1963 Fender 6G7-A Bandmaster

Last of the Oxbloods
1963 Fender 6G7-A Bandmaster
While its pristine condition is stunning, the control layout (with Presence knob), brown panel, and oxblood cloth would seem to date this August build to an earlier time.
1963 Fender Bandmaster 6G7-A
• Preamp tubes: four 7025, two 12AX7
• Output tubes: two 5881/6L6GC
• Rectifier: solid state
• Controls: Normal channel: Volume, Treble, Bass; Vibrato channel: Volume, Treble, Bass, Speed, Intensity; shared: Presence
• Speaker: originally two 12″ Oxford 12M6 or 12L6, upgraded in 1964 to two Fender-issue Utah models
• Output: approximately 40 watts RMS

Those who love vintage amplifiers are often fascinated by little anomalies that present themselves in an otherwise period-correct specimen, and when that amp is a mint-condition sweetheart from the golden age, so much the better.

Finding a 60-year-old guitar amp in near-showroom condition is always a breathtaking experience, but it’s also a surprise when said amp has been in the hands of a member of a major heavy-metal band for the bulk of its existence. Fortunately, owner Richie King never toured this fascinatingly transitional 1963 Fender Showman piggyback set while on the road with his band Sorcery, and used it only briefly in the studio. As such, it’s a veritable time capsule – and another fun example of Fender’s propensity to blur the lines of model evolution in the 1950s and ’60s.

Date-coded 1964, the 12″ Utah speakers were special ordered by (and installed at) ABC Music.

“In 1973 or ’74, I was at ABC Music in Burbank – a great store visited by many pro players, as it was close to studios like Warner Brothers, Disney, NBC, and many independents in the area,” King tells us. “It was a Saturday morning and I was talking with the owner, Paul Lavoe, and his son Jeff, when an older gentlemen came in to sell an amp he had purchased from the store many years earlier. At first, Paul didn’t recall the gentleman, but then he reminded Paul that he had ABC order upgraded speakers shortly after he bought the amp.

“The gentlemen explained that he did not use the amp for guitar, but for singing and amplifying his Cordovox accordion with his band. Paul then remembered and said, ‘Yes, the Bandmaster!’ The gentleman went on to say that at the time he wanted a fuller sound, and Paul then remembered ordering the two 12″ Utah special speakers that were then installed at the store. They’re still in the amp today and are in like-new condition”.

The wrench in the works came, however, when Lavoe explained that ABC Music didn’t deal in used gear. But King was intrigued, so he and the owner headed to the parking lot, where the guy opened his Econoline to reveal a ’63 Bandmaster in near-mint condition.

“The gentleman told me he’d retired from playing about a year after buying the amp because at the time, weddings, parties, and clubs wanted more-current pop music, and age was catching up with him. He said the amp was used on just a few dates before he retired, so it was collecting dust and he could use the money.”

A look inside the chassis not only reveals an entirely original circuit and components, but likely the first view of this stuff since the amp left the factory.

They struck a deal and King took the amp home. Being a bass player, he knew he wouldn’t use it regularly, if at all. A year or two later, he co-founded Sorcery, which recorded several albums and undertook numerous nationwide tours, developing a reputation for bombastic stage shows.

“With all the film, TV, album, and session work I’ve recorded over the years, this amp was only used once I can recall, and that’s when Sorcery recorded our first album in March of 1978 at Warners,” King tells us. “My guitar player, Richard ‘Smokey Huff’ Taylor, and I were talking about the lead parts he was going to lay down the next day. I came up with this crazy idea to take two of my 8×10″ SVT cabinets and lay them down about four feet apart and place a baffle over them, like a speaker tunnel, then place the bandmaster at one end of the tunnel and a microphone at the other end. The sound was amazing! That’s the last time the Bandmaster was played.

The tube chart shows an MH date stamp, indicating August ’63.

“It has never been on the road, and except for that one short drive to Warner, it never left my home. In the 50 years I’ve owned this amp, it may have clocked about 10 hours of use. I don’t think the chassis had been removed until I took it out for these photos.”

As unusual as such minimal use of a vintage amp might be, equally unusual is the format of this blond-Tolex, brown-panel set with oxblood grillecloth. A stamp on the tube chart of this model 6G7-A Bandmaster indicates “MH” for August 1963, and a “3263” stamp inside the chassis also pins its completion to early August (32nd week of 1963). The thing is, most sources indicate Fender stopped shipping Bandmasters with oxblood in April or May of ’63 when the wheat-colored grille came into use. Also, Fender introduced the AA763 circuit to the Bandmaster (and other early blackface models) that July, as the designation indicates (“7” for July, “63” for the year).

“Not a reissue!” The shiny chassis and transformers look like they could have rolled off the assembly line last week.

The company was notorious for using superseded tube charts in the late ’50s and early ’60s, and we’ve certainly seen that practice cause confusion with dating vintage examples. But the AA763 circuit brought several significant design changes, some of which are easily identifiable at a glance, even from the front panel: the complex vibrato effect of the ’60-’63 amps was replaced by a much simpler opto-cell tremolo circuit, and the Presence control and related circuit were eliminated, with Bright switches added instead on each channel. King’s 6G7-A has the complex earlier vibrato circuit, which used two and a half preamp tubes to achieve its near-true-vibrato-like warble, and the Presence control remains among other features of the earlier circuit.

“I believe I could have the last 6G7-A blond Bandmaster with brown panel and oxblood grille!” King tells VG. He is still pampering the amp, which did not make the recent studio jaunt for the recording of Sorcery’s new self-titled album.

Richie King’s prototype B.C. Rich Stealth bass was featured in the November ’08 issue of VG.

This article originally appeared in VG’s September 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

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