Jazz Guitar Life would like to thank Jazz Guitarist Vince Lewis for sharing his beautiful 1968 Epiphone Howard Roberts Custom with us! Enjoy 🙂 (ed.note: This is Vince’s third Jazz Guitar Beauty Feature…you can check out his beautiful Ralston Custom 16 by clicking here or his Custom Trans-Amber Quilted Maple Heritage Archtop by clicking here)
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Growing up as a huge Howard Roberts fan, I would keep a close watch on our local music stores to be sure I never missed his albums as soon as they were released. In 1965 the “Goodies” album arrived in Charleston, WV, and I was breathless when I saw Howard’s beautiful Epiphone signature model on the cover (along with a beautiful female model as well). As a young pro musician but still in high school the 650.00 price tag was definitely out of my reach, but I never forgot the beauty of his playing and the unique look and sound of the top of the line Howard Roberts Custom.
Several years ago I became friends with a fine musician, photographer, and decorated Viet Nam veteran Warren Sedberry in Staunton VA. We would meet at his home before my gigs over that way and play together, share meals and listen to jazz guitar recordings for over 20 years. Warren was the original owner of this wonderful instrument, and we shared many hours enjoying it together. Warren passed away on June 6, 2019.
His best friend Diana Brasfield contacted me about possibly helping her see that his piano and other instruments and recordings found good homes. I inquired about the Epiphone and she replied that she would let me know about it and needed to make a decision about where it would go as there was a guitar promised to a military friend previously. Fortunately, there was another guitar available that could be sent there. Fate had it that as she was sitting on his couch going through things and trying to decide an envelope fell to the floor and her friend picked it up, and there was a piece of paper with my name on it. So, I was able to continue the love for this guitar that Warren had, and after over 55 years my dream of owning one became a reality, even more special than I could ever imagine.
This guitar is an extremely rare model with deluxe fancy and rare appointments including 1 and 11/16″ Nut width, laminated 5 piece maple neck, bound with real mother of pearl inlayed ebony fingerboard, multi-ply bound oval sound hole and binding, including pick guard with floating hum-bucking pickup, original Tune-O-Matic bridge on fancy inlayed ebony bridge base, fancy Deluxe Kluson Tuners. It has a 25 ½ inch scale and is 3 3/8 inches thick with a solid carved spruce top.
All photos courtesy of Pete Sternloff
Mike Evans, at the University of Toronto, CA has a wonderful website with details on Howard and all his instruments and equipment. It also lists 26 current owners and my name replaced Warren’s on the current list.
The other point that makes the guitar especially valuable to me is not just it’s rarity and amazing acoustic and electric sound quality, but the fact that it was designed by Howard and a great friend of mine Andy Nelson, a famous guitarist and design head for Epiphone in the 60’s and a noted Gibson Clinician. I appreciate and am taken back to wonderful personal and professional memories each time I pick it up, hopefully for several more years to come.
Sincere thanks to Lyle Robinson and Jazz Guitar Life for allowing me to share it and this short story with you.
Vince Lewis is a veteran jazz performer, composer and recording artist. He has been a headliner on Jazz Festivals with Dave Brubeck, B.B King, Ellis Marsalis, Lou Rawls, Mundell Lowe, John Pizzarelli and Melissa Manchester. Vince has been a featured performer in concert at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. as well as two performances at the Smithsonian Institute Jazz Bar. He also has served as Staff Guitarist at the Ritz-Carlton Resort Palm Beach FL and at The Greenbrier Resort in WV.
As well, Vince is included in the 2014 Scott Yanow book “The Great Jazz Guitarists: The Ultimate Guide”. He has recorded 20 CDs as a leader and sideman, and each has received excellent critical acclaim in virtually every major Jazz publication. In addition, he is a Heritage Guitar Inc, Benedetto Guitar, Eastman Guitar, Breedlove Guitar, SIT Strings and Redstone Audio performing Artist, and has a Vince Lewis signature archtop guitar available built by Richard Ralston, a noted New Zealand luthier. For more information please visit Vince’s website.
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If you would like to support all the work I do on Jazz Guitar Life, please consider buying me a coffee or visiting the Jazz Guitar Life sponsors. Thank you and your patronage is greatly appreciated regardless if you buy me a coffee or not 🙂