VOX AC100 - UPDATES AND NEW INFO
August and September 2021
A further piece for the new page on early reports of the AC100 (link in the previous entry), this from an electronics trade journal, late July 1964. Jennings certainly put the word about.
As it turned out, two of the AC100 mentioned went to the Beatles for their US tour; the other two were used by JMI for promotional purposes in August '64.
27th September (2)
It seemed like an idea to bring early material relating to the AC80/100 - reports, pricelists, and so on - together on one page. It will, as ever, be updated periodically,
The page on the Frankfurt Fair, 1965, has been updated and tidied - further material to be added soon. Below, a picture (a little soft but perfectly legible) of the press briefing held by Tom and others at 119 Dartford Road, guitar-organ and Vox Continental in the foreground, an AC100 SDL background right.
The shot was printed in several local newspapers in February 1965. In 1964 JMI's presence at the Fair was also reported, though without an accompanying picture.
26th September (2)
A preliminary report of JMI's preparations for the Frankfurt Fair, 1966, published a week before the photo in the previous entry.
The sections perhaps of the greatest interest relate to the 7-series amps: - a two-year long design process; few of the company's employees knew of the secret work being carried out; assembly of the prototype range carried out by senior members of the firm.
Prototype - a much misused term - really does seem to mean prototype here, i.e. the model or models used as a basis for the design and manufacture of pre-production and standard production amps. One can have electronic prototypes, design prototypes (ie. of cosmetics and so on), or combinations of the two.
The desire for secrecy (allowing for some exaggeration) explains a good deal about the design process, which was the work of three companies (one being JMI). Relevant details will be set out shortly - the development of the 7-series amps ran in parallel with that of the Vox MC100/6 and MC150/6 Public Address amplifiers.
A pic of the Vox van used to transport the new 4- and 7-series amps (among other things) to the Frankfurt Trade Fair of 1966.
A pic of the Thomas Organ Vox van, used in California for promotional purposes, can be seen on this page.
Some notes on Vox hybrid PA amplifiers (transistor preamp, valve power amp) in the mid 1960s.
(1) In 1957, G.E.C. published "An Approach to Audio Frequency Design. A Publication of The G.E.C. Valve and Electronics Department", a hugely influential book, especially for those intending to construct high-power amplifiers based on KT66 or KT88 valves. A number of its suggestions and recommendations were taken up in the larger Vox 7-series amps in 1965/1966. More on that another time.
(2) For Vox PA amps though, the significant thing in the book is the advocacy of meters to display the cathode current of the main power valves and the HT voltage. These were incorporated in a series of amps, now relatively scarce.
A G.E.C. general purpose amplifier with two KT88s in the power section. The meter gives readouts of the cathode current of all five valves in the unit along with the output level if desired.
A section of a G.E.C. circuit diagram, drawn up in 1960, for one of these amps. Thanks to Andy.
(3) The new hybrid PA amps brought to market by Vox in late 1964 combined the various elements devised by G.E.C. - display of the cathode current of the main power valves; the bias voltage; the HT voltage; and the output level (in decibels).
Detail of a surviving Vox MC100/6 (transistor preamp) from early 1965.
(4) The meters used by Vox were produced by the Japanese manufacturer Honor - 250µA (not mA) units. It is not known at present whether these were specially made for JMI. In later MC100/6 amps, "HT" was in fact the bias voltage not the main power section HT.
Detail of the meter of an MC50/6 from late 1966.
Three significant things happened in early 1967: (1) the solid state range, which had cost a king's ransom to develop and produce (see the entry below for 5th September), finally appeared on the market; (2) JMI and the Thomas Organ Company announced that Thomas would take on the distribution of its own organs in the UK, something that had been handled by JMI from mid 1963; (3) the shop on Charing Cross Road was sold to the Macaris.
One cannot help but feel that the development of the new range of amps had its consequences - some belt tightening may have been imposed by Royston Industries, the company that had a controlling interest in JMI.
"Beat Instrumental" magazine, February 1967.
