Scaling down the gear

For years and years, my badass #1 amp was a 1959 Fender Bassman reissue (that’s it on the right). It could fill big rooms, it could play quietly enough for small rooms, it gave me almost no trouble and it weighed a goddamn ton. And over the years, it became too much amp for most of the rooms I play, and the ones that were big enough to justify it almost always used a house PA with a sound man. And every year I got older, the Bassman got heavier.

So I sold it, and Teresita (also pictured here on the left) became my #1. But even she — a knockoff of a late 1950s Fender Deluxe — was too big. I still have her and will keep her forever, but I also picked up a low-watt Traynor head that can be scaled all the way down to two watts if I need it.

Recently, I picked up a blackface Fender Champ — a practice amp of the mid-1960s that has legendary status, but it’s still a tiny little thing with an eight-inch speaker. And yet, it’s now the amp I’m using for a good 70 percent of my gigs. It’s great in small rooms, it sounds fantastic mic’d in big spaces (I played it at an outdoor gig in front of hundreds of people last week) and after I recapped it and replaced the on/off switch, it’s pretty much bullet-proof. And even *it* is too loud for some of the rooms I play; the Traynor, which has a drive/volume control setup, does a better job of providing thick tone at low volume. But once you get to ‘5’ on the volume control of the Champ, BOOM.

So now, my top amp is a 50-year-old super-simple practice model, not a massive volume-driving beast. That sort of tracks my overall musical evolution, and I’ve probably never been happier with my tone than I am these days.


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