37. Korean Epiphone Flying V
I DON’T think it ever occurred to me I might one day end up playing a Flying V.
I grew up in a musical world where Vs were pretty much the province of the metal end of rock – TOTALLY Nigel Tufnel! Only later did I start to appreciate them in the context of other great players such as Albert King, Hendrix and the brilliant Lonnie Mack.
I spotted this rather nice little guitar dirt cheap on eBay. It was a Korean-made Epiphone – Gibson’s budget brand. It looked really cool and hey, it was £80! It was black – not usually a favourite colour for me, but “none more black” and somehow appropriate for a V – and it had some kind of hot DiMarzio pickup fitted at the bridge. That pickup on its own was probably worth half what I paid for the guitar, I figured.
It played well, sounded good – really good – and unusually, had just the one volume control, Fender style. I later learned that these particular Korean Epiphones were quite sought-after. What wasn’t to like about it? Well, for one thing, it had to be collected from Twickenham, l;iterally in the shadow of the famous rugby ground, and not exactly the easiest place to get to from Essex!
Having twice done battle with the M25, me being me, I quickly decided to give the headstock a bit of a makeover. Someone was selling snide Gibson V truss rod covers on eBay and it occurred to me that if I sanded off the Epi logo, blew the face of the headstock over with gloss black and fitted one of these covers, it would look pretty much like a pukka Gibson. Add a very pretty set of green aged Wilkinson tulip-button tuners – far cooler than the functional generic tuners it came with – and a pair of more period-correct knobs and the look was complete.
The resulting guitar was as light as a feather, perfectly balanced and surprisingly useable – so long as you stood up. (Flying Vs were truly make for posing with – and never really meant to be played sitting down – even if the originals did have a rubber pad on the bottom edge to stop them slipping off they player’s lap!)
For a couple of years, I gigged it a fair bit before my attention turned elsewhere and the V found itself back in agrowing pile of guitars that didn’t played often enough to justify their retention. In short, it became candidate for eBay during one of my periodic guitar culls.
I didn’t try to pass it off as a genuine Gibson – but I did turn a modest profit, even allowing for the extra bits I bought and the nice, shaped Ritter gigbag I had to buy for it and which, for obvious reasons, wasn’t worth keeping when I sold it.
Very occasionally, I still get a twinge of nostalgia for that Flying V – looking at these pictures is enough to do that. In all honesty, though, it would take a pretty exceptional V to get me reaching for the credit card now. Maybe one of those cool, red 60s-style ones with a Vibrola trem, like Hendrix played? I like to think that at my advanced age, though, I’ve grown out of my compulsive guitar-buying phase, but you never know…