Sunday, June 22, 2008
1963 Fender Tremolux Amplifier
I had an opportunity to get an old Fender Tremolux once in a trade situation and completely blew it. When the opportunity came up a second time, years later, I wasn't about to let it get away. I'm pretty sure I've told the story of the first chance I had...I needed an amp for the first actual band I was going to be in. All I had was a really nice, extra fancy Martin D-41 (MAN, I wish I had that one back). I took it to the local guitar store to trade it for an amp and a lesser acoustic guitar and I blew it. I did get a really sweet, cherry sunburst Gibson Dove from the late 70's that played like buttah and sounded great. But when the guy said, "You can pick from those two amps over there in the corner," that's when I blew it. The two amps were a 1963 blonde Fender Tremolux with 2-10" cabinet and a Roland Jazz Chorus 120. You guessed it folks...I picked the Roland, god help me. Suffice it to say, I had no idea what I was doing when it came to amps at the time and I'm sure the guy from that shop still tells the story of how some schmuck traded a D-41 with thousands of dollars of additional inlay for a Dove and a Jazz Chorus.
It's probably his shining retail moment.
So, fast forward a few years, and I come across this second Tremolux, identical to the one I missed out on. That's how I say it..."missed out on." Prior to the world of eBay and Craig's List you had to rely on local papers and entertainment publications and the Penny Saver. In San Diego we have The Reader, which has the listings for all the live music in town, movies, articles about local politics and stories about all kinds of goofy local people, usually with a parrot on their shoulder and wearing Hawaiian shirts. The best part of The Reader for a musician though is the ads for musical instruments. That's where I found this amp...in The Reader. I actually don't remember the details in any way...I'm completely drawing a blank. But I do know that this amp sounded like a million bucks and I fell in love with tremolo.
As you can see from the photos, this amp has a separate head and cabinet. The Tremolux came with a 2-10" cabinet with Jensen speakers, though sometimes you'll find one with 2-12". I'm pretty certain that if you come across that, you're not looking at an original pairing. The old Bandmasters and later Bassmans came with 2-12's and, although they still sound great, it's the 2-10's that I think give this the sound. The head has a sort of built-in bracket system that keeps it attached to the cab with large thumb screws and it had tilt-back legs as well. I was always scared shitless to actually use the tilt-backs because I was afraid the whole thing would tip over and KA-BAM, no amp. I had a custom road case built for this amp with a red finish, so if you happen to own this amp with it's red road case let me know. I'll trade you for a Jazz Chorus...wink, wink. Not that I still have the Jazz Chorus...that's another story.
The end of this amp came about when I was playing a gig one night at a local San Diego bar called Dreamstreet. It's one of those bars that has 4 local bands a night playing and no one's crowd supports any other band...so your band plays, your people come in and hang out, then your band finishes, your people go back outside, and no one ever builds up a local following because no one supports good live music...just supports their friend's band. But I digress. We got set up as quickly as we could, being the third band of the night, and got ready to kick into our first tune. I was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. I stepped up to the mic to sing the first words and my lips slightly touched the mic and BOOOM...I literally got the shock of my life. That old Tremolux wasn't grounded and, even though I had used the same amp successfully for a long time, the situation that night all added up to massive electrocution. It literally blew me backwards just a bit and I had a burn on my lips for quite a few days. We kept playing but I stayed about a foot from the mic the rest of the night...rock'n'roll must go on.
It didn't take long for me to decide to get a different amp. I suppose I could have had that one altered with a grounded cord, but I didn't want to alter the originality of it and I just decided to get something else. I'm pretty sure I sold it and ended up with a Music Man 4-10 Sixty Five, which was no slouch. Hey, I wish I had that one back too.
Once again, I can't find photos of this actual amp, so I have resorted to stealing some from the 'net. These photos are EXACT though, so pretend this is the one I had and no one will know.