Guitar Amps - The "PRO" Years...


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In 1995, I attended my first NAMM convention...

(which stands for "National Association of Music Merchants")

As some musicians already know, this is a virtual "candy store" of guitars, keyboards,

amps and drums, as well as everything else that could possibly be associated with music. Usually, artists who have endorsements with certain product manufacturers

will appear at their booth and demonstrate their products, but companies

mostly utilize the NAMM convention to introduce new items and innovations.



Outside the 2009 NAMM Convention at

the Anaheim Convention Center.




An inside view of the convention center,

although it's usually much more crowded.




You're sure to run into dozens of artists like

Peter Gabriel/King Crimson bassist Tony Levin

seen here at the Ernie Ball strings booth.




There are hundreds of elaborate displays

like this wall of Orange Amps.





That's me hanging around the

Daisy Rock Girl Guitars

booth trying to get an endorsement.


Good friend and guitarist Alistair Greene

leans on an actual London routemaster bus

that was brought over for "Ashdown" amps.





Tech 21/Sansamp NYC


At one of the NAMM shows, I performed with John Entwistle

and keyboardist Jack Hotop from KORG at the "Pulse" bar which was a decent sized club in the Hilton Hotel just outside the convention center. It was an evening show in collaboration with Cakewalk Music Software and Tech 21. When I arrived for sound check, Tech 21's artist rep, Lloyd Schwartz assisted me with my rig. Basically, I was going to be playing through a rack mount pre-amp running directly into the PA system with a wedge monitor as my only source to hear my guitar. I have to admit I wasn't very thrilled about this prospect. Lloyd said, "First, let's find you a good sound within the 50 presets in the unit.

" We scrolled from "00", (which is a bypass preset) up to "01", the very first preset (which is a Marshall Plexi). I played a few power chords and a riff or two and said, "That's fine."

Lloyd Schwartz/Tech 21




Sansamp PSA-1 Preamp


Tech 21 Trademark 60

This was another pretty neat combo amp.

It had the versatility of a Sansamp preamp

built-in to the compact size of a combo.

Special thanks to B. Andrew Varta and

good buddy Lloyd Schwartz.

I've had this unit for over 10 years...I've done most of my

recording using this unit in combination with the Alesis Quadraverb. Believe it or not, EVERY guitar track on

my CD was recorded with this preamp and my red PRS.

I've never used it live. John Entwistle actually had one of

these in his bass rig rack.



In January, 1996 I became a member of John Entwistle's touring and recording band...

We toured the United States and Canada and recorded at his home in England.

I consider this the start of my "Pro" years.



On tour with The John Entwistle Band 1996-2001


Before the first tour with Entwistle, I attended the NAMM convention with him in January of 1996.

While walking around the exhibition halls and looking at all the different companies of amp manufacturers,

John asked me what kind of amps would I want to use for the tour. My first choice was Marshall,

and off to the Marshall booth we went. When we got there, Slash from Guns And Roses was appearing and

the place was a madhouse. After waiting quite a while for someone to help us, John lost his patience and

said, "Follow me...". He took me to the Hiwatt booth and quickly arranged for 2 Hiwatt stacks to be delivered

to my door. I used them for part of the tour and ended up returning them as they were just too clean for me.

I can remember doing a photo shoot with them onstage before our show at the House Of Blues in Los Angeles

with famous rock photographer Neil Zlozower (...then the Hiwatt people came and took them away).


Entwistle had his own endorsement with Trace Elliot and used several of their power amps in his rack.

Once he found out that I wasn't happy with the Hiwatt stuff, he arranged for me to get 2 stacks of Trace gear.

More specifically...

(2) Bonneville 100 Watt Tube heads

(4) 4 x 12 speaker cabinets

We later added (2) Speed Twin 100 Watt Tube heads


TRACE ELLIOT Bonneville/Speed Twin Heads



Above, you can see all four heads stacked in the middle of the stacks of cabinets.

On the far right stack, you can also see the Eventide Harmonizer and Korg tuner in the rack.

This photo was taken from the "Left For Live" CD insert. (photo: Terry McBride)





Trace made a great "tube" head that sounded pretty warm and came very close to that "Marshall" crunch.

They blew up alot on the road because, according to my guitar tech, Joe Lancia (who was also an electrical wiz), there was a certain flaw in the design concerning the tube sockets, circuitry and heat sinks. Besides that, we later discovered that the heads were being packed away in my guitar coffin roadcase properly horizontal, but then, for lack of room in the truck, the case was then tipped up onto it's side. Consequently, the heads would be traveling down the road on their sides with the tubes practically being rattled out of their sockets.








Some promo shots for Trace Elliot taken at John Entwistle's Quarwood Estate in

The Cotswolds, England. The stratocaster belonged to John and it was a '58 or '59

that he had refinished in "Fiesta Red". In his guitar collection book, "Bass Culture",

he refers to it as a "hire" strat that worked for a living in his recording studio.








