Wednesday, February 27, 2013


New Vintage47 Amp On The Horizon


David Barnes owns Vintage47 Amps, his goal is to preserve a bit of that 40's era blues tone look and feel, paying attention to the pre 50's non Fender vintage tube circuits and cabinet designs.

You may have seen his work here in a previous post regarding a tweed suitcase amp that I own(and still love).  As a matter of fact that post about the suitcase amp has received far and away the most visitors on this site.  His amps receive consistently glowing reviews from customers and publications alike.  I remember talking to a friend when I received my suitcase amp in the mail and explaining how I thought they were functional pieces of art.  Lo and behold, I had a little more time to explore the Vintage47 website and found David had a headline describing his amps as "collectible functionally fun to play amplifier art --- It seems we are on the same page.

All you have to do to realize how much David loves his job is to read the story about how his grandfather blazed a path of discovery as David searched for a certain bluesy amplifier tone.  If it isn't already, the rest will be amplifier history.  Our world could use a few more stories of skills/trades being passed down through the generations like the education that was imparted upon David by his grandfather.

As I repeat over and over in these pages that there is life beyond Gibson and Martin, David believes there is life beyond the circuitry that powers Fender amps(did I mention it seems like we are on the same page?).  Because of this belief he has devoted himself to Valco inspired circuitry and cabinet design.

This brings us to his latest reproduction:  An authentic replication of the 1955 Gretsch "Twin Western" model G-6169.

this is just the 1st prototype - Only 6-10 more mockups before the final product!!

David is a guru of specs and circuitry.  we have been corresponding about how exciting this project is so I will let him give you the specs:

"Valco built those amps on contract for Gretsch, they were introduced in 1955 as the  Gretsch "Twin Western" model G-6169 which was a dressed up Electromatic Tweed model G-6161. The common nicknames for the Western amp were 'Cowboy' and 'Roundup'

Original specs were ;
Cabinet measurements: 23 inches wide x 15 1/4 inches high x 7 1/2  inches deep. Weight: 21 lbs. Two 11 x 6 inch elliptical speakers and one 3" tweeter. One 'treble' and two 'standard' inputs. Raytheon 5Y3GT rectifier;
Six tubes: 2x RCA 6V6GT; 2xRCA 6SQ7; 1x6SC7, and 1x5Y3GT. On/off switch;
standby switch; 2 amp fuse (with spare in original envelope attached to inside of amp case); 1 tone control; 1 volume control; 3 inputs. 14 watts with tremelo (actually only 12 watts)."

David goes on to describe how much work goes into the re-creation of one of these amps:

 The Gretsch Twin Western  (aka Cowboy) was always white with the same leather trim as the guitar, the guitars where an orangeish finish but the amps where white. I am going for as close to authentic replication as I can make, and that is pretty much 90% period correct. I have even spent a bunch on tooling to make a reproduction of the oval speakers that fall right on the sound frequency response curve of the originals, I am having the bronze castings made for the badges from an original mold, I am tooling the leather straps and duplicating the steer head print on the grill.

The amp in the pictures is a first and early mockup and most of the
different look is the darker Ostrich belt bands and darker grill cloth,
that will all change as I refine the details over time and as the parts get finished and arrive at the shop, probably 6-10 more prototypes before the final. I can do it all but I won't be able to write Gretsch on the front!
As it is the cabinet measurements are from an original cabinet so the size is correct, Valco built these for Gretsch using the same amp and components they were already using for the National Tremo-tone of the same year models, I already build that circuit and have the correct transformers and such.
I am currently building the re-issue Tremo-tone amp for National
Reso-phonic guitars.
Even if someone built a close replication for the cabinet I do not believe they would get the amp to sound like an original without my replicated speakers and  transformers.
With the original 'Cowboy' amps going for $5,000-10,000  I do believe my replications will be a steal of a deal at $1750-1950 (estimated)
including the replica wood wedge doorstop tremo footswitch, an old school canvas amp cover and possibly an accessary direct speaker line out box that can set outboard and get the amps actual speaker tone into mixers, recorders, PA's without disabling the internal speaker.

So that’s the scoop!

David B

I've always loved this amp as well as the companion "Roundup" guitar that he speaks of, but he is right try to find these for a price that wouldn't break the budget.  I can't wait to see the final product which should be due in late spring. 

Visit David and Vintage47 amps at -

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Martin 000-15sm

I have no problem with things that are a little rough around the edges.  This is especially true when it comes to people, cars and guitars.  In fact, I tend to seek this characteristic out.  A little banged up, but still works fine - now that's for me.  That probably explains a lot about why I focus on the instruments that are featured on this site.  Most are a little rough around the edges, and i love them because of it. 

When it comes to guitars I've also never been a fan of easy.  Many times I've listened in wonder as someone stated the action was a little to high, the strings aren't "their brand", the neck doesn't feel right, the string spacing isn't wide enough.... on and on and on.  I get it - Especially if you pay a lot for an instrument - you want it to fit your musical needs and probably deserve that.  But there comes a time when we must say "shut up and play".

