VOX AC100 - UPDATES AND NEW INFO
November and December 2021
Tom's advert in the music trade press to accompany the Russell Hotel Trade Fair of August 1968, illustrating the new J40 and J100 amplifiers; and the Growler, Wah-Wah, and Scrambler rotary action pedals. Jennings exhibited at the President Hotel in Russell Square along with a number of other manufacturers. The event had become so large that spaces in a further three nearby hotels were pressed into service.
More to come on Tom's new company in late 1968 and early 1969.
Details of an early "100 Watt Amplifier" that recently came to light in the USA - entry for 25th November, below - now added (after some delay on my part) on this page. Thanks to Michael for the pictures.
A detail from two vast volumes recording the details of those holding shares in Royston Industries, 1966. At the end of the second volume, a supplement of shareholders not encompassed in the main body of the lists is given, Tom Jennings among them, his block purchased in September 1965.
A holding of 1050 shares in 1966 was about average for an individual. Corporate investors of course held many more. The BP Pension Fund Trust had 204,424; Coutts Bank 370,000.
Royston finally went into liquidation in 1975, having spent a good part of the preceding years (1968-1974) selling off property and companies in order to remunerate its shareholders..
Below, a detail of the agreement with Royston Industries, signed on the 29th January, 1963. Tom and Joan's shares in JMI (the only ones that existed) were purchased by Royston, and Royston in turn issued new ones - 368,000 at one shilling (£18,400).
In mid 1962, Tom had announced plans for the re-development of the Dartford Road Works - a new three-storey factory building, among other things. Capital was needed. But as it turned out, expansion took the form of a move (in the autumn of 1964) into the West Street Works in Erith, owned by Burndept Electronics, a fellow member of the Royston Group.
Royston, a fairly considerable property owner in its own right, charged JMI an annual rent for the use of the West Street premises.
Detail of the document, dated 29th January, 1963. The Guardian newspaper announced the agreement the next day.
A short note in the local Dartford press, 19th August, 1966, on Charlie Cobbett, JMI's Group Liaison Manager. The Beatles' tour ran from 12th to 29th August. The amplifiers used were American-made Super Beatles, however - it is said at the request of the Thomas Organ company.
Charlie was presuambly given some sort of technical introduction to the Thomas Vox amps before the first show on the 12th in Chicago. It may be that Thomas sent printed material (circuit diagrams and so on) in advance to Dartford.
Various sets of amps were provided as the tour moved round the country. The main fears in relation to the Super Beatles were breakdown of the amplifier sections (power transistors were still extremely variable in quality in 1966), and the failure of speakers in the speaker cabinets.
Some of the amplifiers used on the tour were later given away as prizes in competitions.
Charlie was featured again in the Dartford press (a week later) - more on that to come.
Local Dartford press, 19th August, 1966.
The Beatles on stage, Chicago, 12th August, 1966, ranks of spare Super Beatle amplifiers on hand in case of breakdown. One of Charlie's duties is likely to have been to help Mal Evans wheel one of these amps into position to replace any at front that had failed. Picture from the archives of the Chicago Sun Times.
Thanks to Cedric, pictures of a really superb pair of Vox Line Source 60s (LS60) public address speaker cabinets with original covers, probably produced in 1967 at a point not too far removed from the experimental design pictured below (entry for 20th November). The 12" drivers are heavy duty Goodmans, much as in Vox Supreme speaker cabinets. These LS60s will have been capable of handling considerably more than 60 watts each.
The speakers were exported to Germany early on and sold by Musikhaus Porsche in Lübeck
Below, also posted on the Vox Supreme website, photos from a set of taken taken for JMI before 31st August, 1967, and probably before the Russell Hotel Trade Fair, 20th-24th August - the original Vox disco unit, two turntables only and a microphone. The modified Vox Continental organ stand had brackets on which the lid of the unit could be set.
The unit was sold off in July 1968 when "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" got going in the West Street Works. See this page.
A detail of one of the JMI displays at the Russell Hotel Trade Fair, the disco unit side on.