Bill Doe had been manager of 100 Charing Cross Road since 1964. Dave Roberts was guitar tutor and demonstrator (based on the first floor), having taken over the former role from Geoffrey Sisley in 1965. Charlie Cobbett, JMI Artists' Loan Officer (Group Liaison), divided his time between Dartford Road and the shop. Also based in the shop were Syd Wedeles and Steve (surname unknown at present), repair engineers.
A piece from a local Dartford paper, February 1964. Paul Jennings - a.k.a "Paul Raymond" - Tom's son and manager of "Musicland" in Bexleyheath evidently went to Frankfurt too. Also of interest, the statement that JMI had its eye on a visit to Russia. This ties up with what Reg Clark said in 1966 - see the piece below (entry for 4th September).
For the Frankfurt Trade Fair, February 1968, Tom Jennings and Dick Denney mounted a private show at a nearby hotel. Their presence seems to have gained more attention in the music trade press than JMI's did.
A number of the things exhibited by "Jennings Electronic Developments" had been designed by Dick in 1967.
Published March 1968.
Below, a note on trade with Moscow - Trade Fair of July 1966 - along with some comments on business with the Far East.
Published February 1967, seven months after the Moscow Trade Fair.
Things evidently moved quickly, some of the ground already having been prepared when the note above was published. The picture (below) of Tom Lee's Piano shop was published in May 1967.
But the report that Lee's contact (in England) "with the Jennings organisation coincided with the opening of the new Vox factory at West Street, Erith." is hard to fathom. The West Street Works had opened in late 1964. Perhaps Lee had also visited England then.
At any rate, a visit to England in April 1967 and a shop window full of Vox equipment in May is quick work.
Published May 1967.
A further picture of Frankfurt 1968. Left to right: Cyril Windiate, Colin Barratt, Eddie Haynes, and Ray Pyman. Reg Clark and Dave Roberts, presumably busy elsewhere, were also at the show.
A little more on Tom, picking up from the entry a few days ago (2nd Sept.). A second printed note on the writ issued against Royston, and an advert that only really makes sense in relation to the note. Tom had actually created "Jennings Electronic Developments" in November 1967, the business at that time being audio consultancy. Dick joined soon after, and the first products were pedals. "They're back" not only celebrates the new company, but the return to Dartford Road in April 1968. Tom sold number 117 in 1969, retaining 119 until 1975.
Published April 1968. Dartford Road had evidently reverted to Tom before JMI officially became "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" on 26th April.
A picture of the Vox Accordion Organ published in a trade report of the Frankfurt Fair of 1965. Nothing was said of amplifiers. The only other item featured (and illustrated) was the Guitar-Organ.
The "Accordion Organ" is likely to have been made by Crucianelli - at any rate, very very similar ones turn up with the Crucianelli badge, the model known as the "Magic Vox" or "MagicVox". None so far seems to have come to light labelled only "Vox". It seems probable though that the companies collaborated. The Accordion-Organ featured in the Vox catalogue of 1966.
Just to note that accordions were still big business in the later 1960s for some suppliers. The Hessy's display at the Russell Hotel, August 1967, presented a veritable sea of them..
Published March 1965.
In the weeks prior to the Frankfurt Fair of 1966, JMI kept details of its forthcoming display tightly under wraps - but as a sort of open secret. A new line of nine amplifiers was to be released - and that was more or less it. A fairly standard series of reviews (descriptions really) of the 4- and 7-series amps appeared afterwards; but aside from some generalities, nothing in advance, or at least nothing that has so far come to light.
Published 10th February 1966.
A relatively high degree of secrecy also surrounded Frankfurt 1967 - another line of amplifiers to be released (fully solid state), though these had already been shown in London in early form in August '66. Nonetheless, certain items were kept from the photographers that visited the Dartford Road Works in January '67.
All this stands in some contrast to earlier years. Press releases and previews regularly outlined (and named) items to be displayed; "surprises" reserved for the opening were limited in number; and this was the case too in 1962 when a new line of JMI transistor equipment was presented for preview reports before the doors had opened to dealers and the public.