Perhaps we should consider that maybe, at least on occasion, we should try to tailor our playing to the construction of the guitar as opposed to the guitar being tailored to our style of play.  You can learn an awful lot from this.  It can get you out of your comfort zone and form new points of inspiration.  If the actions to high, wail away in first position and go back to the basics of I,IV,V - or throw a slide on it in an open tuning.  If you are getting some buzzing, use a lighter touch and see where that takes you.

What's the point of all this?  Well, after a lifetime of playing guitars that were far from perfect and having to take the long way around in figuring out how these sometimes hard to play guitars would fit into my musical scheme of things, I recently bought what may be the nicest guitar I have ever owned, a guitar that is insanely easy to play and just as easy to love.

This is a Martin 000-15sm.  The (s) for slothead, the (m) for mahogany.  It is a beautifully bold piece of guitarmaking by Martin.  They currently have a whole line of these Mahogany instruments including a 000 without the slothead as well as a dreadnaught and cutaway dread.  The whole guitar is mahogany except for the fretboard, bridge and headstock plate.  With this series of guitars it seems that Martin remembered that they are the greatest manufacturer of guitars in the world and decided to show us all what they are made of.  In reading some of the posts in the acoustic guitar forums, I was sensing this underlying current that Martin seems to have spent the last few years(or more) chasing Taylor guitars around.  The chase ended with this Mahogany series as Martin has found a way to look forward by beautifully recreating the past.  The Martin guitar story is one of the greatest American business stories we have as a country.  A company that predates the Civil War should be able to look to their past for future inspiration.
Notice the elongated body with the robust lower bout.  Many feel this body design centers the bridge allowing for more effective movement of the top thereby increasing volume and enhancing tonal qualities.
You can find reviews of this instrument all over the internet and all of them rave about this instrument, so I'm not going to go into details regarding specs... but a few notes...
This guitar was made for fingerpickers and bluesmen.  It truly is a wonder to play - extremely light and responsive.  The guitar was ready to play right out of the showroom and I've seen many stories of those who had their guitar shipped to them that stated the guitar was ready to play right out of the box.  The workmanship is incredible and the woods are beautiful.  I have caught myself a couple times just admiring the grain patterns.
Look at the grain pattern on the headstock plate which is an east indian rosewood veneer.
Look - I'm not here to sell you a guitar, but if you are in any way shape or form a fingerstyle player you need to at least find a way to play one of these.  It is a lovely experience.  I'll be getting back to plenty more "Off Brand" models in the near future.  You know - guitars that are a little rough around the edges.  For now, I'll just bask in the enjoyment of finally becoming a part of Martin Guitar history.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

1940's Regal Parlor Guitar

When I started this blog, my hope was to feature Depression/World War II era guitars, guitars that were owned and played by the working man and guitars that were a little off the beaten path.  This little Regal has all of those characteristics. 

She is not the rarest bird in the flock, but who cares.  Rare just means that you will forever be afraid to take it out of its perfectly humidified situation for a romp through some string snapping blues. 
This guitar has been played, passed around and played again.  It probably hasn't seen a case its whole life.  As a matter of fact, everytime I see one of these listed for sale they look the same way - paint splattered, nicks, gouges and a little rust.  You can find these listed for sale in one form or another pretty regularly.  I have seen this same guitar with all sorts of different appointments - floating bridge, fixed bridge, slot head, flat head, round neck, square neck, fret markers, no fret markers and even a numbering system for Hawaiian style instruction which leads one to call this guitar a student model.  Affixing the "Student Model" title really sucks the mojo from this instrument --- so lets just consider it a parlor guitar.

I really like the sound of this guitar.  It is a small bodied, ladder braced instrument but doesn't have the harsh tone that many of its cousins have.  The tone is much mellower and a bit more midrangy.  Its not blow you away loud, but plenty loud enough.  It doesn't win 1st place in any tone and volume categories but if you take the tonal sum of all its characteristics, then I think you will find its a winner.

This guitar came to me in original condition and if perfection were called for, she would need some work.  It could definitely use a neck reset, tuners are a little tight and in the near future I hope to cut a new saddle and saddle slot as there is very little string break angle right now.  That extra pressure on the top provided by a better string angle should increase those tonal and volume characteristics.  Outside of the new saddle, I think I'll keep her just the way she is.  I keep it in open tunings and bang around on it with a slide.  It performs really well in this situation and plays quite nicely in first position as well.

About as Plain Jane as they come.  I'd add more photos, but there is not much more to see.

This is one of those guitars that when you start noodling on it, you have a hard time putting it down.  It fits close to the body and the sounds that emanate are very pleasing.

Now its time to give away a secret.  Part of me hates to do it, but what the hell - I only need one of these guitars and the real spirit of this blog is to attempt to inform of the good bargains that can still be had out there.  You Ready??? 

I paid around $60 for this baby!!!!  That is less than a tank of gas in my car - less than a basket of groceries - less than a night out at a nice restaurant - I could go on and on.  As I've said, I see a number of them go up for sale and have many times seen them sold for less than $100.  So there it is, one of the few bargains left out there in the guitar world.  Go get 'em.