A page gathering together a series of pieces on Tom Jennings printed in late 1967 and early 1968 has now been set up here. One of the things that emerges is that Tom was back at numbers 117-119 Dartford Road in December 1967, well before the settlement of his action against Royston Industries. A couple of notes in previous entries on this updates page will need to be adjusted.
A shot of Tom Jennings and Dick Denney as "Jennings Electronic Developments" at the Frankfurt Fair, February 1968. The company did not have a stand at the show however. Tom and Dick demonstrated their equipment at a nearby hotel, though they clearly made their presence known in the exhibition halls.
"Jennings Electronic Developments" at this point had pedals, a number of "gadgets", and at least one guitar and amplifier - some of the designs having been developed and tried out in JMI days (late 1967). Tom evidently had some agreement, or perhaps even the rights, to use them.
It should be said that in February 1968, Tom's action against Royston Industries for unfair dismissal was still in progress. Both he and Dick were to some extent in limbo. The Dartford Road Works though mostly empty - the majority of JMI's departments had been moved into the West Street Works in Erith in late 1967 - still technically belonged to JMI and Royston. In late April 1968, JMI officially came to an end. By May 1968, Tom had begun advertising his return to Dartford Road in a more public way.
Photo printed in the music trade press, March 1968.
Below, a detail from one of two similar adverts placed by Tom Jennings in the American music trade press in April and May 1964. The Vox users cited are: The Beatles, Searchers, Dave Clark Five, and the Rolling Stones. All except the Stones had been on the Ed Sullivan Show by the time these adverts appeared - the Beatles in February (three shows); the Dave Clark Five (two shows in March, another in late May after the ads had been published); the Searchers in early April (one show). No mention is made though of Gerry and the Pacemakers (two shows in early May). Only the Beatles had performed live in concert - at the Washington Coliseum.
As the Ed Sullivan Shows did not feature the amplifiers used by these bands - no Vox logos or grille cloth presented to the television audience - Tom's advert will have been a valuable dose of new information to many dealers in the States, certainly to those that did not have copies of "Melody Maker" sent over from England. Press agency wire photos of English bands other than the Beatles are scarce in early 1964.
As the advert notes, Tom would be attending the Chicago Music Trades Fair (NAMM), 28th June - 2nd July 1964, and could be contacted at the Essex Inn Hotel. Reports in the British music trade press indicate that there was no formal Jennings stand - see this page. One distributor, however, was already in place by the time of Chicago - very probably Zeb Billings in Milwaukee.
So far as one can tell, the arrangement made by Jennings with the Thomas Organ Company in the summer of 1963 extended little further than Jennings's distribution of Thomas organs in the UK. That Tom apparently had not made a deal with Thomas by Spring 1964, when the advert below was issued, is interesting. Presumably the company (primarily a manufacturer of transistor organs for the home and club market) was not regarded intially by JMI as being a good fit. At any rate, all that changed: in late August 1964 it was announced that Thomas would be distributor of Vox in the US.
The text of the ad is below.
A MESSAGE TO THE AMERICAN MUSIC TRADE.
We are British manufacturers of musical merchandise, and in particular, VOX electronic aids to music. Our exportation to 60 countries throughout the world has been steadily consolidated during the past five years, with the exception of the United States.
"You are being invaded" by a series of British performing groups who feature VOX equipment, the forerunners of whom were The Beatles, a group that has made a very strong impact upon the teen-age population of America...And The Beatles will be back in the Fall, for a big cross-country series of engagements.
We are open to negotiate with music firms in the U.S. for distribution of our products throughout the American continent. Those interested and who have the capacity for such distribution should contact me personally.
British promotion could mean hundreds of thousands of dollars being spent this year on VOX musical merchandise. This is an opportunity you cannot afford to miss.
Yours sincerely, TOM W. JENNINGS, Managing Director.
Also posted on the AC50 website updates page. A rough-print picture of Geoff Johnson at the Frankfurt Trade Fair, February 1968. As well as producing around 800 AC50 chassis for JMI under contract (along with other models to boot), Geoff's company, Triumph Electronics, built a number of AC100s in small runs during the course of 1966 and 1967.
