The mid-’60s Baldwin C1 combo is similar to the S1 believed to be favored by Willie Nelson for decades now. Lukas Nelson uses the same model when performing with his father.

The Baldwin Connection

Lukas Nelson’s main amp since the Something Real sessions about a year and a half ago is a stock Magnatone Twilighter (a design by Obeid Khan and consultant Larry Cragg—Neil Young's longtime guitar tech—that was introduced under the newly revived brand back in 2013). But when Lukas plays in his father Willie Nelson’s band, he prefers to use the same amp as his dad, a Baldwin.

Never heard of it?

In the mid 1960s, Baldwin, the piano and organ manufacturer, jumped into the guitar market. The company purchased Burns London, Jim Burns’ struggling London-based guitar outfit, and began building amps as well (by decade’s end Baldwin would also own Gretsch). In the late ’60s, Baldwin introduced the Model 801 CP Contemporary Classic—an electric nylon-string with a ceramic Prismatone pickup that ran underneath the strings on the guitar’s bridge—and this guitar was advertised alongside an accompanying amp. Willie Nelson owned and used both, though after the guitar was reportedly stepped on by a drunken fan decades ago, Willie had its Prismatone pickup installed in the iconic Martin N-20, nicknamed Trigger, that he’s been using ever since. He never stopped using the amp.

Willie’s Baldwin combo is most likely the Model S1, the Slave, a solid-state affair that maxes out at 100 watts and has both a 12" and 15" speaker. As he told Frets magazine in December 1984, “[I use] a Baldwin amp with a Martin classical guitar—which is kind of a bastard situation. I’ve tried other combinations, and I don’t get the same sound that I do with this one, which was really accidental … I’ve never changed it. I’ve tried to keep everything exactly the same … Each time I come across a used Baldwin amp, I try to buy it so I can use the parts for replacements on this one. I’ve got a couple of them.”

Most Baldwin models, in addition to standard EQ, volume, reverb, and tremolo controls, featured a groovy color-coded Supersound circuit. As Zachary Fjestad described the circuit in the July 2009 PG, “These were basically preset EQ settings for treble, mid I, mid II, bass, and mix. A three-way toggle switch allowed the user to switch between normal operation, Supersound operation, and dual operation. All of these effects could be switched while in operation, and according to Baldwin’s factory catalog, ‘Hear it, and you might think it’s a happening.’ Whatever that means!”

Willie and Lukas Nelson aren’t the only Baldwin users. Neil Young has one as well, although his model is the Exterminator—a 250-watt solid-state monster with two 15", two 12", and two 7" speakers. Yikes!