Amp of the Month
This is one of the beauties of Nashville. Craigslist musical instrument listings are huge, you can find just about anything you want on any given day. I noticed about 2 weeks ago, there wasn't one brown 6G4 Super amps on Craigslist, but two! You rarely see these come up anywhere much less Craigslist. They were both expensive but one was considerably less, because it has older Ceslestion Vintage 10 speakers. I found out this is probably a good thing. Most brown Supers were too powerful for P10Q Jensens and they would take out the output transformer when they blew. Here is my latest find, a brown 62' 6G4a Super. There amps are legendary and rare. They were go to session amps in the 60s because of size and power. They are 40 watts with 5881 power tubes. Super's are one of the longest designs for Fender and this was the last 2-10 configuration. In 63', they added reverb to this model and it became the Vibroverb. By 64, they combined the Super, Concert, and the Vibroverb and released the Super Reverb, which is still available today as a re-issue. The Vibroverb was gone by 64, and the Concert by 65' but the Super remains. Many consider the brown series as Fenders best, they had less tone stack than the blackface and more power than the tweeds. I know the owner of a local major studio and browns are all he has. For studio use, he says, "why do I need anything else". I wasn't going to buy it but then I heard it, oh my, gave him cash and giggled all the way home.
62' Fender Super 6G4a
OK, what's a little over 3 years? Moving was a pain and I had issues uploading my revisions. I'm fairly settled now and got my site to work. Hopefully I won't have this much of a gap again. Let's pick up with a rare one then. One of my Kustom buddies found this in Michigan for me. It's an extremely rare Magnatone M20. Magnatone was a company started in the 40s in southern California, making radios, phonographs, and Hawaiian steel guitars and amps. By the early 50s they were purchased by Estey electronics and some of their the most famous amps were produced, like the 280 which Buddy Holly used. They are know for true vibrato. By the mid 60s they had moved to Pennsylvania. This is when they created their "suitcase" amp line. These amps had plastic cases which resemble a suitcase, hence the name. The smallest was the M-6, 25 watts, 1-12" speaker and the plastic case would have been lighter than a wood Fender. The top of the line would have been the M-15 which had many technical advances with 2-12" in speakers and was rated around 75 watts. The last of the suitcase line was the very limited M20. While the other M series had speakers in the cabinet, the M20 was the amp unit only. The M20 is true stereo with 2 separate 38 watt, EL34 tube amps. The amp had 5 channels, 10 inputs with 1 channel with separate guitar and mic channels, the 2nd channel with the same set up and a combined channel with inputs for bass. You theoretically could run the whole band through this amp and Magnatone advertised the amp this way. You used 2 speaker cabinets with either a 2-12 or 1-15 configuration. The whole setup would have been $1400 out the door. Most units made were given as artist endorsments to get the product out to be seen. I was told by a reliable source only 50 - 60 units were made. It hummed so I had John Davidson cap and test it for me. It also has the ture vibrato in stereo, pretty amazing.
March brings a different Fender, the Solid State Bassman. Bob Rissi worked at Fender from 61'-67' where he designed tube amps but was assigned the task of designing the Solid State line. Bob actually left before they were released to start the infamous Transonic line for Rickenbacker. I've had the 100 watt @ 4 ohms solid state Bassman amp head for several years but found the extremely rare 3-12", 39" cabinet in Nashville a couple weeks ago. My amp head didn't work so I found Bob's email address and asked if he was interested in restoring my Bassman. It currently is on his work bench. He explained why the amp has a bad rap for going out. If the transistor sockets are not installed properly, the output transistors will not connect to the heat sink properly causing them to overheat and fail. He's replacing mine with a later, more stable output transistor that will also boost the output power. I will update next month on the amp's status.