By July 1967, however, Triumph had developed its own range of amps, promoting them in the music trade press. Presumably at this point the contract JMI was near its end, if not over. In mid 1968, Triumph began assembling small runs of amps for Jennings - Tom's new business, "Jennings Electronic Industries".
Note the arrangement of the back panels of the Triumph "Silicon" PA unit and the JEI PA 100, below. Thanks to Steve for pics of the former.
Geoff Johnson demonstrating Triumph's strap with built-in preamp at the Frankfurt Fair, February 1968. Rosetti were Triumph's distributors.
Triumph Silicon PA 100, front.
Triumph Silicon PA 100, rear.
Rear panel of a JEI PA 100, last third of 1968.
A new AC100 has come to light - a "100 Watt Amplifier", serial number probably in the 500s. Its chassis no. is 01242; the green TCC capacitors have the date code "WD" = April 1965. The ECC83 is an Amperex with date code "B5K3" = 3rd week of November 1965. Thanks to Mike for the pictures. An entry will be set up on this page in the next few days.
Two photos (made composite) from a set taken by JMI before September 1964 (see also below, entry for 21st Nov.), the one on the left as issued to Paul McCartney in late September / early October 1964; the other a hitherto unknown variant. It seems likely that these were produced in very small numbers - the first perhaps only for McCartney, though a spare or two may have been held "in stock" in case of accidents/insuperable damage. Note that neither has brakes. At some stage, measured "mechanical drawings" of these trolleys must have existed.
JMI trolleys for the AC80/100 bass. Photos taken before September 1964.
Currently for sale in the Netherlands as part of a bundle, a pair of early Line Source 60 column speakers - listed here. Note the band across the front, also on the speakers unveiled for the first time at the Russell Hotel Trade Fair in August 1965.
The column interiors are undivided - ie. there is no "shelf" separating the upper pair of drivers - Fanes, probably from the 1970s - from the lower.
Music trade magazine, September 1965.
An unused JMI design for a T60 or 2x15" bass cabinet trolley. Presumably one of the arrangements envisaged was a two-cab set - an amp on top of one cab and trolley (McCartney style), and a second cab in a trolley of its own. A potential alternative use: - a PA amplifier hidden somewhere out of sight, one cab in a trolley (as below) at one side of the stage, and another cab and trolley at the other side. JMI bass speaker cabinets were often used in PA applications in the sixties.
Photographed autumn 1964.
A late JMI venture into the re-design of the column speaker - probably the LS60 (4x12") - autumn 1967, not however put into production. A similarly angled front can be seen on the Gyrotone IV unit displayed at the Russell Hotel Trade Fair of August 1967. It may be that the revamped column speakers were exhibited there too. The unit pictured below was evidently simply an empty cabinet - photos show that no input socket had been fitted in or on its back panel. These cabinets of complex design (among which also at least three small horn units) are likely to have been run up for JMI by Heslop and Co., a fellow member of the Royston Group.
Photographed autumn 1967.
Detail from a shot of the JMI display, August 1967 - at left the Gyrotone IV, centre right a partial view of one of the horn units..
Local Dartford press, 9th July, 1965, reporting the third large order from Thomas Organ - $4 million dollars' worth of JMI equipment placed at the NAMM show in Chicago. A further order from Thomas followed in June 1966 (also placed at the NAMM show of that year), but thereafter very little.
In 1965, amplifiers formed a substantial part of the Thomas order. By 1966, however, things had moved on - Thomas promoted its own range of solid state amps in preference to the all-valve models bought in from JMI. Its order in '66 was mainly for guitars and other items. Dealers naturally continued to advertise and sell JMI amps throughout 1966 though.
9th July, 1965.
16th November (2)
M usic trade press, February 1964. Not especially easy to read, so a transcript below. The piece has been incorporated on the page on early reports of the AC100.
The amplifiers in view were John and George's new AC50s and Paul's first AC100. Note the description - "specially made in narrow cases for them" - in other words, thin-edged boxes.
