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The North American Guitar Amplifier Museum

National Guitar Amp Museum

The “Wailing Wall” at Invisible Sound/North American Guitar Amplifier Museum has just about every flavor of American and Brit grit (and grind)—from blackface and silverface Fenders to specimens from Ampeg, Sunn, Traynor, Vox, WEM, Tone King, East Amplification, 65 Amps, Budda, Marshall, Selmer, Hiwatt, Mesa/Boogie, JMI, and Orange. Photo by Tina Nachodsky

How did you guys get into the recording and amp-collecting business in the first place?
Dave Nachodsky:
I started out playing bass in bands way back in the ’70s and early ’80s. I kind of fell into recording accidentally—started recording our own stuff, playing with Joe. Then we started recording friends’ bands and other bands. After a year or two had gone by and we hadn’t recorded any of our own stuff, I realized, “This is a recording studio,” and it went from there.

Joe Rinaolo: The studio was actually in the basement of my house. Dave’s brother’s band wanted to record, and they offered us $15 an hour, so we started with that. From there, we started collecting amps. Brett Wilson and the True Tones came in, and they were using vintage amps, so I got the bug there. He got me my first tweed Fender Champ. Guitars were already hitting their market value and amps were just starting to creep up, so we ended up getting quite a few. The rest is history.

So when was this—when did you start collecting amps?
The ’80s. As a bass player, I had an Ampeg SVT and a half SVT [4x10] cabinet, another smaller Ampeg head, and a Music Man head, and Joe had a [Fender] Twin, a Marshall, and a couple of other amps in the basement room where we put the drum kit—and where we separated the laundry! It was a small room, and we had our amps along one of the walls. One day someone said, “Nice collection,” and it was, like, “Oh yeah, I guess so!” People would see that and come to a second session, and they would bring something and say, “This was down in the basement or in a closet.” The tweed Deluxe was that way. There was no tweed on it and someone had shellacked it—right, Joe?

Rinaolo: That was the Vibrolux. It was in his closet and he traded a drum machine for it.

Nachodsky: It hummed and had no tweed, and it probably had a bad speaker. He was, like, “Will you guys give us an hour of studio time for this amp?” So we said sure. At the time, it was 15 or 20 bucks an hour. We got that amp fixed and added it to the lineup along the wall in the little basement.

Rinaolo: We used to do our Saturday trips to Chuck Levin’s Washington Music Center shop, and at the time they had another store, what was that other guitar store?

Nachodsky: American Guitar Center.

Rinaolo: There were all these guitar stores within the same vicinity, so we’d go down and get some Chinese food and hit all these stores. Amps at the time were reasonably priced, so we would jump on quite a bit. I got an old Ampeg V4 with a cabinet for three and a half hours of studio time. At that time, I went to Precision Audio Tailoring to get my amps serviced.

Nachodsky: And you [Jeff] were fixing them all.

Rinaolo: Working out of your house—that’s where we met.

Pining for a plexi? Invisible Sound and the North American Guitar Amplifier Museum have plenty to jumper, including both 50- and 100-watt 1972 Marshall JMP Super Leads (above, sitting atop a Marshall slant 4x12 with Celestion Greenbacks), or a 1965 Marshall JTM 45 Mk II driving a 1970 Marshall 8x10 (below). If you’re looking for a different brand of British brawn, they’ve also got 1976 and 1974 Hiwatt DR-103 heads that you can pummel the mics with via a 1975 Hiwatt SE 4123 4x12 cabinet, or a 1965 Vox AC-50/4 Mk III driving a 1973 Orange 4x12 cabinet (above right). Need pulverizing American metal tones? No prob—plug into the Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Solo head and route it through the Marshall Bass Lead 1960 straight 4x12 with Greenbacks (above right). Photo by Tina Nachodsky

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