Monday, July 30, 2012

A 12+10 Version of the Mission Chicago Amp

Last night at Ziggies Famous Blues Jam Bruce Collins -- the master amp builder from Mission Amps -- brought in his latest creation: A new version of the great Chicago 32-20 amp but with two speakers, a 12- and 10-inch. Several harp players blew through the amp and it sounded sick. Phat warm tone with good cut. I want one...

Contact Bruce Collins at 

12-inch Eminence Cannabis Rex speaker with hemp cone, and a Jensen alnico 10-inch speaker.

NOTE:  The jammer playing the amp is not an owner or endorser.  He played the amp because it was available and he graciously allowed me to video his performance.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Silver Bullet

Shure 440SL shell with 99B86 element (June of 1959) and vintage volume control from Greg Huemann at  My new "go to" mic.

Last Night at the Toad Tavern

I'm playing the Bassman, and a bullet mic with Shure CM element.

Rock Block

I heard a harp player using this rig on stage recently:  A Rock Block guitar pedal/amp and a little Crate cab with an 8-inch Jensen ceramic speaker.  The pedal puts out 1 watt of power, so micing it up in the big club was a must.

How did it sound?  Like a swarm of angry bees.  Inside a metal drum.  I'm sure the pedal works very well for what it is intended (guitar distortion) but it was very buzzy and nasal as a harp rig.  That little Jensen speaker could not have helped much.

The guy using this rig played well enough, and the crowd seemed to enjoy it.   And ya know...  That's all that really counts.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Vintage Magnatone Amp

Al Chesis & Nic Clark in the Colorado Blues Society's International Blues Challenge competition for solo and duo acts.  Nic is playing through a vintage Maganatone 415 amp - four 8-inch speakers, about 18 watts, octal preamp, monster tone.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

My Amps

My modest collection of harp amps (as of today, anyway).  Clockwise from lower left:  1970 Fender Champ, 6 watts;  1953 Masco ME-18, 20 watts; 1991 Fender Bassman Reissue, 45 watts, Mission Chicago 32-20, 32 watts (in fixed bias mode).  I think I have all the bases covered.

The order I acquired the amps is Champ, Masco, Mission, Bassman.  Through the years I've had maybe two dozen harp amps, but these are the ones I hung with over time.  The first harp amp I paid money for was an Ampeg B-15N flip-top full stack (used, in 1979); the most recent is the Bassman.

I cannot help myself -- All of them have been modified for blues harp except the Mission which is a custom built amp.  When I bought that first Ampeg-- and many amps that followed -- I was frustrated by the tone and didn't have the foggiest idea how to improve it.  And, I couldn't find anybody else who had a clue either.  So I dug in and figured it out myself.  The quest for tone can be a cruel mistress, but the payoff is sweet.  NOTHING sounds like a good player blowing though a great amp.  Y'all know exactly what I mean.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Harp Mic Project

This is a great sounding Shure CM element from 1959.  I've had it for years and I'm looking for a mic shell to put it in, maybe a JT-30.  I'll be adding more details about this as the project progresses.  In the meantime, let me know if you have any suggestions.

I won an eBay auction for a Shure 440SL mic shell, which is probably what this element came out of.  So, it will all be period correct, for whatever that is worth.

I've never owned a vintage Shure bullet mic, so when I saw the 440 "Silver Bullet" shell on eBay I decided to go that way.  It is already machined and threaded for a Switchcraft 2501MP screw-on connector.  I need to see about putting an on/off micro-switch on it somewhere.


The mic shell arrived.  Looks great!  The small hole in the bottom is filled with epoxy and there is a grounding lug on the inside of the shell.  I've ordered gasket and the 2501MP connector.


The harp mic project is coming along. Lower left is the gasket to hold the vintage Shure CM element. Next to it is the Switchcraft 2501MP screw-on cable connector. Now I need to decide between a simple on/off switch and a volume control.


Assembled and tested.  Sounds great!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Pedaltrain Jr. Pedal Board

At the blues jam I host on Sundays at Ziggies in Denver, some schmo dumped a full glass of beer into my pedal board and didn’t bother to tell me about it.  When I got up to play the last set my pedals were a sticky mess and the wireless was cutting out.

The pedal board I was using was the Boss BCB-60, a big plastic clamshell case with foam in the bottom. The pedals just sat there marinating in the beer all night.  (Yes, I know it was a mistake to leave it there.  Lesson learned.)

I had a complaint about the big Boss board:  It took up too much stage real estate.  So after the beer douche episode I decided to order the Pedaltrain Junior pedal board with the soft case; about $100.

This is better.  It is more compact and takes up less space.  The soft case is easy to carry and has a pouch for cables and stuff.  And any liquid spilled on the pedals will drain off.  The Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2+ power supply mounts up under the board, out of the way.

In the photo above the board is sitting in the open soft case, but on stage I remove it from the case and put it next to my amp.  Anybody wanna buy a used Boss BCB-60 pedal board, complete with Roland power supply and patch cables?  Smells slightly of beer.  Make offer.