I'll bring out another different brand for February, Music Man. Music Man was formed in the early 70's by Forest White and Leo Fender. Leo had to be a silent partner due to his non compete clause after selling Fender to CBS. The amps were released in 74'. The first model was the HD 65, a 65 or 32.5 watt switchable hybrid amplifier. The preamp was transistor and the power amp was tube. This month's amp is a 76' HD-130. These are extremely loud and clean amplifiers. It is switchable 65 - 130 watt amp with 4 EL34 tubes. Many artist including Clapton and Areosmith used these. They were well made and very dependable. Mine is setting on a 68' Fender Dual Showman cabinet with D-140 JBLs and makes a wonderful bass amp for rehearsals or jamming with my son on drums.
Welcome to 2010! I'll open this year with Ampeg, another long standing, popular amp company. The VT-22 was the combo version of the infamous V-4, a 100 watt stack built to rival the English amps. Ampeg went so far to compete by endorsing the Rolling Stones, who used Ampeg for years. Ampeg had been known for jazz amps, especially the Portaflex bass amp series. The Portaflex is still considered the best studio bass amp. They revamped their line in the late 60's to compete in the rock-n-roll market. They developed a new line of amps including the SVT and V-4. One of the big features was input gain level switches and roll off filter switches which gave Ampeg the ability to mimic other brands of amps sound. This made these highly desirable and versatile. This is a 100 watt 2-12" combo usually using CTS speakers. The cabinet is a 4-12" V-4 guitar cabinet. I attribute about a 1/3 of my deafness to these amps while working in bands that used them.
Back to Kustom in November. The Kustom 400 was the flagship of the Kustom line in 1969-70. It came in guitar, bass, and PA versions. The 400 was basically 2-200 heads @100 watts RMS each, in one case. Several versions came in stereo which makes sense, having separate amplifiers. The 400 has 4 speaker outputs, meaning you could run 4 3-15" or 4-4-12" cabinets and have tremendous volume and coverage. I've had the head since March and found the 3-15 siren cabs at the Kustomfest in Chanute in June. They were part of the Brent Ware collection and did not purchase them until recently. One cabinet is an actual PA cab with Jensens and the siren horn while the other is a CTS bass cabinet with a horn installed. I remember seeing the Classics IV in concert at the ECU gym in Ada, Ok in 1969. They were using a Red 400 PA like this and it sounded great!
The Acoustic 270 was the flagship guitar amp made by Acoustic Control 1972 -74. It's the follow-up to the infamous 260 which many acts used including The Doors, Frank Zappa, and Mahavishnu Orchestra. One of my favorite pictures is Herny Diltz's Hollywood Bowl shot of the Doors backline, a wall of 261s and 361s! The Acoustic line was developed in the late 60s by Steve Marks in LA. These are well designed, loud and clean amps. They probably are best know for their 361 & 371 bass amps. The 270 was used by Frank Marino of Rush , Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers and Focus. This amp is designed to run at comfortably at 375 watts @ 2ohms. The high deceble levels were achieved buy using 2 - 4 ohm cabinets with 2 Altec 418b's and a compression driver in each. These speaker cabinets are the same although numbered differently. The 271 is a 72', the model number changed to 201 in 74'. Even more fun, I have another 270 head which gives me 2 complete rigs! These are great examples of Acoustic Control.
We'll go back to a Fender this month. The Deluxe Reverb is considered by many the most versitale amp Fender makes. It uses 6V6 power tubes for 22 watts of power with a single 12" speaker. I've heard Pete Anderson and Steve Wariner just floor me with these. Mine is an early 71'. It has the blackline silver faceplate that must have been leftover at the factory. The circuity is basically the same as the blackface. I found mine in Vegas at Cowtown Guitars. It had cheesey red grill cloth with homemade aluminum trim, can't you just see this in some off-strip smokey lounge? I took off the trim and the original grill was there and almost perfect! It had a Mojo speaker in it which sounded good but I found a holy grail, orange frame JBL D120f that sounds amazing! I drag this amp everywhere for small PA, fiddle or small keyboard gig. With my Twin Reverb, Quad Reverb, Super Reverb, and Princeton makes for a proud collection of silverface.
