This reverb-equipped Airline amp was a Danelectro-made sister to the Res-O-Glas Airline guitars favored by a lineage of nasty players from bluesman J.B. Hutto to Jack White. They’re not loud, but they’re vicious—especially with humbuckers.

Airline 9013

This Airline 9013 was sold through Montgomery Ward department store catalogs and is another example of an amp that was made under several brand names. This killer little amplifier, which chugs along at about 15 watts, first appeared in 1962 and was made in New Jersey by Danelectro. The president, founder, and sole owner of the company in those days was Nat Daniel, and man, the guy was just an incredible innovator who knew how to get amps and guitars into the hands of kids all over the U.S.

The 9013 was promoted in advertisements as a “Regular Amplifier” that sat in the lower price range of $70. Interestingly, the more expensive “Professional” Airline amps were made by Valco. The circuit of the 9013 is essentially identical to the Danelectro-made Silvertone 1482 amp (with the vertical control panel) sold through Sears.

To keep costs down, Danelectro used some sort of pressed paper or particleboard for the cabinet construction. Basically, these amps don’t travel very well and you definitely don’t want to spill your drink on one of them. But the benefit of these cabinets is the entire amp only weighs around 26 pounds.

The amp runs on a pair of 6V6 power tubes and the deep, pulsating tremolo goes through a 6AU6, which creates a lovely effect. This was one of the first amps I ever fell in love with, and although it doesn’t create room-shaking volume, what it does create is a fantastic overdrive that I’ve used in lieu of an effects pedal.

Seriously, just run an A/B box between this and your main amplifier and you have a 26-pound overdrive that will be more authentic than any pedal you can muster up. Also, these amps feature four inputs so you can jump channels using a short pedal cable for even more aggressive tones. These came with decent speakers, usually Jensen or Fisher models, and they provide a truly authentic vintage tone. Think Chicago blues, circa 1965.

Longtime amp tech Ernie McKibben pointed out that many of the Danelectro amps were voiced for lower-output single-coil pickups, which explains why these amps have so much crunch with humbuckers and mini-humbuckers. In fact, thinking about an amp’s original design and intention can force you to consider guitar and pickup choices, and open up new avenues in your playing.