Last year at NAMM, Eastwood grand poobah Mike Robinson and I were talking about hot rods and custom jobs. He’d said one of the truly fun things he dug about motorcycle riding was tripping out your bike with custom touches that made it your own. This led into talk about custom guitars and some of his favorite custom shots people had sent in to him with their modified Eastwoods and Airlines. He sent me a couple of cool pictures at one point of wild things people had done to their guitars, and it got me thinking about a long-neglected project of mine with an old Silvertone/Danelectro. Most of the mods I do are on amps—and they tend to be unseen, unless you look under the hood—but here was a guitar job that would be obvious to anyone who saw it.
Last month, I was talking about the very cool little Guyatone 535 model that takes 2 EL84s (6BQ5s) for a clean, very chimey, shimmering tone. Plenty of British sounding chime and a great amp for 12 strings and clean tones. And this month, I’m going to talk about the Kalamazoo Reverb 12. Here’s another dual EL84 combo that gives further evidence that the circuit design has a lot (most everything) to do with the tone of an amp as, beyond sharing the same output tubes, it has very little in common with last month’s entry in the cheap amp chronicles. This amp has some great cleans, too, but they are nice dark, woody cleans—not the glassy chime from last month’s entry.
A few months back I talked about how great the Univox U-45 is. And I figured I’d talk about more vintage Univoxs this month—specifically the 305-B which is a really great amp with 6973 output tubes. And I will (promise) do a column about that model Univox, but I stumbled onto this rare Guyatone this month and wanted to share this rare bird with the My Rare Guitars world. So, while I am stepping away from the Univox models, I’m still stuck in Japan in the 60’s with this Guyatone GA-530A.
No rare guitars or wacky amps in this month’s column, as I haven’t bought anything in a while. I’m still waiting for my own bailout for the bailout we’ve paid for a few times over before I can resume buying strange amps and guitars again. So, without further delay, the obligatory TOP 10 list for the end of the year. You’ll note that most of these things were not released in 2008, nor are there only 10 of them. There are 4 extra and the price is right. Peace, all.
Because as many know (evidenced by the frequent waiting list for the room), Room #8 is where, on September 19, 1973, Gram Parsons, relaxing after having finished his second solo album, the classic, although laden with too many slow as molasses tunes, “Grievous Angel”, died. He was a amazing singer—listening to Gram Parsons’ cracked beauty of a voice dance over a 7th chord is one of the most painfully gorgeous sounds that has ever been captured on recording equipment. There were singers with better chops, to be sure. Though, as my friend John points out, Doc Severenson had better chops than Miles Davis, who couldn’t play in the upper register. Chops are never the whole story when you’re talking about art.
Case in point? This 1967 Fender Wildwood acoustic guitar. In the mid 60’s, with Roger Rossmeisl (who had earlier done some great designs for Rickenbacker) at the head of design, Fender tried to break in to Gibson and Martin territory with their Coronado models (aims at Gibson’s 335 and other hollow and semi hollow guitars) and their acoustic line (aimed at both industry standards in those fields: Gibson and Martin). The models included The Kingman, the Concert, the Malibu, Newporter, Palimino, Redondo, Shenandoah and the 12 string Villager. The Wildwood VI was essentially a top of the line Kingman with the Wildwood added.
This month is the first part of a two-parter about Vintage Magnatone Amplifiers. This month, I’ll be focusing on one underrated and rare model, while next month I’ll break down the 5 distinct collectable (i.e. tube and mostly vibrato) periods of Magnatone Amps (from the late 40s to the late 60s before they went to Solid State models in the late 60s before going belly up in 1971).
The Hilgen “Victor” Model R2522. For the tube geeks among us, this starts with a 5AR4 rectifier before running into a couple of 12AX7s for preamp and reverb send duties. Then comes the only expensive and hard to find (although not impossible) tube—a 7199 for ‘verb recovery. From the factory, it came with a 12AU7 for phase inverter, which I switched out to a 12AY7 for a little more drive on the output tubes. I tried going up to a 12AX7, but that made for too much gain and resulted in a mushy, compromised output. The 12AY7 gives it more heat than stock, but still retains the crisp, tight, articulate character of the amp, as intended.
Check out, for instance, this rare bird. A 1966 Wurlitzer Gemini, made at the Hollman-Woodell guitar factory in Neodesha, Kansas. Part of Wurlitzer’s THE WILD ONES series (which included the more pedestrian-looking, but still pretty rad Cougar and Wildcat models), these were made to compete with the best of the domestic market. High end tuners (Klutsons), a wonderful chunky bound neck (like a Fender V shape, but a bit thicker), and a great look highlight the Gemini.
This twin twelve Alamo Futura Reverb is a true sleeper of a vintage amp classic. This is one of the greatest amps I’ve ever owned (or heard), and they are out there at still very reasonable prices on the vintage market.
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