The Ampeg Super Stud guitar and Rickenbacker B-16 Supersonic amp create some unique sounds as do the Guild Polara, Ampeg Gemini VI and Supro Reverb Power Unit. The attributes of each are discussed.
My favorite guitar sounds is Jeff Baxter’s Ultimate Spinach era. Will a Dan Armstrong Orange Squeezer give me that sound or must I locate one of those Delta amps with built-in 8-track tape echo like the Skunkmeister used in the 70s? Is a Lucite Strat essential for this tone or can I “fake it” with my PRS Dragon?
– Dr Stanley Nudelman Berkeley, California
You’re on the right track, Doc – hey, we wouldn’t mind having some of that great gear ourselves. Ha ha! Here are a couple of other time-tested rigs that’ll make a big impression at HMO picnics, psych-ward dayrooms or wherever you gig.
First up is the Ampeg Super Stud/Rickenbacker B-16 Supersonic. Ampeg’s guitar-design team definitely had the short ’70s rocker with a bad attitude in mind when they came up with this natural-finish nightmare. Unfortunately for Ampeg, most of these guys traded their guitars and PA. systems for pickup trucks with giant tires after a few auditions.
The Super Stud sports a deeply beveled 25-ply body, gold-plated hardware, dual humbuckers, a Bigsby-style tailpiece that requires advance planning to keep in tune, and a huge brass bridge with grubsized saddles. The clunky bolt-on neck is a four-piece affair with binding, and though the flared headstock originally sported goldplated Grover Imperials, in our example these had been wisely nabbed and replaced with new Rotomatics.
The Super Stud exudes all the charm of a ’76 Ford LTD, and paired with a Rickenbacker Supersonic amp, this rig will demonstrate your verve to friends and co-workers alike. (We’d suggest a tight-fitting velour shirt, puka-shell necklace and some white bell-bottoms for maximum effect.) This particular amp is rumored to have belonged to Paul Revere & the Raiders bassist Philip “Fang” Volk, but a letter to Ms. Kylie Scheibner at the Portland, Oregon, fan club address listed on Here They Come! failed to confirm this.
Ex-Revere or not, the Supersonic raids your ear canals with dual 6L6s, four 12AX7s and a 5AR4 rectifier. The four-input head has two volume knobs; bass, treble and brilliance controls; and a pair of jeweled pilot lights – one for on and the other for standby. Its point-to-point circuitry resides in a thin folded-steel chassis, and the separate power supply is bolted to the cabinet’s bottom.
The Ricky B-16 looks scary enough – especially sitting atop its matching 4×10 cab – but this patchouli-scented piggyback’s sonics were hardly super until we added a hot pedal – in this case, a circa-’75 Foxx OD Machine. Now that’s more like it. Want to cop J. Geils’s tone on Bloodshot or keep a tavern full of tank-topped troglodytes grunting in approval until last call? This rig can do.
Blues option I. For those desperately seeking reverb for this or any other non-reverb amp, there’s the Supro Reverb Power Unit. With its single Jensen 8, this little freak resembles a vintage practice amp, but it’s actually a 6V6-powered reverb that works off your amp’s extension speaker jack. The Supro’s intensity knob and contrast switch provide a feeling of control over the puny and easily distorted reverb textures. Not exactly a Lexicon PCM90, but placed behind you – 75 feet will do – it does slapback echo too.
Guild created some of the homeliest mid-’60s solidbodies around, but that doesn’t deter us from featuring one in our Guild Polara/Ampeg Gemini VI vintage dream rig. Our ’64 Polara isn’t nearly as molten as a Thunderbird or Jet-Star bass, but its canoe-paddle contours will provoke a moment or two’s attention from even the most automatonic bar crowd. And once the shock of a guitar that doesn’t look like a Strat wears off, you can always show off the built-in guitar stand.
The Polara’s two “frequency tested” single-coil pickups are surrounded by a large pickguard designed to deflect misguided flailings by the era’s newly electrified folkies. The dual volume and tone knobs are arranged with both volumes on top – an odd call for a guitar designed to horn in on Gibson’s action – but, hey, this is Guild. Other details include a beefy 24 3/4″-scale set neck, Grover exposed-gear tuners and a Guild Adjusto-Matic bridge with vibrato tailpiece.
The Ampeg Gemini VI proved an excellent mate for our ugly Guild. This 1×15 reverb combo – basically a bloated Reverberocket – sounds deep and throaty, and its low-volume distortion is particularly endearing. The Gemini’s grunt emanates from a pair of hard-to-find 7591 output tubes, two 12AX7s, a 7199 and a 6CG7. The front-panel controls include volume, treble, bass, speed, intensity and echo. Inputs are provided for guitar, auxilliary, microphone and, naturally, accordion.
We dug the Ampeg’s cool-sounding tremolo. It doesn’t go particularly fast or slow, but its vibe is funkier than the outhouse at the Three Forks Jukehouse & Variety Store. Likewise, the hyperactive reverb has gobs of character – surf types will appreciate its drippiness and splat. Paired with the Polara’s rich ‘n’ twangy pickups, you’ve got a juicy blues tone that could make Junior Kimbrough smile. With both guitar volumes cranked, the sound becomes weak and tweezy – perfect for funky riffing. Back either volume down slightly and the tone fattens like a turkey in a corn crib. This rig won’t keep up with loud bass and drums – that’s not the Gemini’s forte – but you’d have to wait for some cloven-hoofed man-beast to open a music store at the Crossroads to find a better-sounding recording outfit.