintage instrument collection.
The matching Zephyr amplifier was housed in a maple-faced plywood cabinet. A single-channel amp, it had three inputs, optional vibrato, a 12” speaker, and produced 20 watts of output.
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This article originally appeared in VG Classics #02 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.