"SCREAM DROWNER FOR THE BEATLES. One of the most important pieces of the Beatles luggage when they left for the State was the 'Scream drowner' - extra powerful amplification equipment."
"The group uses Vox amplification, specially made in narrow cases for them. The guitar amplifiers put out 50 watts - and the bass amplifier 100 watts."
"'The Beatles used this amplification equipment in France' said Mr. R. Clark, Sales Manager for Jennings, who manufacture Vox. 'We were horrified when we first heard of the system breakdown while the group was actually appearing. We 'phoned France immediately - and then heard that our equipment was not responsible.'"
"'Now the group has taken the equipment to America - which will be splendid advertising for us.'"
A couple of pieces on the Frankfurt Fair 1965. Both concentrate on the guitar-organ (as ever). The other two items in the "trio" mentioned in the second piece were the new electric piano and the accordion organ.
19th February 1965.
19th February 1965. The "front room" of 119 Dartford Road.
Television footage, perhaps shot on the same day as the photo above, survives of the handing over of the Thomas Organ papers (relating to the second deal of 1964 - $2 million dollars-worth of equipment). The documents are headed "Warwick Electronics Inc.", the company that owned Thomas Organ at the time.
14th November (2)
A detail of the amplifier section in the left-hand picture in the previous entry.
Two early photos of the AC100 SDL, taken before mid October 1964, and very probably in early September as the amp had already been represented in the same form in "Melody Maker" at that point. Note the thick-edged box to amplifier section, the provision of corner protectors all round, and the early trolley with narrow parallel uprights and basket top.
"Melody Maker" magazine, mid September, 1964.
The fire at the West Street Works, Wednesday 1st December, 1965, reported on the front page of the "Dartford Reporter" on Friday 3rd.
The paper stated that "Forty thousand guitars, organs, musical equipment, and amplifiers, including those used by The Beatles on their last trip to America were lost in the fire". The trip in question took place in the second half of August '65 (15th - 31st), the best-known concert on the tour being the one at Shea Stadium. See the amps pictured in the entry for 18th January on this page.
"There was a large consignment of Beatles' type amplifiers for America in the lower floor of the building" said Mr Clark (Reg Clark). "But we don't know at this stage how badly they were affected. A lot of water poured down from the floors above".
The ground floor of the Works can be seen in the entry below for 4th Nov. Whether the AC100s mentioned by Reg were indeed damaged beyond use is not known. If so, there may be gaps in the serial number sequence.
A rough-print picture from one of the local Dartford newspapers, 11th September, 1964 - The Hollies at Gravesend Co-op Hall. At right, a thick-edged small box AC50 (i.e. diamond input variety) on a new AC50 speaker cabinet with trolley; at left, what is likely to be a thin-edged AC80/100 (on a similar cabinet and trolley) - the grille cloth on the front of the amp is three diamonds high. The cloth on thin-edged AC50s is two diamonds and three-fifths high.
Published 11th September 1964.
The week after JMI had been tipped to win the Queen's Award for Industry, mid January 1967, one of the local Dartford newspapers published a double-page spread on the company. Among the pictures printed was a shot of the ground floor of the West Street Works, Erith, reproduced from the negative (though in cropped form) by Jim Elyea in his book on Vox amplifiers.
The paper also gave an overview of the activities that took place on various floors in the Works. Following the fire of December 1965, guitars had been moved back to Dartford Road - but production of the majority of amplifiers and organs, and the finishing of speaker cabinets, remained in Erith, having been moved out only briefly in 1966 to Burndept's Riverside Works so that repairs to the building could be carried out.
In its overview, the paper omitted two things - that amplifiers had been produced on the first floor; and that the top floor, which bore the brunt of the fire's force, was also used for storage.
By the middle of May 1967, the music industry trade press was reporting that JMI had moved its Sales, Publicity, Accounts, and Personnel Departments from Dartford Road into the West Street Works. Guitars remained in Dartford for some unspecified amount of time.
Published late January 1967.