Guitar Player and Rolling Stones Gear have teamed up to give you a chance to Win the Brands of the Rolling Stones! Now you can own some of the major brands of equipment the Rolling Stones played including Fender, Martin, Framus, Zemaitis, Gretsch, and Vox in this exciting new sweepstakes! They are also giving away the new book Rolling Stones Gear: All the Stones’ Instruments from Stage to Studio by Andy Babiuk and Greg Prevost. Now you have a chance to win this top-notch Vox amp! Read this excerpt from the book about how the band used to worship these amps!
Bill Wyman officially joined the group on January 5. Apparently, Mick, Keith, and Brian had finally decided that Bill was in after what could best be described as a trial period. Bill explained: “They didn’t like me, but I had a good amplifier, and they were badly in need of amplifiers at that time! So, they kept me on. Later, when they were going to get rid of me, I think I clicked or something and I stayed. I must have just fitted in.” Ian Stewart later commented, “There is a certain amount of truth that Bill was taken on for his equipment, but Bill was very good.”
The group immediately incorporated Bill’s amplifiers into the backline. While the Watkins Westminster, a 10-watt amp that came with an 8-inch speaker, two inputs, a volume control, and a tone control that also acted as an on- off switch, was a nice addition, the real prize was Bill’s Vox AC-30.
Keith, more impressed by this particular amp than he was with Bill, later commented: “Bill had amplifiers! Bill came fully equipped. A Vox AC-30 amplifier, which was beyond our means to possess. Built by Jennings in Dartford. We used to worship it. We used to look at it and get on our knees. To have an amplifier was crucial. First off, I just wanted to separate Bill from his amplifier. But that was before he started playing with Charlie.” Watkins, later WEM (Watkins Electric Music), was a London-based company started by Charlie Watkins that specialized in amplification.
The Vox AC-30 was considered the best and loudest guitar amplifier on the market in England at the time. Bill’s AC-30 was tan or beige, commonly referred to as “fawn-colored.” The official model name for the amp was the Vox AC-30/6 Twin Normal; “6” meaning six inputs, “Twin” meaning two speakers, and “Normal” meaning the guitar rather than bass version. The AC-30 was equipped with four EL84 power tubes, five pre-amp tubes, and a single GZ34 rectifier tube. Jim Elyea’s definitive book Vox Amplifiers The JMI Years states that: “Bill’s original ‘fawn’ AC-30 was built in approximately February 1962 and was purchased from the Art Nash Music Shop. Bill’s is a Normal model with a brownish copper panel with no Top Boost circuit. The two original leather handles have been replaced with newer Vox SBU handles. The amp is equipped with a pair of Celestion Blue T.530 12-inch speakers and has a sticker inside the amp indicating that the amp was serviced by Alan Pyne.”
The Vox factory was located in Dartford, where Mick and Keith grew up, and the primary Vox amplifier showroom was the Jennings music shop on Charing Cross Road in central London. Jennings Musical Industries was established by Tom Jennings in 1958. In 1962, the operation further expanded its horizons with the introduction of Vox guitars The company’s Vox amplifiers were devised by JMI’s chief design engineer, Dick Denney.. Denney, who was also the creator of the AC-30, started the Vox amplifier line with a 15-watt unit. He then reasoned that what musicians really needed was a twin-speaker amp with six inputs. Denney remembered Tom Jennings’s reaction to the concept: “He said to me, ‘Well, you do what you like Dick, but if it doesn’t work, your head’s on the chopping block.’ As it turned out, the AC-30 became the jewel in Vox’s crown; it’s what put Vox on the map. I made the amp so that it sounded good to me. It was old technology, and I think old technology still prevails.” One of the design oddities of the AC-30 was the situation of its control panel at the back of the top of the cabinet. Denney explained that his fellow guitarists at the time often sat behind their amplifiers, which projected a reverb-type effect into the hall from the front and a “dry” sound from the open back. Wyman’s Vox AC-30 amplifier cost £105, about $300 then, the equivalent of about £1,340 ($1,870) today.
On January 14, 1963, Tony Chapman was fired at the end of a gig at the Flamingo Jazz Club in Soho, London. The January 14, 1963, entry in Keith’s diary reads simply, “Tony Sacked!” Bill Wyman remembered: “Tony was told that his services were no longer required. He was furious and said, ‘Come on, Bill, let’s go and start a new band.’ I told him I was staying with the Stones, and Tony just upped and left.”