The Ampliferters page
Bells Catalogue (click to download) - Watkins gear
Here's a pic of my Gibson Mercury amp that I used from 1967 to 1976 when it was replaced by a Fender twin with JBLs. I bought it new from Dawsons in Warrington.
I think it cost £200 which was a fair amount at the time.
Paul Shaw - 25/10/10
Mazels may have not been everyone's idea of a top music store but they certainly played a major part in assisting the majority of Manchester's aspiring muso's. Not content to purchase a reslo or two, the budding superstar band would probably also be fairly desperate to grab a couple of these Mazeltoff amps. Just the thing to put the Watkins Rapier, Hofner bass and Reslo mikes through. Mike up the kit as well? Not then mate but these babies could probably take it.
No need for a fuzz box - these had distortion built in at no extra cost :-)
Sorry about the picture of trendy coloured stacks - certainly not what you found in the back of the Commer.
Marshall PA Cabs
Now there's a PA cab for you - 4 x 12 inches of pure grunt! Nail a few wooden runners on the side for protection and you have a pair of portable power houses - plus a good seat for the poor suckers in the back of the van with the gear.
And none of those sealed back things with horns!
Originally called MATAMPS, after their developer Matthew Mathias, Orange gear was certainly different - their colour scheme adding to the psychedelic trend of many bands in later 60s.
Selmer amps were popular and had a huge range - although I always felt the PA cabs were feeble even for the time. Compare the cabs on the left with the Marshall PA! No choice!
So .... why did you get rid of the mighty Marshalls for the silly Selmers, Les? Its been over 30 years but I still feel it was a major mistake - not that I hold grudges :-)
I recently put a new pre amp in a pals Washburn Festival electro acoustic and he chose to reward me with this.
Its a Selmer Futurama piggy back bassist from around 1962-3.They made three different models of this,the original was made by Fenton Weill, but this is the second version and supposed to be the budget model but works great and sounds pretty good too for it modest 6 or 12 watts
Haven't been inside to check if it has two EL84s or just the one as, at 66, I fancy living quite a while longer and charged filter caps can alter that situation instantly.
I used to go to Bridgewater Youth Club at Little Hulton and saw a few of these in use at the time with kid groups who all did their best with the modest low wattage stuff available.Wipe out ,and Shadows songs immediately come to mind when when I look at this.
I haven't viewed your site for a while but was pleasantly suprised to see your poster of the package show at the Tulip Bulb Auction rooms in Spalding in 1967. It featured Sounds Force Five, Zoot Money's Big Roll Band [with Andy Summers of the police], Geno Washington's Ram Jam band, The Move, The Pink Floyd [who were second on after the local band], Cream and topping the bill Jmi Hendrix. I was lucky enough to attend this concert with my cousin Phil Garnett and Germain Grear was also there as I found out years later.
Only downside was that it was impossible to get value for money those days as the £1 admission fee clearly demonstrates. Keep on plucking,
Geoff Parkinson - 3/6/12
You can tell I am not a guitarist, or there would be heaps of stuff about this baby.
The VOX lean-back speakers were called a VOX LINE-SOURCE column speakers,the amp used to feed them was a Vox AC30 Head, classic! Great sound, especially with the old Shure 545 mike and Reslo double sided mike.
Robert Ovens - 17/8/12
This is a picture of my recently acquired Vox AC50 amp and Foundation bass cab.
Ever since Outrage supported Belfasts Wheels at Room at the Top in Wigan I have been determined to treat myself to one of these amps.
The Wheels bassist used a Gibson EBO bass,an AC50 amp and two Foundation cabs. The sound was punishing.
It took 46 years but I finally have a 1967 amp and earlier Foundation cab. Couldn't be happier.
Geoff Parkinson - 7/8/14
Shure Vocal Master
This is a Shure Vocal Master mixer amp; you were working a lot I guess if you owned one of these, they weren't cheap.
Shown with a pair of Vox columns and a Shure Unidyne III 545, which I reckon took over from the Reslo ribbon mic and was widely used alongside the Shure Unisphere 1 565 (the Freddie Mercury favourite!) up until somebody had the sense to take a Shure SM58 out on the road.
Paul Braddock - Wigwam Acoutics Ltd
Even in today's retro market, the Watkins Dominator (on the left) could not be classed as attractive.
However, Watkins gear helped out many a band - many upgrading from the Dominator to the Westminster (pictured right) prior to the HP account at Reno's for the Marshall.
I think it was about 1959 when Watkins introduced their Copycat Echo Unit and if memory serves me correct, they cost £37-50.
What a wonderful piece of kit, now every lead guitarist could sound like Hank Marvin, Duane Eddy or the bloke out of the Ventures.
Because the unit had two jack imputs the singers soon discovered that if they plugged their mike into it and the whole lot was put through a Vox 30, it gave them a far better sound, in fact it was far better than most of pub and club PA systems at the time.
Other manufactures soon stepped in to produced echo units Vox, Selmer and Dynacord but all a lot more expensive.
I believe that Watkins are still in business today and there is a strong second hand market for their echo units, just take a look on Ebay and see the prices that forty-five year old units are going for, endless loop tapes are still available.
I often use this amp, its a 70`s WEM Dominator 25 Watt " all - purpose", valve driven, powered by two EL84s (valves).
It still has a sticker on it that reads "Mamelok Ltd 192 Deansgate Manchester".