Due to Garth and summer, I missed July, sorry. Here is another recent find. In the mid 60's, all the major musical instrument companies were trying to cash in on the wildly popular guitar & amp market. Baldwin was no exception, after losing the bid to acquire Fender to CBS, they incorporated their organ amp technology to make a line of guitar amps. My recent find was the first and probably the most popular model, the Baldwin Professional. The amp is a 2-12", 45 watt, 2 channel transistor amp with "Supersound", a colorful 5 preset EQ. The highest profile user of this amp is Willie Nelson. Willie has a Baldwin pickup on his Martin that matches this amp. I found near mint example with cover and footswitch in rural TN. Great sounding amp.
June will be dedicated to Kustom. If anybody gets a chance, there will be a Kustomfest in Chanute, KS June 26-28 at the county club with Bud Ross in attendence. There will be several collectors there with there collections. Bud will answer questions and discuss the amps history. There will be former Kustom employees and Chanute townspeople there. I will be there with whatever I can get in the SUV! There will be a jam Sat night with Bud singing! This is a once in a lifetime oppertunity so don't miss it! The June amp(s) I found at the recent guitar show in Nashville. I found a Red 200-5 PA head and a Blue 150SC 4-10 combo. The 4-10 version is the last one I needed to round out my collection of Plexi 150 combos. My 2-10 version was the Dec amp has the history and decription of that model. It is almost mint and sounds great. I couldn't pass up the red PA head, that's a hot color right now and I only have one red Kustom. The Plexi 150 SC are my favorite Kustoms. I use my single 15 and 2-10 versions for gigs and rehersals, very reliable.
Sorry it took me so long to get May up, end of school, etc. This month is another legend legendary brand, SUNN. SUNN amps were developed by the Sundholm brothers out of the need for a more powerful bass amp. Norm was the bassist for the Kingsmen and was having trouble being heard. Conrad used a Dynaco 60 as a poweramp and added a preamp. He designed a very efficient speaker cabinet and installed JBL D130 speakers and SUNN amps were born. During there peak in the early 70s, many of the major acts used SUNN amps. May's amp is a Sunn Sorano. This amp was initially sold as a 60 watt single 15" combo. Mine is the later separate head an speaker cabinet version. The interesting thing to me is it has an inspection date of May 23rd, 1972, the same day I graduated from high school! It's pretty close to a 200S in design and the cabinet has a single15" JBL D130. I think this was made towards the end of their production.
It's time to show off another legendary amp. Along with Fender, no amp says rock-n-roll better than Marshall. Marsahll was developed by Jim Marshall, a jazz drummer, in 1962 after musicians complained of not having enough power. Marshall amps have gone through several phases, including the legendary Plexies and JMP series. In 1981, the JCM 800 series was introduced. This was the amp of the 80's, used by most metal and hair bands. The workhorse for this series was the 2203, a 100 watt single channel monster. I've always wanted a Marshall but price has been a limitation. I decided to put the amp together one piece at a time. First, I found the B cabinet in Omaha while there for Christmas with Susan's family. Next, I found an amp head in Ohio on Ebay. It is an original "X" serial number, making it an 89'. The guy said it was low hours, low use and when it arrived, it looked brand new. Last, the A cabinet was in Orlando while on vacation with the family at Disnyworld!
Here is my Marshall JCM 800 2203 full stack.
I thought I would show off a recent find. The Fender Twin has been the flagship amp of Fender from 52' to the present. More people have used Twins than any other amp whether it be a tweed, blackface or silverface. I've had 2 great Twin Reverbs during my career. The 1st was a 72' I used while in LA. Amp legend Red Rhodes went through it and gave it a tune up. I put JBLs in it and anyone who ever used it, wanted to buy it. I traded it even for a new Peavey KB 300. I was touring with Pake McIntire and needed a combo keyboard amp. The 2nd, a 76' I found in Sioux Falls while out with Garth. It was mint, w/cover. I traded it for a Prophet 5 Rev 3.3 synth, a no brainer. Susan gave me a free pass on my birthday for an amp and I did not waste the opportunity. I found a 70' Twin Reverb AA270 circuitry, little rough cosmetically, but sounds great! Got a new aged baffle from Larry Rodgers and cleaned the tolex up. I would not be afraid to put this one up against any Twin Reverb!