Line 6 Flextone II HD


This head deserves a lot of's been my

main provider of tone for the past 10 years...

Most snobby "purists" would say YUK...but,

I've gotten numerous compliments over the years

at how good my Line 6 sound is. Even though there

are 32 different amp "models" available, my main

sound has always been a Marshall tone.

Needless to say, I mostly used the Brit Hi Gain preset which is modeled after a 1990 Marshall

JCM 800. Another important feature of  Line 6 is the convenience of having built-in "tweak-able" stereo effects as well as a pedal board controller with a built-in tuner, boost control and separate wah and volume pedals.






On 2001's "A Walk Down Abbey Road" tour,

here is a photo of my main and spare Flextone II HD

heads which I ran through a Trace Elliot 4 x 12 cab.

I NEVER had to use the spare.



On 2002's "AWDAR" tour, I'm using the same rig,

except we never even bothered to stack the spare head.

Notice down front Jack Bruce's Gibson EB-1 bass and Hartke rig as well as Todd Rundgren's "Fool" copy

on the far right.






On the same night as the Concert For New York City,

October 20, 2001...John also played with us at BB King's.

In this photo, you can see one of the Line 6 heads and

a Trace Elliot cab on top of a roadcase.

(also, see below)




When we visited the Peavey factory/showroom in Meridian,

Mississippi they gave me 2 stacks of 5150 amps and we also

got an extra speaker stack (far left) and separate Peavey power amp to keep on Entwistle's side of the stage so he could hear me.





Same night as the above photo at BB's... this photo, you can see the

2nd Line 6 head sitting on top of one of the

Peavey cabs which I kept and still have.




I've since painted the metal grille on the Peavey

cabinet with a "Union Jack" flag in memory of John.








In 2003, I got a pair of Line 6 4 x 12 cabinets...

they came equipped with Celestion speakers.

They sound great and are built very sturdy so,

they weigh a ton.


And more Line 6 gear...




Line 6 POD 2.0

When I started touring worldwide with Alan Parsons in 2003, I would often discover that the Line 6 amps were not available with most rental companies, in which case I would have a loan of Alan's POD and run it into whatever amp was provided for me. It was also compatible with the same pedal board controller that I use with the Flextone II head. The only drag was fitting it all into my suitcase.

(until I got the padded carry case)






Line 6 POD XT Live

A very convenient piece of gear to have...

A POD and pedal board all in one.

Rugged construction and padded carry case.







And the latest addition to the fam...



Line 6

Spider Valve HD100

Tube amp design by Bogner






Larry Hartke has been a buddy of mine since

I met him at my first NAMM convention in 1996.

I was there with John Entwistle.

Larry and some of his staff would join us

every night for the after show hang. He and John got

along famously. He soon started sending me prototype

guitar cabs to check out. He also gave me a pair of 

410 XL bass cabinets used on tour by Tom Hamilton

of Aerosmith for my son. He's since sold the company

to Samson Technologies, where Scott Goodman and

Fred Giovanelli continue to provide me with some

great gear.



Larry and I at a guitar show in 1996.

Hartke 4 x 12 Guitar Cabinets


Hartke GH412A

These cabinets are loaded with four 12"

Celestion speakers. They are also stereo/mono

switchable, and weigh almost half the amount

of a normal 4 x 12 cab. I left an angle cabinet

like this at BB King's to save me the schlepp.





Hartke GH412S

I've used this straight cabinet along with a

Line 6 Flextone II head on most of the

local gigs I've done in the past few years.

The lightweight transport is a favorable

aspect. And with four 12" Celestions...





Hartke 410 XL Bass Cabinet

My son uses a pair of these cabs

with his Hartke 3500 head.


Hartke G15R

This 15 watt guitar combo lives on my

guitar work bench at home.






Smokey Amps

Another convenient piece of gear to have...

The first time I went over to John Entwistle's house, his girlfriend Lisa

asked me what brand of cigarettes I smoked. (back when I still smoked)

I told her, and she went off and came back with this little battery

operated amplifier that was housed in an empty cigarette box

and said, "Here, John wanted you to have one of these."

It was incredible sounding...the perfect little practice amp.

It even has an extension speaker output that can actually drive

a 4 x 12 guitar cabinet at a decent volume.

At the recent NAMM show, I picked up a "newer" version

(the Supro) housed in a tough plastic case.





Some brand new gear I recently got from Dennis Marturano and Tom Concorde at...

Cicognani Guitar & Bass amps



Cicognani Imperium C50 Combo



Cicognani Imperium H50 Head

& Imperium 212 Cabinet


Cicognani Dragon Club Combo








127 preset midi footswitch


Brutus Live amp head & 2 x 12 cabinet


Dragon Tube Distortion Pedal







Kitty Hawk combo

Gibson Goldtone

(2) Peavey 5150 Stacks

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