Looking over some of the photographs on SouthernGarageBands.com I was caught up in the equipment. Being a gearhead that was natural. I noticed some of the trends and styles of hardware that were popular and started trying to remember the company names of some of the manufacturers.
Early on, a lot of budding musicians got Silvertone instruments and amplifiers. I figure that was mainly due to two things: 1. Being sold by Sears they were probably the most widely available source of musical equipment (a lot of people lived near a Sears store and virtually everyone received a Sears mail order catalog in the mail); and 2. Sears pricing was reasonable and financing was easy to obtain. Interestingly, Sears sold a good selection of gear, from cheap introductory level, up to a pretty darn good quality line of tube amps. A lot of moms and dads probably purchased Silvertone equipment for Birthday and Christmas presents.
Then I saw something that I hadn’t thought about in a while and it reminded me of experiences I had in the various bands I have played in: Speaker Columns. Also known as P.A. Columns, they were the first innovation that was practical and within price for many bands to move away from singing through guitar amps. P. A. Columns are tall cabinets with speakers arrayed vertically from bottom to top. Most were free-standing but some smaller ones were made to stand up high on stands. The idea was to project the sound of the vocals as far back into the crowd as possible, by shooting enough of the sound waves above the heads of the folks up close to the stage that the folks in back could hear too. The narrow, columnar shape also allowed the sound wave to disburse widely from side to side and get optimal coverage of the entire venue. Place one column on each side of the band and the overall mix of instruments and vocals was improved quite nicely.
One of the first brands of P. A. Columns that I knew about was Shure. The ones we had were kind of small and were supposed to go on tripod stands. They were metal enclosures and had probably 6 or 8 inch drivers (speakers). I think they were really designed with the intention of use with a P. A. for a single person addressing a crowd from a podium. They were an improvement over the high-frequency horns we started out with.
My next band didn’t have any P. A. equipment at first, so we tried to get the latest and best that we could afford. At that time there was a brand that was hot and I found a P. A. system, with columns, at the music store in Brunswick, GA. The brand was Coral. They don’t seem to be in business any more, at least I can’t find them any where in a Web search. We got a Coral P. A. head and columns somehow. I remember trading a bunch of other stuff but don’t know if we had to kick in any additional cash or not. I also don’t recall how well we liked the Coral gear; I was in that band less than a year and left the area at that time.
My next band was in Atlanta, GA, and when I joined they had a Peavey P. A. and sound columns. It was a pretty nice setup and Peavey builds quality gear at a good price and it is tough and road-worthy. The only thing was, it was not up doing sound reinforcement with the rest of our gear. The lead was playing through a Fender Princeton Reverb for tone and running the signal from the pre-amp section directly to two Sunn Coliseum heads with four full Sunn Coliseum cabinets, two on each side. I think each speaker cab had six 12’s? The keyboard player had a Hammond B-3 and two Leslie Tone-Cabinets. I was playing a Fender ’66 Precision through an Acoustic 370. We decided we needed a beefy P. A. So we went to the lead guitarist’s garage with a stack of plywood and built two huge loaded horn-type cabinets with bass reflex slots. Our copy of JBL Theatre sound cabinets. We installed the speakers from the Peavey columns and they sounded great in the new cabinets! The only trouble was we couldn’t get the wiring quite right so the impedance was a mismatch for the P. A. head and it kept overheating and shutting down, so we worked around that by setting the head up on a stool and directing two powerful fans over it at all times we were playing.
I wonder what happened to those monster-sized cabinets.
Do you know of any great brand names from back in those days that may or may not still be around? Some have gone out of business only to return by having a new company pick up the rights to the name and produce products under that name; others have almost gone away but new blood / management / owners have revived them. How about:
Mike Mathews Freedom Amps (the first battery powered amps);
PigNose amps – still in business;
Electro-Harmonix – stomp boxes – faded away but seem to be back, don’t know if it is the same company or not.
Danelectro – I think it came back as the same name but manufactured by a different company. They built the original Sears Silvertone guitars, by the way.