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Guitar Manufacturer Donates Masterbilt Acoustic Guitar to Acclaimed Bluesman
(ST. LOUIS) - For the past three decades, blues guitarist Jimmy “Duck” Holmes has dedicated himself to preserving the rare style of country blues named for Bentonia, the small Mississippi town where he has lived his entire life. Now 59, Holmes is the last living link to this style of blues made famous by the late Skip James and Jack Owens.

This week, Holmes received a helping hand in his effort to keep the Bentonia blues tradition alive. Epiphone, one of the world’s most popular guitar brands, has given Holmes an acoustic guitar worthy of the rich tradition of Bentonia blues: A Masterbilt EF 500RA.

The Masterbilt designation was first used by Epiphone in 1931 and has been applied to several models of Epiphone guitars in the succeeding decades. In 2004, Epiphone revived the name for a new collection of premium acoustic guitars that hearken back to the brand’s early days, right down to the use of the vintage Epiphone logo.

Designed specifically for fingerpickers, the Epiphone Masterbilt EF 500RA features a solid, sitka spruce top, a mahogany neck and a solid rosewood body. Reminiscent of the classic Stella and Harmony guitars favored by bluesmen of the 1920s and 1930s, the EF 500RA features a matte sunburst finish. The guitar also features fitted abalone trim and ivoroid binding. The guitar has a relatively small body resembling that of a Martin 000. Its fretboard, however, more closely resembles that of a dreadnought-scale guitar.

Both the size and construction of the guitar are perfectly suited to the haunting style of blues performed by Holmes and his Bentonia predecessors.

“I can’t wait to really see what that box can do,” Holmes proclaimed upon learning of Epiphone’s generous gift. “That guitar looks just like the kind I used to see in my parents’ juke joint when I was growing up. That’s a classic blues guitar.”

Broke & Hungry Records released Holmes’ debut CD Back to Bentonia to worldwide acclaim in April. It has been hailed by critics as a traditional blues masterpiece and a contender for best traditional blues release of the year.

For more information on Epiphone and its Masterbilt series, visit For more information on Jimmy “Duck” Holmes or Broke & Hungry Records, visit or