The Vox AC100 as the Thomas Organ "Super Beatle"
AC100s for the States in late 1964 and 1965
The association of Jennings Musical Industries with the Thomas Organ company in late 1964 opened up a vast new market for Vox products - a market that JMI/Vox was ultimately unable to support. Initially, Thomas Organ acted as a distributor for UK-made valve amps, which were regularly freighted by air. In early 1965 they were rechristened in the States with "Swinging London" names, the AC100 for instance becoming for a short time the "Super Beatle". That name in turn was assigned to the flagship of new Thomas solid state line.
From "Beat Instrumental" magazine no. 18, October 1964. The "Million Dollar" contract, signed at the British Musical Instruments (Association of Musical Instrument Industries) Trade Fair, which took place in late August (24th to 29th) while the Beatles were touring the US.
The Arlington Heights Herald, 17th September 1964 - three weeks or so after JMI had agreed to provide the million dollar's worth of equipment (£534,000 then) to Thomas Organ. Note "just flown in".
A copy of a letter appended to the Vox Service Manual of 1967 shows, however, that there were AC80/100s among the early exports to the States in late 1964.
Thomas Organ "Million Dollar Sound" catalogue from late 1964
The text reads: "AC100 Super de Luxe (Beatles) Amplifier. As used by the Beatles. Unrivalled where adequate reserves of sheer undistorted power are required. 200 watts peak power. Two inputs, volume, treble and bass controls. Separate loudspeaker cabinet with four 12" heavy duty loudspeakers plus two high frequency exponential horns with crossover network. Supplied with waterproof covers. Chromium swivel stand - optional extra. (Dimensions 19" x 11 1/2" x 9" and 40" x 27" x 12")."
The "Million Dollar Sound" catalogue is available in its entirety here.
As one might expect, the images used were essentially those used by Jennings in Britain. Below, two adverts incorporating the standard JMI image of the Vox AC100 Super De Luxe.
"Valley News (Van Nuys)", 11th December 1964. This, to date, is certainly the earliest instance of this particular advert (reprinted in Valley News on the 13th). The next earliest is in KRLA magazine on 23rd December '64, lower down this page. The ad above promotes "Keys to Music", Van Nuys.
Left, a Jennings advertisement from "Beat Instrumental" magazine - still the drawing illustrating a Mark 1 trolley and thick-edged amp. Right, the advert from "Music Alley" in E. Colfax, Denver.
A detail from "The British Sound" brochure of late 1965 showing the Vox amps with their new US names: "Westminster" (AC50 Foundation Bass), the "Royal Guardsman" (AC50 twin), "Super Beatle" (AC100). The brochure as a whole can be viewed on this page.
The AC30 became the "Viscount", the small-box AC50 the "Royal Guardsman", the AC50 Foundation Bass the "Westminster", the T60 the "Bristol Bass", and at some point in late 1964 the AC100 became the "Super Beatle", names that were were later transferred (in late 1965) to the new Thomas Organ solid state amps.
To judge from surviving amps, it seems that a great many AC80/100s made in the summer and autumn of 1965 were exported to the USA - grey panel cathode biased amps (serial numbers in the range 300-430) and "100W Amplifiers" (serial numbers in the range 430-730). Indeed, the Burndept facility in Erith was set up by Vox (in 1965) expressly to increase production for export.
For the deal in mid 1965, see a little way below - reported by the Economist in July 1965. See also the page on changes introduced in 1965.
Above, a couple of small images of an American Vox dealer pricelist, noted at foot as being "EFFECTIVE: APRIL 26 1965".
Below, the entries relating to the AC50 and AC100. Note the number of inputs for the amps. Prices given opposite the speaker cabs are for both amp and cab.
V-1-14-1. (Piggy-Back) 4 inputs.
V-1-14-2. Cabinet for Above Containing One 18"Heavy Duty Speaker. $715.00.
V-1-14-3. Stand for Above. $36.00.
V-1-23-1. (Piggy-Back) 4 inputs.
V-1-23-2. Cabinet for Above Containing Two 12" Heavy Duty Speakers, Plus One Special High Frequency Horn. $715.00.
V-1-23-3. Super Twin Swivel Stand for Above. $40.00.
V-1-24-1. (Piggy-Back) 2 inputs.
V-1-24-2. Cabinet for Above Containing Four 12" Speakers Plus Two High Frequency Exponential Horns with Cross Over Network. $965.
V-1-24-3.Super Twin Stand for Above. $70.00.
1. All Vox Amplifiers, except the Vox Pathfinder Model V-1-1, include free foot switch.
2. All Vox Amplifiers, except the Vox Pathfinder Model V-1-1, must be purchased with covers. Prices listed above do not include covers.
3. All Piggy-Back Amplifiers and Speakers must be purchased as One Unit.
Piggy-Back Unit Covers (Per Set). $15.00.