From February on the Gantamps calendar featuring Thomas Organ Vox, here is a 1966 Super Beatle. The Super Beatle was a 120 watt Solid State monster running @ 2 ohms with a 4-12" speakers plus 2 Goodman midax horns. The early versions like this has Celestion silver Bulldog G12 speakers making it a force to reckon with. These were large very expensive amplifiers. They have 3 channels with tremolo, reverb, fuzz, and a MRB boost function. The Super Beatle was made 1 yr. After problems with not consulting the Beatles for naming, they dropped "Super" from the name in 67'. The Beatles actually used the English AC-100 tube version which is extremely rare and sought after today. The AC-100s had the same size speaker cabinet with a smaller square tube head. Due to logistics, the Beatles used the American version in the Philippines and on the west coast in the summer of 66'. There are a few pictures with them using Super Beatles with the head turned around showing the controls and connections. These were highly visible amps on TV seen on the Smother Brother's Show, Happening 68', and American Bandstand. Mine has been rebuilt and sounds great. I use it for keyboards. Due to it's size and history, it always turns heads when I use it.
The New Years amp is a 75'
Fender Quad Reverb. In an attempt to keep up with larger amps
being produced in the time period, Fender decided to use the Twin
Reverb amp in larger cabinets configurations. The Super Six had 6-10"
speakers and the Quad had 4-12" speakers. The power was the same,
with this amp having 4 -16 ohm 12" Utahs for a total load of 4 ohms,
like the Twin. This line started in 72' and was discontinued in 79'.
Waylon Jennings and J.J Cale are 2 legends that come to mind who used
this amp, they are very clean and very loud.
Being December, it's time to use a Christmas color theme amp. It's not green, but close. This is a cascade (blue and green) Kustom 150 2-10 SC. This is he last of the plexi faceplate tuck n roll series combo amps and was made in 1971. This is the last series to use this color. The next 150 series had metal faceplates and were offered in Black, Red, Blue, Silver, and Charcoal. Kustom's were the creation of Bud Ross in Kansas City. Once he got started he built his factory in Chanute, Kansas and produced thousands of tuck n roll amps, many of which are still in service. These amps were expensive and were made extremely well. Bud used the best components and the cabinets were solid wood. They were very durable and had a liftime guarantee, no other amplifier had this. Kustom's were transistor and this one is 75 watts RMS, 150 being the peak music power. This amp came with Jensen C10Ns but I replaced them with JBL K110s. I use this amp for keyboards on small gigs with limited space and sounds great.
This is a 1957' 5E5-A Fender Tweed Pro. This amp has GF on the tube chart meaning May 1957 production. I aquired this in the mid 90s from a known Texas steel player. The mid 70s retweed was supposedly done by Sam Hutton but I have no documentation. The amp was in California at the time and purchased in Orange county. Pro was short for professional, the larger version of one of Fender's initial amp designs. The single 15" speaker Professional was available from 46' - 64' before the design was changed to a 2-12" speaker Pro Reverb. This is one of the highly sought after narrow panel, 4 input, later versions of the tweed Pro. It has a Jensen P15N speaker. As expected, the amp sounds as good as it looks. This amp is featured in May on the calendar.
This is a 1968 Valco made 6157 Gretsch Super Bass. Several musical instrument companies opted to outsource for their amplifiers. National, Supro, Airline (Wards), and Gretsch were probably the main brands built by Valco. Started by Victor Smith, Al Frost, and Louis Dopyera, the name came from the combination of their 1st initials plus co., company abbreviation. Valco merged with Kay in 68' which folded. This is probably one of their last designs. The unique thing is it has a stereo amp but is mono. The output is split to each speaker, a pretty unusual design. It requires a stereo 1/4" speaker cable. If you were not aware of this, a mono cable could cause great damage if not a complete meltdown. I found mine "broken" and was resurrected by local amp guru Jon Davidson. It is a 40 watt per side 4-6L6 configuration driving 2 Jensen C12N speakers. Amazing how good it sounds, especially for bass.
Ad from 68' Gretsch catalog