It's got that British valve sound, because that's what it is.
We have to mic it up for gigs though, but that's ok. Old amps like this are often a simple amplifier with no colouring effects at all, "dry" as it's known.
Pictured atop is my WEM copycat (echo unit) which was sort of an industry standard at one time, great to add depth (or in my case slapback echo) , very versatile, very popular, at one time you'd see them on nearly every stage.
Dave Peters - Everyday Records recording artist 2/11/10
"Round about 1969 we got rid of the mixture of speaker cabs and obtained the Marshall PA cabs we craved for. To run them we bought a really fancy amp - no valves, solid state. It was a Triumph 100.
Never liked it. "
Acoustic Amplifiers were manufactured until 1985 by "The Acoustic Control Corporation" in California and were first used in the UK by 'The Doors' on their first tour.
They were one of the first solid state amplifiers I had ever seen, they also looked like no other amplifier before.
The picture is of my 137 which is 100 watt with single 15" speaker and dates from 1972.
They are sought after amplifiers in the USA, especially the large stacks as use in the advert by 'The Mothers of Invention'.
Our bass player in my Kent based band had an Acoustic rig - huge bloody thing that no one wanted to hump. Took years to sell, everyone admired but no one would buy.
It was 1963 and things was going well for Tony and the Senators, we had been established just over twelve months, bookings were rolling in and we had some good reviews in local Pub and Club trade papers. We had acquired some good gear, guitars, amps and drums and the only thing lacking was a decent PA system. Tony our vocalist was using a Reslo mike via a Watkins Copycat echo unit put through a Vox AC 30 amp, time for something better.
So it was off to Barretts on Oxford Rd where we signed up to buy a Swissecho De Luxe and a pair of Vox column speakers. I believe that the Swissecho were made in Switzerland and imported to the UK by Selmer. What a wonderful piece of technology this unit was, with four jack inputs each with their own volume, tone and effects controls plus a master control panel. A unique feature of the unit was that a endless tape loop was not used, instead a cassette containing 160 foot of tape was employed, this give five minutes of playback, very handy at rehearsals.
Now as far as equipment was concerned we had what we thought was the best and looked forward to the future, but that's another story.
The Jaguars one claim to fame was that we won a competition run by Futeristic Aids Ltd [FAL for short) and had a photo shoot in Manchester the contents of which were used to promote their musical electronic products countrywide. I still have shots of this today.
A recording contract was mentioned but this sadly never came about.
Malc Taylor - 18/6/11
Not sure I can add much to the site, but was just reading about the Jaguars and their encounter with a FAL amplifier. I have a FAL Phase 30 and we used to have a FAL PA for my band. We used to get on well with the folks at FAL and they used to lend us equipment for gigs sometimes - we played at Marple carnival once and used some 24v batteries to power their amps. I remember asking them to listen to a recording of the Stones Satisfaction (recorded off Radio Caroline) and asking if they could produce a 'fuzz box' to match the sound. They did and a few days later we played with Dave Berry and the Cruisers at Stockport Town Hall. Our version of Satisfaction with the Fuzz effect went down well.
Robert Browning - 26/9/11
I came upon your site whilst trying to find some information on a Barratts Chromatone guitar amplifier, which I’m confident was sold by Barratts music shop as the logo on the front of the amplifier matched that of the logo on the Barratts music shop pages on your site. I recon this amplifier dates to the early/mid 60’s and is built lake a battle ship. I got this amplifier thanks to a friend who spotted this amplifier in a general auction in South Wales. It fund its way into my hands as my friend didn’t want it. The amplifier is now in Southend-on-Sea, Essex.
I must admit when I first saw Barraatts on the amplifier I vaguely remember seeing Barratts in a Beat Instrument magazine many, many years ago, but I felt it was a manufacturer and not a shop.
I would really love to find someone who worked for Barratts who can further identify this amplifier or even someone who was involved in its manufacture who could tell me more about its design etc.
I figure not many were made as I’ve been an electronics engineer the audio and music industry since 1975 and I’ve never seen one before.
I did work for small amplifier manufacturing company called Roost who were based in Southend. Roost was sold to FAL, Leeds in mid-1979.
I’ve attached a few pictures of the amplifier.
Terry Bateman - Southend-on-sea
It was really bugging me exactly where I saw the Barratts advert and I eventually found it in the August 1975 Beat Instrumental magazine.
It was for a POD-MOD, which I figure is some sort of active EQ for a Fender Telecaster.
I’m finding the ‘classic’ guitars like Tele’s and Strat’s, which were modified back in the day, are now being put back to original. I suppose this is because of the current high value of these instruments in ‘stock’ condition.
I also designed an active EQ for guitars, which, I still make a few of, but instead of fitting it in the guitar is goes in a separate ‘stomp’ box.
Terry Bateman - Southend-on-sea - 14/2/14
Regarding the Barratts Chromatone amplifier I’m thinking of restoring it and keeping a photographic and written record and use this as the first project on my small web site, which has been in an embryo state for a few years. Doing the Barratts Chromatone amplifier will give me the impetus to get off my ass and get the site up and running! Maybe when the site is running you could place a link to the site and the restoration of the amplifier. It will get a bit technical in places with a circuit diagram etc. but I feel this will be worth it as this is one of the rarest amplifiers I’ve seen in my 40 years working with equipment.
Terry Bateman - 21/9/14