Below, a Thomas Organ "Vox Pocket Reference Manual of Replacement Parts and Service Information" from early 1965:
A Thomas Organ "Vox Pocket Reference Manual of Replacement Parts and Service Information" from early 1965. Measures 3.5 x 5.25”. Pictures from an ebay auction in 2011, so quite small (click as ever for larger versions - only slightly larger in this case). In the fourth pic one can see:
The parts listed in this section cover all English built amplifiers sold in the United States.
The following models are covered.
AC4 - Pathfinder
AC10 - Berkeley
AC15 - Kent
AC30 - Viscount
AC30 Super - Buckingham
AC50 - Royal Guardsman
AC50 Foundation Bass - Westminster
AC100 - Super Beatle
T60 - Bristol Bass.
V185 - Student.
The designations above correspond to the earliest catalogues and flyers issued by Thomas Organ for the Vox range - at that point imported English amps renamed.
The reference manual goes on to list "SPEAKERS", among which:
12" 8 ohm - AC30-AC100 - 09-5305-0.
12" 15ohm - AC50 - 09-5405-0.
18" 15ohm - Foundation Bass - 09-5805-0.
Midax Horn - AC50-AC100 - 09-5406-0.
The numbers beginning "09" are Thomas part numbers. It is interesting to note that at this point the AC50 had 15 ohm speakers (i.e. not the same as those used in the AC30-AC100) - they were presumably Fanes.
A further massive order came in during the course of 1965. The extract below is from "The Economist" magazine, volume 216, July 10th, 1965. Click as ever for a larger image.
The upper figure of "$10 million", a good eye-catching number, is echoed in reports published in Billboard magazine.
What underlay the note in the Economist was the deal done at the NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants) show at the Conrad Hilton in Chicago, June 27th - July 1st, 1965. The Thomas Organ Co. ordered $2-4 million worth of Vox equipment. "Billboard" magazine records the higher figure.
"Valley News", 29th November, 1964, the strap-line of the advert - "Exclusive Dealers for British Vox". In an advert placed a fortnight earlier (13th Nov.), the shop was simply "Home of Gibson, Vox, Epiphone....".
A list of US Vox dealers, late 1964 to 1967, can be found on this page. The normal denominations were "Authorized" or "Exclusive Vox Dealer". Initially, the line of distribution was (in the main) the existing Thomas one. Thereafter things expanded quickly thanks to the promotional efforts of Marv Kaiser, National Sales Manager of the "Vox Division".
The Brothers Grim (Grimm)
"Vox Teen Beat" magazine, no. 1, early April 1965. Note that there is another version of this image with a Teen Beat magazine header and added text - a later composite.
The Brothers Grim, pictured above, were one of the first bands to be sponsored by Vox in the States. The advert is from Vox Teen Beat, vol. 1, issue 1. The amplifier (serial number 225) and its speaker cabinet still survive - see this page.
On the band, see the entry for '9th Street West' in the IMDB.
A further site notes: "In the early 1960's, The Brothers Grim became the first American group to be featured with Vox Amplifiers and guitars which were made famous by the contemporary British group, The Beatles. Joe Banaron, CEO of Warwick Electronics Inc. and President of Thomas Organ, the United States distributor of Vox, along with Bernard Stockly (of London), importer to the United States of the Royal Warranted, Challenge / Eavestaff pianos, arranged for the boys to have full use of the five foot tall AC 100, which later became known as the "Super Beatle," along with other Vox amplifiers. In one of the company's in-house publications, Ron Coleman and J.P. Sloane were featured standing back to back against the big Vox AC 100 Amplifier".
Thomas Organ pricelist 1965
Reference to the Thomas Organ pricelist of 21 September 1965 shows that the AC100/Super Beatle amplifier cost $400.00, the cabinet $599.00, and the trolley $70.00, making $1069 in total. The model number was: V-1-24.
The solid state Super Beatle - the AC100/Super Beatle's replacement - cost $1225.00.
Added by Vox to amps destined for the USA. Capacitor made by Radio Spares (England), value: 0.01uf, 500V. Its purpose was to suppress arcing across the mains switch. All US-made Gibson and Fender amplifiers had these caps as a matter of course.
Below, Radio Spares suppressor caps in AC100 serial no. 392: an amp with a serial number in the early-mid 700s; and 756.
Far left: 392. Centre and right: an amp with a serial number in the 700s. Number 756 also has the added Radio Spares cap.
Serial numbers of AC100s imported by Thomas Organ
Notionally the period of importation, late 1964 to late 1965, corresponds to the production of serial numbers c. 250 - 1200, perhaps indeed a little further - US bands were still being shown with AC100/Super Beatles in newletters from 1966. Although we do not know how many amps came to Thomas Organ, some of those listed on the cathode biased page and early fixed bias page appear to have been long in the States - numbers 337, 392, 420, 502, 531,and so on.
Below, promotional pictures, left to right, of: The Esquires (1965, Arkansas); The Huns (1965, Alabama); The Invaders (1966?, Florida); and Lord Byron and the Poets (1965, Illinois):