The Epiphone Genesis Custom

by Michael Rogers

I received my first Epiphone Genesis guitar in 1988. I received it as a sixteenth birthday present from my mom. It was my first good electric guitar. My mom purchased it as a consignment deal at Andrea Bogusko’s Music store in Wilkes-Barre, PA. It was trashed from the day I got it.

The previous owner decided they didn’t care for the wine red color and they stripped it and did an awful job refinishing it with a dark stain.

Eventually, because I took the thing everywhere with me, the neck began to crack and warp from not being lacquered, and eventually, the head stock just snapped off. I tried my best to glue it, but it was useless. I still have it. It sits in a case in a junk room in my house. I missed playing it over the years. It had a unique and distinct vibe and sound to it. I went on a tangent with Charvel and Jackson guitars for most of my adult life, but the power and sustain of the solid mahogany Genny eluded me.

Until now.

Flash ahead to 2019. I’m 47 years old. I won a lottery jackpot! Not a huge jackpot, not millions of dollars, or anything, but enough to pay off all my debts and leave me with a nice chunk of change left over. There just so happened to be a beautiful used 1980 Epiphone Genesis Custom with its original case sitting at my local Music Go Round in Wilkes-Barre. Once the money came through and I cashed the check. I withdrew the money I needed to buy it with, took off a half day from work, and bought the Custom Genny for four-hundred bucks.

The Genny Custom at Music-Go-Round in Wilkes-Barre

It was a steal of a price. Yep.

It’s become my favorite guitar.

A Little History…

The Epiphone Genesis was supposed to be the ‘genesis’, a new beginning for Epiphone guitars, according to its designer, luthier Jim Walker. Gibson tapped Walker away from Hamer guitars to help give Epiphone a new life away from its parent company and to make them a viable guitar brand again. The Genesis was the first flagship model in this revitalization.

He designed the guitar while he was still working with Hamer Guitars. The first prototypes were built in Gibson’s Kalamazoo, Michigan plant. Further prototypes were rendered in Japanese plants, one of them being Aria, but, according to Walker, the Yen/Dollar exchange rate was too turbulent at the time to proceed with a Japanese production model. It was decided that the guitars would be produced in the Pearl (drum) plant in Taichung, Taiwan with the quality control closely monitored by Gibson in the United States at a then recently opened facility in Seattle, Washington. Much of the tooling and machinery used in the production of the Genesis guitars were purchased from Japanese musical instrument plants.

All production model Genesis guitars and basses were produced in Taiwan.

A legacy to this was the Pearl Export Bass, which is nearly the same instrument as the Genesis Bass (GN-BA).

The Genesis guitars were originally offered in three models: The Standard (GN-STD), Deluxe (GN-DLX), and Custom (GN-CST). The quickest way to identify them is by their fretboards. The Standard has dot inlays. The Deluxe and Custom have block inlays. To immediately distinguish a Deluxe from a Custom, look at the first fret. The Deluxe has no inlay at the first fret while the Custom does. The Custom also has additional layers of binding in the body and head stock. The body on a Custom is quadruple-bound, actually.

1980 Epiphone Genesis Custom

All three models featured a solid mahogany body and neck, rosewood fretboards, dual, uncovered humbucking pickups with black bobbins, dual volume controls, a master tone control, and a DPDT switch to coil split both humbuckers to get a P-90 single coil sound. All three models incorporated an elongated head stock with 3-to-a-side enclosed tuners and the stop-bar tailpiece/Tune-o-matic bridge system.

A student model, called simply “The Genesis” (The-GN) was listed in the July 1980 catalog, but it’s unknown if it ever made it into production. No known student models were ever found to exist. It’s likely it never made it into production. The Genesis models were discontinued in 1981. If it exists, it would’ve been available in either ebony or wine red, same as the Standard. The Custom and Deluxe were not available in wine red. They were finished in either ebony or dark sunburst. The Genesis Bass was available with ebony as its only color option.

Genesis Serial Number Identification

Fortunately, for anyone interested in these guitars, the serial numbering system they used make them very easy to identify.

We’ll use my Custom Genny as an example. Its serial number is: 0900116

SN: 0900116

To decipher it, it reads:

09 is the month, September.

0 is the year, 1980.

0116 is the production number. It was the 116th guitar that came off the line that September.

The serial numbers will always follow these rules:

The first two numbers will always be between 01 – 12.

The third number will be a 9, a 0, or a 1, for 1979, 1980, and 1981.

The last four digits will be the how-many-eth guitar produced in that month of that year, beginning with 0000 and hypothetically ending with 9999.

I’ve dated a few of these guitars, and I haven’t spotted any deviations to these rules. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments section of this article.

Conclusion: My Genny Custom – Customized

The Genny with its original case and the Marshall Lead 12 I purchased with it…

My Genesis Custom is truly a piece of work.

Someone decided to make it into a double-cut, coil-splitting Les Paul! They relocated the input jack to the lower bout of the guitar and added another tone control into the original input jack hole. They replaced the original tone capacitor with dual orange-drop capacitors. I’m pretty sure they tossed in some Gibson pickups for the full transformation, too.

Re-wired with orange-drops!

It screams! Heh…

I would put this up against any modern Les Paul for tone, and I guaranty The Genny would bury it hands-down. It’s quad-bound solid mahogany.

Control cavity front view – extra tone control. and top-hat knobs..

Most of the world’s good tone woods are gone, man. Real Indian rosewood is endangered and illegal to import and export, and has been replaced by Gibson with crap like Richlite (another way of saying Formica). Relics like these are all that’s left of truly great guitars. The Genesis was built to compete with a Les Paul. It held its own in 1980. It would bury any modern, “chambered” and “weight-relieved” Gibson of the modern era.