Thursday, June 25, 2009

Kendrick Texas Crude harp amp

In a long and rambling post on Harp-L a few days ago, Gary Onofrio -- who calls himself Sonny Jr. -- had this to say: "Kendrick ripped off tons of harp players with his Texas Crude."

Whoa! That is pretty strong stuff from a guy who gets so angry when his own products are critiqued.

I'm here to stand up for the Kendrick Texas Crude amp. I've played both early and recent examples and they are outstanding harp amps. Great tone and crunch. You can lean into them to get some hair on the notes. Wonderful warm, horn-like tones. Very feedback resistant. What is Onofrio talking about?

Harp-L members have praised the Texas Crude amp: Here and Here.

Paul Orta, a good Texas harp player who gets tremendous tone, helped Kendrick design the amp in the mid-90s. It is interesting to note that the original name for the amp was the Kendrick Texas Crude Sonny Boy, before Onofrio had ever sold a "Sonny Jr." amp.

I doubt Gerald Weber of Kendrick Amps "ripped off" anybody. He seems like an extremely straight shooter to me, and he's been in business a long time on the strength of his reputation. I'll ask him about this...

UPDATE: Response from Gerald Weber at Kendrick Amplifiers-

Dear Rick,

Thanks for your most kind and thoughtful email. The link to that libelous post had already been brought to my attention in emails received from Kendrick Amp users. I have seen this childish behavior from competitors quite a bit in my 39 years of running successful businesses. Our sales are obviously killing them. When you are successful, there will always be someone that feels threatened by it. The simple truth: I have been building the Texas Crude Harp Amp exactly the same way now since 1993, when it was initially introduced to the world as the first Harp Amp.

We have sold well over 1,000 units and sales are still strong. As I write this email, 2 Texas Crude Harp amps are on my shipping dock, awaiting shipment to their lucky owners and another order came in yesterday for one. Another truth: We haven't spent a dime in advertising these amps in over 15 years. The word-of-mouth advertising reached its critical mass as a self-fulfilling cycle. So our orders come from people that hear the Texas Crude Amp somewhere and want to own one for themselves, or they have a friend that owns one and recommends it.

Nuff Sed!

Kindest Personal Regards,
Gerald Weber
(512) 932 3130

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Charlie Musselwhite at the Greeley Blues Jam

I headed up North this afternoon to catch Charlie Musselwhite's set at the Blues Jam, Greeley's summer blues festival. Charlie's tone was superb; huge and rich.

He was playing through an unmodified Fender Red Knob Twin amp, known as the Evil Twin. Musselwhite used the same model amp to record his recent album "Delta Hardware." The amp is a high gain beast; a super loud guitar amp that just does not seem like a good choice for harp. But Charlie is, well... Charlie. He gets good tone with anything.

He opened his set with the song River Hip Mama, which happens to be the same song my band Roadhouse Joe opens every show with. Standing 20 feet in front of Charlie Musselwhite and listening to him play that song was thrilling and inspiring. His encore at the end was Christo Redentor. Everything in between was a clinic in third and fourth position harp mastery.

The picture above was taken tonight with my cellular phone, so the quality is not first rate. However, it clearly shows the Fender Evil Twin amp.

UPDATE: Gary Onofrio, the maker of the "Sonny Jr." harp amps, claims Charlie Musselwhite as an endorser of his products. He explains on Harp-L that Musselwhite uses different amps only when "he has to fly." I checked with the organizers of the Greeley Blues Jam and found that Charlie Musselwhite specifically requested the Fender Red Knob Twin amp OR Sonny Jr. Cruncher weeks before the event.

UPDATE 2: Here are some photos taken at the Blues Jam by blues bass man Pierre Allard:

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Fender Blues Junior revisited

I’ve had a couple of close encounters recently with Fender Blues Juniors used as harp amps and I was impressed enough that it warrants a blog update. As many of you know, I have been skeptical of the BJr in the past because its high gain guitarish nature makes it unsuitable for the kind of crunchy harp tone I like. Also, newer amps powered by EL84 tubes don’t produce the tone I prefer.

A friend who is a beginner at amped playing asked me to help set up his BJr. The only mod we made was trying a 5751 in place of the 12AX7 tube in the preamp socket. We fiddled with the controls and got a very satisfying tone with these settings:

-FAT switch Off (It is evil for harp)
-Volume on 50 percent.
-Bass dimed
-Mids rolled off a bit, say 40 percent
-Treble rolled off all the way
-A little reverb, maybe on 2
-Master control is used to set the amp’s loudness.

The tone was surprisingly good and feedback resistant. There was plenty of volume. While the tone was not as crunchy and organic as I like, I would totally gig this amp with no problems. It is worth noting that it sounded a lot better with my gig mic – a Greg Heumann modded Peavey Cherry Bomb bullet mic with Shure CM element – than it did with another bullet mic I tried. The Cherry Bomb has a deeper tone due to it’s bigger cavity, thereby ameliorating some of the BJr’s brightness.

The next step for this amp is a 12DW7 tube in the phase inverter socket to give it slightly more grit. I’ll report on the results.

The other Fender Blues Junior I tried belongs to Victor, a guy known to many harp players around Denver and across the country. I played his BJr at the Boulder Outlook blues jam last week. He has modified the amp in ways I can’t completely describe, telling me it has a new gain stage. I know it has stock tubes and speaker. It sounded great, with more body and thickness than your standard BJr. When Victor played it with his EV RE-10 mic it was clean and pleasing. When I played it I found it needed a bit of pushing to get it to tip into warm distortion, but it was all very controllable and nice.

If you want details, ask Victor. He is also a first rate harp tech. He replaced a blown reed in my Hohner Marine Band Deluxe harp in A, and chamfered, arced, embossed, and tuned the harp. It is the best-sounding, nicest playing harp in my collection. Victor is an artist.

UPDATE: Here is a clip of Colorado blues harp player Mojo Red playing through a Blues Junior with his band TeraBlue. He retubed his amp using JJ tubes (12AY7 in V1; 12DW7 in phase inverter socket) and swapped in a Weber 12A100 smooth cone alnico speaker. Nice tone!