Thomas Organ: Chicago and Sepulveda

Notes on Vox in the USA, particularly California - the months following the deal that Jennings signed with Thomas Organ in London, late August 1964 - the "Million Dollar" deal. For the picture commemorating the signing, .

The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, 23rd August, 1964. Some at least will have taken note of the Vox AC100s on stage, either from the audience or on a filmed news clip. The performance pre-dated the deal struck in London by a few days.

In late 1964, the Thomas Organ Company had two principal bases: one to the north west of Chicago (the "Studios" in the Golf Mill Shopping Center), and one in Sepulveda, north Los Angeles. The latter was the Engineering Headquarters of Warwick Electronics Inc., the company that owned Thomas.

For more on Warwick Electronics see this .

Following the deal signed in London in late August '64, it seems that Jennings initially shipped consignments of equipment to Chicago. These arrived by 17th September - contemporary notice .

Sepulveda, however, probably received its shipment direct from England in October.

Painted aerial view of north Los Angeles - Sepulveda, Van Nuys, Van Nuys Airport ("Metropolitan Airport"), and the San Fernando valley.

"San Francisco Examiner", 13th October, 1964. Vox Guitars at Angelo's House of Music, 960 Geneva Avenue, San Francisco.

"Keys to Music" in Van Nuys, initially advertises guitars only (13th Nov.), then by the end of the month guitars and amplifiers - one of the first ads for Vox amplifiers in California. Van Nuys is just under four miles south of Sepulveda.

"Valley News (Van Nuys)", 13th November, 1964. Keys to Music.

"Valley News (Van Nuys)", 29th November 1964.

"Valley News (Van Nuys)", 11th December 1964. This, to date, is the earliest instance of this particular advert (reprinted in Valley News on the 13th) but NOT the earliest dateable ad. for Vox in the USA that has so far come to light (as previously supposed).

"Valley News", 16th November, 1967. It is difficult to make sense of the street numbers given. 6251 Van Nuys Boulevard is actually the address noted in the advert from 1964.

Below, the same advert, but this time (13th December 1964) for Killeen Music in Burbank:

"Valley News (Van Nuys)", 13th December 1964, advert placed by Killeen Music, San Fernando Boulevard, Burbank, a short distance to the west of the Thomas Organ / Warwick Electronics facility in Sepulveda.

A copy of the "Million Dollar Sound" catalogue was issued to the store in late 1964:

In the upper picture on the left, the front cover of "The Million Dollar Sound" catalogue issued to Killeen. The other two are the later (autumn 1965) "King of the Beat" catalogue. Pictures of the "Million Dollar Sound" cat. from a different copy .

The store sign of Killeen Music, Burbank, caught in 1968.

Above, a short piece in the "Oxnard Press Courier", 2nd March, 1965. The Vox van! - bringing promotional equipment from Sepulveda. Marv Kaiser was involved in promoting Vox at the "Battle of the Beat" at the Hollywood Palladium and the "Battle of the Bands" in San Mateo - .

But to return to Van Nuys, "Keys to Music" had been founded by two men: Charles Strong (named in the piece above) and Wayne Mitchell, who went on to turn the "Organ Center" at 7501 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, into the "Guitar Center". The "Guitar Center" later moved to 7425 Sunset. 7501 became "Whalin's Sound City" thereafter, owned and run by George Whalin.

It is often said that the "Organ Center" became the "Vox Guitar Center" in late '64, and only after that the "Guitar Center" - but no reference or contemporary source is cited.

If one goes through the California newspapers, however, no sign of a "Vox Guitar Center" comes to light. On 20th November 1967, the store at 7501 Sunset was still the "Organ Center". It is the "Guitar Center" by 20th January 1968, the arrival of new stock being recorded on this day.

LA Times, 10th November 1967, still the Organ Center, 7501 Sunset

"LA Times", 10th November, 1967. Still the Organ Center at 7501 Sunset.

"LA Times", 20th January 1968, the new Guitar Center.

"Vox Guitar Center" may therefore simply have been a colloquial name for the store, which does not seem to have been set up as a Vox dealership early on - i.e. not in 1964. Around 1967 is much more likely.

Below, a version of the Van Nuys advert, promoting Vox in further Californian stores. If Sepulveda supplied "Keys to Music" first, the others mentioned cannot have been far behind.

Advert from "KRLA Beat" issued 23rd December 1964

BURBANK: Killeen's Music.

SAN BERNARDINO: Colton Piano Co.

BUENA PARK: Kay Kalie Music.

SANTA FE SPRINGS: Kay Kalie Music.

VAN NUYS: Keys to Music.

ALHAMBRA: Pedrini Inc.

RIVERSIDE: Colton Piano Co.

LANCASTER: Lancaster Music.

COLTON: Colton Piano Co.

ONTARIO: Harris Music.

POMONA: Harris Music.

Phinney-Hale's Vox Hall, 1965

"Oxnard Press Courier", 4th June, 1965. The opening of the Phinney Hale "Vox Hall" - Wagon Wheel Junction. Behind the Tradewinds Restaurant.

Oxnard, Wagon Wheel Junction, The Trade Winds restaurant

Oxnard, Wagon Wheel Junction, The Trade Winds restaurant.

Ten Californian Vox dealers in 1966

Cash Box magazine, 9th April, 1966

"Cash Box" magazine, 9th April, 1966.