Thank heaven I became a guitar geek shortly before my 12th birthday. If I hadn’t, I probably would have requested a minibike for my bar mitzvah present a year later, instead of my first electric guitar. And today I’d be an over-the-hill biker instead of an over-the-hill guitarist.
My schoolteacher mom had a colleague whose son worked at Fender in Fullterton, California, not far from where I grew up. (Sadly, I’ve forgotten his name). Shortly before my big day, we visited his mobile home (let’s face it: the musical instrument industry has never been lucrative) to audition some decidedly post-CBS guitars he was selling. I opted for a black Jazzmaster, though I was tempted by the paisley Tele. It was my sole electric throughout high school, though I sold it at exactly the wrong time: five minutes before new-wave guitarists such as Tom Verlaine and Elvis Costello made it cool again. (Though I shouldn’t complain, since I managed to procure my pre-CBS Strat around that time.)
The Fender guy didn’t have extra amps on hand, but I slavered over the oversized amps in the early-’70s Fender catalog.Which sleek silver combo would greet me on the big day?
To my horror, I received an ancient, teensy-weensy combo amp, an ugly thing spray-painted black. I was mature enough not to express anything other than delight, but my heart ached. I wanted an amp as big and loud as my dreams, not this sad relic. They told me I was a man when I turned 13 — but I didn’t feel like one without the Dual Showman of my dreams.
My disappointing amp was a tweed 1952 Deluxe — which makes it sound like this story will have a happy ending. Sadly, no.
Yes, I eventually realized that I had something wonderful — but the ’70s and ’80s were not an era of wise gear preservation. Paul Rivera installed a Boogie-esque mod in 1980 or so. A couple of years later, I took it in for a minor repair, and a criminally presumptuous guitar tech rewired the whole damn thing with a bunch of stuff I didn’t even want. And a few years ago, I cracked it open for the first time in many years, only to discover that someone (i.e., presumptuous tech guy) had replaced all the cool old passive components with cheapo modern stuff. But since I was getting into DIY, and since the cab, speaker, and tranformers were all original, I resolved to restore it to its tweedy glory. (Though I’m not sure if I should keep it in accordance with the original 5B3 schematic.)
But some resolutions are stronger than others. And now the thing lives disassembled in a box, silently awaiting resurrection.
I was thinking of just getting a vintage-style tweed amp kit and refurbing the thing, using as many old parts as possible. But I can’t find one that fits the chassis, and I like the metalworking skills to fabricate a modified chassis. (Truth be told, I lack the metalworking to straighten a bent paper clip.)
Anyone else ever been in this particular boat? And if so, do you have some brilliant advice?