Arrested Development

This came with my 64 Princeton amp that my Dad bought for me along with a 64 Fender DuoSonic. The amp is gone but the owners manual lives on.

This came with my 64 Princeton amp that my Dad bought for me along with a 64 Fender DuoSonic. The amp is gone but the owners manual lives on.


This has nothing to do with 335’s but everything to do with our shared guitar mentality.

When I was 13, I loved to play really loud. The louder the better. My amp back then was a 64 Princeton which, when cranked to 10 was fairly loud-loud enough to drive my father up the wall but not so great trying to cut through the rest of the band. Then I went and visited my friend Lex and he had just gotten a Vox Mark VI guitar and a Deluxe reverb. This was probably 1965. His Deluxe Reverb was loud and it was only on 3. “Can we crank it up to 10?” I asked. “No, I don’t want to blow the speaker and plus my Mom will kill me.”  So, I never heard Lex’s amp turned all the way up but I knew, to the core of my pimply faced adolescent being, that loud was good. Loud was closer to god. Loud was hot and loud was cool.

When I got the Princeton, the instruction manual showed all kinds of amps on the cover and so I knew that they made amps even bigger than the Deluxe Reverb and I couldn’t imagine how much louder an amp could be than Lex’s Deluxe but I sure wanted one. The instruction manual, which I still have, was titled “How to Enjoy Your New Fender Custom-Engineered Amplifier.” On the cover was a Deluxe Reverb, a Pro, a Twin Reverb and a blonde Dual Showman with a blonde reverb unit. There was also what was probably a Bandmaster or a Tremolux, also in blonde. They were all bigger than the Deluxe and, presumably, louder. I wanted the Dual Showman but not in blonde-the black, to a 13 year old was way more cool. And how loud was it? Fender didn’t publish their power ratings back then but it had to be really loud.

I would find out just how loud when I bought a used Showman 15 for $300 in 1967. It had a single JBL D-130F and I could blow the roof off the Scotia-Glenville High School gym with the volume set on “4”. But it went to “10”. In the rare instance when nobody was home (I had 8 brothers, 2 parents and 2 dogs), I would open ‘er up and see just how loud it was. 85 glorious watts of electric wonder audible across Collins Lake and probably all the way to the GE plant across the Mohawk River. If we wanted distortion, we tapped the fuzztone. We didn’t totally get the idea of driving the amp into saturation-probably because they were so powerful, we couldn’t get there without driving our audience out the door(which we often did and not just by being loud)

I owned a fair number of amps over the years but the visceral rush from that Showman, an amp so loud it scared you, never really went away.It was just sleeping, I guess. I’ve had plenty of 50 watters in the house-mostly tweed bassmans and the occasional Marshall but they never awoke the beast. Until this week. A guy walked in wanting to sell his deceased friend’s near mint, factory JBL 1965 Twin Reverb. “People don’t use these anymore,” I told him. “They use little amps and run them through the PA.” But I bought it anyway, it was, after all, nearly a museum piece. It hadn’t been turned on in 30 years, so I pulled out the Variac and brought it slowly up to full voltage. It popped and crackled and hissed but nothing caught fire or smelled, so I thought we were OK.  And there it was. That little voice in the back of your head that says “go ahead…crank it up…let’s see how loud this thing really is.”

And, for a few minutes, I was 13 again. And then the neighbor yelled …”turn that thing down.” Grownups.

They don't look loud. They look like a nice, tame 22 watter. Don't let appearances fool you. A Twin with those ultra efficient  JBL's will hold its own against a Marshall 100 watt full stack.

They don’t look loud. They look like a nice, tame 22 watter. Don’t let appearances fool you. A Twin with those ultra efficient JBL’s will hold its own against a Marshall 100 watt full stack.


7 Responses to “Arrested Development”

  1. Joerg says:

    What a rejuvenating exerience! Great story that absolutely made me smile. Best wishes from Germany, Joerg.

  2. RAB says:

    Charlie, a cool story many of us Boomer git-slingers can relate to. My folks bought me a ’64 non-reverb Fender Deluxe Amp after I blew the speakers in my dad’s Fisher stereo cabinets! A desert sand 1959 Fender Musicmaster guitar came along with it. The guitar had some nicks and dings on it (we’d rate it as a 8/10 today) so of course I refinished it in flat black; I then embellished the guitar with flame decals from my model car kits! Kool, eh? I recall putting a Jensen “Lifetime” speaker in the Deluxe in an attempt to make it louder to keep up with my buddy’s Bandmaster!

  3. RAB says:

    P.S. It is fun to play thru a “dimed” loud amp…I used to be in a band where I used a 100 watt Marshall stack on full volume, even for small club gigs…it was so loud I couldn’t hear very well for a day or two later…sure was fun though…the legs on my fuchia colored crushed velvet bell bottoms used to flap in the resulting breeze! Now that’s Rock n’ Roll!

  4. Butch says:

    Charlie, please remove those JBL’s and salt them away ASAP. As one who has owned two of that very same amp and fried numerous D120F’s and OEM speakers for those amps, I can assure you that those speakers are not up to handling modern levels of overdrive ( Power amp and even with pedals,) from those amps. It’s the opposite of what they were designed for and those voice coils just seize up . Put in a nice pair of modern 100 waters, brand of your choice and blast away!

  5. cgelber says:

    Hi Butch-I never use pedals (I no longer gig) so I’m good with keeping the JBLs in there. I will warn the next owner.

  6. Andrew says:

    I have treid the reissues of quite a few fender and other makers amps… I tried a ’65 Twin resissue (i’d liek to try a vintage one but i’m in the wrong country) and then had the bright idea of plugging a friends Klon Klone pedal into it. For those who don;t know, a Klon is a clean boost pedal, when used properly it gives you ’10’ tone at ‘3’ position by boosting the signal without allowing it to be overdriven or distorted. It menas you can get that great dimed tone at a resonable volume. So, Klon plugged in and on, amp on, LP ready to go. and then, I too, decide I’m 13 all over again. I’m not allowed back in that…. Neighborhood really.

  7. cgelber says:

    Forget the Klon. If you’ve already antagonized the neighbors, turn that thing up to 11 and wail.

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