And this month, I sing the praises of another obscure and beautiful amplifier, in this case a 1966 Lectrolab S 400. I’ve seen a few Lectrolabs over the years and they are all pretty cool amps. The 400 series seem to be (and this is based only on observation and scattered information. No one seems to know very much about these) all single-ended small amps with a single EL84 for output and one or two eight inch speakers. The 600 series are more in the 15-20 watt range with either two 6V6’s or two EL84’s (driving a twelve inch speaker), depending on the year. And the 800 series, which I’ve never seen in person, I haven’t been able to find much about, other than that they seem like later versions of the 600’s. The 900 series are El84-equiped heads (very rare).
Myths and misinformation (Mythinformation?) abound in the vintage guitar and amp world. Want to start a fight on line? Go to some gear forum and say, “This, without a doubt, is the amp Jimmy Page played on the first two Zep albums.” The amp you use for this example could be a small single 6V6 Supro, a Supro Thunderbolt, a Fender Champ, or any number of others. No matter what, you are guaranteed to get a bunch of folks agreeing with you, and another bunch so angry they start banging their shoes on their desks al-la Krustef while hacking frustrated spittle onto their screen while they post about what an idiot you are.
Enter exhibit A: A late 60’s KENT short scale variation on the very popular (then and now) “Beatle” violin shaped bass. As you can see from the photos, this isn’t your average violin bass. While many, from the classic Hofner that Paul McCartney turned a few kids on to, to the Teisco and Black Jack Japanese models, didn’t stray far from the violin shape, this Kent takes a few attractive and stylish liberties with the standard template.
In Dave Hunter’s great book, The Guitar Amp Handbook, he asks several respected boutique amplifier makers about any sleepers out there on the vintage market (i.e., any great sounding amps that aren’t going for the at-time obscene money that even a Silverface Fender is fetching on the market these days’ though many of them are, of course, fine amps.). Ken Fischer (of Trainwreck fame) talks about a couple of amps that he claims compare favorably to a Marshall 18 Watt Model & the Early Ampeg Reverberockets (AKA Reverbrockets to some), and the Harmony 415, made by Valco in the mid to late 1960’s.
So what did I buy? A late 1940’s Fidelity amp, of course. Haven’t heard of Fidelity? Me, neither. But it met the needs. It was very light an easy to carry. As for meeting my volume needs…it was VERY quiet. Dead quiet. As in, silent. So, that part needed some work. Sixty bucks. Not bad. Less than an assembly-line stomp box. It looked like a 50’s space heater in crap brown with tootsie roll brown and vanilla cream paint and chicken head knobs. Score, Daddio.
You dig oddball guitars and strange, rare equipment. Sure, a Fender Telecaster is a great guitar (I have a 1969, and I love it), but there’s something about the weird ones that pulls you in or you wouldn’t be reading this newsletter. Fenders, Gibsons and the rest of the big boys are fine, but if you want a guitar that looks like a kitchen counter, perhaps made out of something more…uh…interesting or futuristic than wood…or one with more buttons than your uncle’s accordion (and you know you do!), you are forced off the beaten path to find your treasure.
This is not an article about why you shouldn’t drink. It is, however, probably one about why I shouldn’t drink. Many musicians, maybe even most, can drink and keep their equipment. Me? No dice. I lost really cool guitars, amps, effects – you name it, I had a knack for losing it.
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