Some notes on the Thomas Organ Company
8345 Hayvenhurst Avenue, Sepulveda, in 1966.
1950s and early 1960s: Thomas Organ was owned by Pacific Mercury Electronics. Pacific Mercury, which made the organs that Thomas sold, was based initially in Joplin, Missouri. The company officers were effectively those of Thomas Organ - Joe Benaron (President), Stan Cutler (Head of Engineering), Donald John (Head of Service Department), and so on.
Detail from "Yearbook of Radio and Television" (1963). Pacific by this time had set up its factory in Sepulveda (Van Nuys).
Latter part of 1963: Pacific Mercury and Thomas Organ were taken over by Warwick Electronics. Talks were reported as being in progress on 24th August '63 ("The Desert Sun" newspaper). At that time, Sears-Roebuck had a controlling interest in Warwick. Warwick's main business was making TVs and other consumer goods, mostly marketed under the Sears name.
Late 1963 / early 1964: The Warwick development department in Niles, Illinois, began working on designs for new organs for Thomas to sell. These were manufactured in the Pacific / Thomas factory in Sepulveda - Hayvenhurst Avenue.
Late August 1964: the "Million Dollar Deal" forged by Thomas Organ with JMI. In effect, the "Deal" was also with Warwick Electronics, whose name was at the head of at least one set of papers signed by Tom Jennings in 1965.
Tom Jennings with Warwick people in 1965.
Mid September 1964: Consignments of English-made Vox amplifiers and guitars began arriving in Chicago and Los Angeles (Van Nuys).
December 1964: The first Service Bulletin issued by Donald John for Vox amplifiers, including the AC100, imported by Thomas Organ.
Donald A. John had been part of the Pacific Mercury / Thomas team from at least 1963 (see the first entry above). He oversaw the expansion of the service department in 1968.
Late 1964 / early 1965: The "Million Dollar Sound" catalogue, available here. A reasonably large selection of the things that JMI produced, but by no means all. A copy of the catalogue can be seen on the pinboard wall of Hal Morris Music shop, Munster, Indiana, in a photograph published in April 1965.
February 1965: An order from the USA for around £750,000 of Vox equipment from JMI - reported by the "Daily Express".
Easter 1965: Culmination of the Vox "Battle of the Bands" competition at the Hollywood Palladium, won by Captain Beefheart. See this page. The driving force behind the competition was Marvin Kaiser.
Marv's business card. He is pictured in many of the Vox Teen Beat magazines, perhaps best (and most clearly) on page two of the first issue.
June 1965: "Billboard" magazine reports that Thomas has ordered $4million worth of equipment from JMI (at the NAMM show of that year).
Mid 1965: The "King of the Beat" catalogue - images here.
Second half of 1965: Thomas began compiling and publishing Vox service manuals for dealers (and repair shops), the first being the "Pocket Reference Guide". This was the precursor of the more extensive service manuals for amplifiers, guitars, and accessories, first published in late 1966.
From mid 1965: Development and design of the solid state line of amps, overseen by Stan Cutler, head of engineering. The text of the report (by Warwick Industries) of Dick Denney's visit to Sepulveda in late October / early November to assess various pre-production models is printed in "The Vox Story", ed. Denney and Petersen (1993), Appendix 3. Fascinating reading and strangely ignored in other publications (both printed and electronic).
Late 1965: The "British Sound" catalogue - images here.
1966: A controlling interest in Warwick (and therefore Thomas Organ) was taken by the Whirlpool Corporation. Sears retained a large tranche of shares. The two owned 83% of Warwick in 1971.
The back cover of a Vox leaflet issued by Thomas Organ extolling the virtues of transistors. Poor old valves (tubes) go into the bin, spelling the beginning of the end to vast orders for equipment from JMI. That said, JMI did win orders totalling $2m at the NAMM show in July 1966 - see this page.
Shots of the interior of the Sepulveda factory from "Vox Teen Beat" magazine, no. I, vol. 3, mid 1966.
In the summer of 1968, a fairly substantial rearrangement of the Thomas Organ Vox division evidently took place - with some significant fall out. Two key members left, and a further two were replaced:
"Billboard" magazine, 17th August, 1968. Marv Kaiser and T. Warren Hampton had between them more or less got Vox going in the States in 1964 and 1965.
The rearrangement also involved the creation of the new Thomas Vox Service Center and Training Program, overseen by Donald John. Below, some pages from the booklet, which gives an overview of the programme and details of routine trouble-shooting procedure for organ maintenance.
The front page of the booklet (released in October 1968) and two specimen introductory pages - similar in many respects to a print-out of a powerpoint presentation.
A note in "Billboard" magazine, 10th August, 1968.
Below, the front and a specimen page of the new consolidated parts price list issued by the service department in April 1969:
Thomas parts price list, April 1969. The book has 186 pages.
Another thing to come from the shake-up of summer 1968 was the Vox "Soundlab" at 15456 Cabrito Road - see this page. The recording studios, however, were evidently not a success for Thomas however, as the building and equipment were soon sold to Joe Gottfried and Tom Skeeter, to become "Sound City Studios".