They're old, they're cheap, they're dusty—and they rock! Dig these pawnshop beauties by Airline, Teisco, Yamaha, Harmony, Ace Tone, Hohner, and McKinney.
A few years ago, I saw a video clip of Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic describing his relationship with Kurt Cobain. In the clip, Krist talked about searching pawnshops for left-handed guitars for Kurt. Krist said every time Kurt was able to find a new guitar, he became infatuated with it, and his obsession with his new instrument would spawn 10 new songs. It didn’t matter what kind of guitar it was, as long as it was affordable and playable.
I like this story because I’ve often felt that way about amps. To my mind, guitar amplifiers are instruments, just like guitars, and each amp offers a voice and soul that contains a handful of songs to be mined.
If you can somehow avoid name recognition or snobbery, there may be a ton of good old amps to be found and probably a ton of songs to be written. To find sleeper amps, you need to venture into old shops and look for gear that has been there so long it’s become part of the store’s décor. You have to go second- and third-level thinking here: Think about miking smaller, low-powered amps, and think about pairing two amps via a switching box. And finally, don’t rely on the opinions of others. Use your own ears and create that noise! Here are seven nearly forgotten models worthy of that cause.