As the 60s went on though, competition intensified, and it paid to be circumspect about one's new items and investments of time and labour. Following the release of the fully solid state range in late March 1967, Tom disclosed that it had taken 80,000 man-hours to get it to point of dispatch - that's equivalent to 80 people working full-time for six months (not that it actually happened in such a simple mathematical way).
The business of getting to Moscow, 1966 - Reg Clark's long road.
Published April 1966.
A new page has been started on the Jennings stand at the Frankfurt Trade Show, March 1968, the last major event attended by the company. Less than two months later JMI was gone.
Further material will be added in due course. There is no preview report of Jennings's display however. Jennings was one of a half dozen manufacturers that did not exhibit in the British section (arranged by the Board of Trade) at the Fair. The stands of those that exhibited separately were not covered in the preview write-ups.
Picture published in the music trade press, March 1968.
A sad note in the trade press, December 1967 - Tom's action following his heartless dismissal from JMI in September.
Quintin Hogg (Viscount Hailsham) was a considerable force in legal and political affairs, becoming Lord Chancellor of Great Britain under Edward Heath in 1970.
By November '67, Tom had already set up his new company "Jennings Electronic Developments", based from mid 1968 at 117-119 Dartford Road, which had reverted to him when JMI came to an end in late April '68 - see yesterday's entry on the Vox Supreme website.
Two more pieces relating to the Russell Hotel Trade Fair, August 1967 - the promotional advert issued by A.M.I.I. in June along with a couple of pictures from a review of the show printed in September.
30th August (2)
The advert issued by JMI to coincide with 1966 Russell Hotel Trade Fair - anachronistically, the Beatles at the Washington Coliseum, February 1964. The page on the Fair - available here - has been updated, and will be updated again soon.
Music trade press, August 1966. A further shot of the Beatles at the Coliseum was used in a Vox advert in the US more or simultaneously, "Downbeat" magazine, Aug. '66.
A music trade preview report, August 1966, of the Jennings display at the forthcoming Russell Hotel Trade Fair.
The items picked out for mention include the new fully solid state amplifiers; the two-manual Continental; the Mando-Guitar; a "new type of speaker" - either the Gyrotone in some form, or perhaps more likely, horn speakers for PA use; and an "entirely new conception of an electronic musical instrument", which may be the Vox Bijou, an electric dulcimer produced initially for Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones.
Music trade press, August 1966.
In early July 1964, Billboard magazine published a list of companies that had attended the NAMM show at the Conrad Hilton in Chicago, 28th June to 2nd July. Jennings, which is known to have been there (see this page), is altogether absent. Challen Eavestaff and Alfred Knight, two British piano-making and dealing businesses, which had also attended in 1963, are both listed though.
A detail from the list of exhibitors printed in "Billboard", 4th July, 1964. No Jennings, but Alfred Knight. Jennings does not appear under "Vox" either.
Why is there no entry for Jennings? Presumably attendance had been arranged via Thomas Organ (or perhaps even Warwick Industries), either as a "dealer", which to some extent Jennings was, or as a subsiduary. Thomas had six rooms at the Hilton - Jennings is likely to have had one of these.
A note in the trade press, June 1962. As mentioned below (entry for 8th July), this is one of the reasons (perhaps principal) why Tom needed capitalisation and Royston - and it is likely that he came to Royston via Burndept Electronics, a member of the Royston Group from at least 1960, and a JMI contractor from early 1962.
The plans for the new Dartford Road spaceship did not come to fruition unfortunately. Royston put precious little money into JMI. Even in mid 1960s, JMI was described in financial reports as being a small company unlikely to increase the profits of the group substantially. The tricks of accountancy.
Music trade press, 1962.
Music trade press, February 1963. "The Guardian" had already noted the acquisition in January.
From the preview report of the Jennings stand at the Russell Hotel Trade Fair, August 1963, a pic. of the new Foundation Bass speaker cabinet. The AC50 amplifier may have been present in some form too. Production Foundation Bass cabinets were made differently, the radius at the corners being much less pronounced.
Picture published August 1963 - also posted today on the Vox AC50 website.
Further pieces relating to the Frankfurt Trade Fair of 1967 from the music trade press: a second pic of the Dartford Road Works, January 1967; the ad for the Vox Bijou, which had already been published in the popular music press in late 1966; and a note of Dick Denney demonstrating the new wah-wah pedal.
Printed in February 1967.
A detail of the above. An unknown control box on top of the organ - volume, treble and bass (?).
Published March 1967.
An interesting note on the collection of antique accordions at Dartford Road. It's hard to resist the feeling that it was the guitar-accordion that set Tom off on the guitar-organ, developed in 1963 and 1964, still promoted at Trade Fairs in 1967.
"Accordion Times", July 1955.
The page on the Vox stand at the Frankfurt Fair of 1967 has now been started. As noted below, this was the first public unveiling of the full solid state line and various new "accessories". More will be added on the accessories in due course.
23rd August (2)
Below, the advert released by JMI in the music trade press to coincide with the Frankfurt Fair of 1967, also posted recently on the Vox Supreme website. It followed the picture of Tom in the Dartford Road Works further down this page.
New - the solid state line, which had a lengthy road to production. Orders had been taken in August 1966 at the Russell Hotel Fair (and in succeeding months), but new amps were not ready for despatch until the end of March / beginning of April 1967.
Music trade press, February 1967.
The Gyrotone had also been exhibited in some form at the Russell Hotel Fair of August 1966. The guitar organ was present at almost every Fair from late 1964.
A note and photo published in the music trade press in relation to the Jennings stand at the Frankfurt Musikmesse, 1966. The photo below is the reprint from Jim Elyea's book, "Vox Amplifiers", however. The picture in the tightly-bound trade journal was too close to the gutter to get a good copy. The page on the show - Frankfurt 1966 - will be updated wih further material shortly.
"Miss Vox", formerly "Miss Air France".
The page on the Jennings stand at the Cafe Royal Trade Fair, September 1958 has been updated with new material.
January 1967, at Dartford Road, preparations for the Frankfurt Trade Fair (in February) well in train.
20th August (2)
The page on the Vox stand at the Ideal Home Exhibition, March-April 1967, has been updated with further contemporary report.
A new page on the Russell Hotel Trade Fair of 1967 has now been set up. Updates will be posted here - as ever, there is more material to come.
The page on the Jennings shop, which was getting a little jumbly, has been rearranged. Further material to be added shortly.
A note published in the music trade press, September 1959, on the Jennings shop at 100 Charing Cross Road. The accordions, which had been in the "Accordion Centre" in the basement since May 1956, were presumably bumped upstairs.
February 1966 - the Erith Works back in business following the fire of December 1965, which had begun in an oil heating unit, its flames fanned by wind, which was strong on that day. See this page. In the six week interim between the fire and the repair of the Works, Jennings moved production to the old flour mill in Erith - the "Riverside Works" (also owned by Burndept Electronics).
The two full-page ads below accompanied preview reports of the Russell Hotel Trade Fair, August 1965, in the music trade press. The first embodies elements that had been used elsewhere from January. The second is the first of a series of increasingly whimsical Jennings promotions for Thomas organs.
A page has now been started on the first major music trade show attended by Jennings - the Association of Musical Instrument Industries (AMII) Fair at the Cafe Royal, London, 1958.
Below, the earliest pricelist that has come to light with an entry for the AC100 - mid 1964, an update to a list issued by Musicland (Bexleyheath) in late 1963. Price: £195. This was for an AC100 and 2x15" speaker cabinet.
By September 1964, the AC100 and 2x15" cab was £205 and 16 shillings, the SDL, which had been introduced in August, £252.
Recto of the Musicland updates flyer. On the verso, the prices of the Domino range of amplifiers, among other things.
JMI pricelist of September 1964.
As a follow-up to the Frankfurt Trade Show of February 1965, Jennings put out this now familiar advert for the AC100 SDL in the music trade press in March. The ad also went out in "Beat Instrumental" magazine, though the context was obviously different. The SDL had already been showcased in the British marketplace, the drawing embodied having been made by September 1964.