Dave Gant’s Amp Collection

Key Collection: Nashville pro Dave Gant fosters an impressive gathering of amps
Dave Gant’s Amp Collection
Photos courtesy Dave Gant.

Dave Gant grew up in Ada, Oklahoma, and while the city of 17,000 will never be confused with Memphis or Nashville in terms of musical impact, it is the birthplace of a handful of noteworthy personalities including country singer Blake Shelton, NFL tight end Jeremy Shockey, and Gant, who when he’s not serving as musical director for now-mostly-retired country superstar Garth Brooks spends time tending to and playing through an impressive collection of guitar amplifiers.

Gant was in his early teens when rock and roll came of age. And being the son of two music teachers – one of whom who bought a lot of new gear – his burgeoning interest was amply fostered, not only in regard to the music, but in the equipment used to make it in the mid 1960s.

“Music was a constant around our house,” said Gant. “My father was a college band director, and he made frequent trips to Jenkins Music in Oklahoma City to buy music and band supplies. Jenkins caught on to the rock thing early, and its guitar room had a wall of Fender, a wall of Vox, and a wall of Kustom. So while dad was buying band equipment, I’d head straight to the guitar room and go wild – especially with the amps! They were fascinating. I’d play with the knobs, look at tubes, and check out speakers. If I got up enough nerve or a salesman saw my enthusiasm, I would turn one on and listen. Not having any guitar knowledge at the time, I would play a Farfisa or Vox organ through an amp and listen in sheer amazement.”

Back:  ’67 Bassman, ’72 Bandmaster Reverb, ’67 Dual Showman ’68 speaker cabinet, ’69 Princeton,  ’75 Quad Reverb, ’71 Deluxe Reverb, ’75 Bassman 10. Front: ’65 Tremolux, ’64 Bassman, ’57 Pro, ’62 Bandmaster, ’67 Pro Reverb.

For a kid like Gant, Jenkins was way better than any candy store. “It was where the love started,” he said. “I’d watch rock-and-roll and country TV shows to get a glimpse of the amps everybody was using – The Beatles with their Voxes, or someone playing a Thomas Organ Vox on ‘American Bandstand.’ Paul Revere and the Raiders were on ‘Happening ’68’ and ‘The Smothers Brothers Show.’ The country shows usually used Fender, Kustom, or Standel.” Along the way, major-act concerts introduced him to the sights and sounds of Marshall, Orange, and other British amps, as well as Ampegs and Acoustics.

When he was 10, Gant started playing viola and piano. While in junior high, he began playing in bands. “If you wanted any attention from chicks, you either played football or played in a rock band,” he laughed. “And I’m no athlete!”

Back (from left) ’72 Sunn Sonaro, ’74 Sunn Concert bass amp, ’76 Sunn Concert and ’74 speaker cabinet,  ’87 Marshall 2203 JCM 800, ’69 Standel Artist, ’75 Acoustic 270 head, ’73 Acoustic 140 with model 106 cabinet, ’78 Acoustic 230 head, ’70 Acoustic 150 head with 104 cabinet. Front: ’68 Gretch Super Bass, ’82 Marshall JCM800 4104, ’65 Standel Custom XV, ’73 Ampeg VT-22.

So it was that Gant spent many hours listening to KOMA-AM and sitting at the piano attempting to lift “Kind of a Drag” and “Light My Fire” on his first instrument – a Farfisa Combo Compact he played through a Silvertone 1485 6×10″ amp. “I bought the organ at a local furniture store called Hudson’s, and the amp at a Sears in Shawnee, Oklahoma,” he said. “They were both repos, and to pay for them I threw newspapers and sold broasted chicken.”

Piano lessons bolstered his continuing musical education, but Gant says the better part of his learning came “by dropping the needle on 45s over and over while lifting parts, maybe slowing the turntable down to 33 every so often.”

Back: ’71 150 Kustom PA cab, ’69 Charcoal 100, ’69 Red 100, ’68 Cascade 200, ’69 Blue 200, ’69 Blue 200 PA.
His first band played junior high dances and parties. “Our drummer was Machine Gun Kelly, the radio deejay, and we used to do a bang-up version of ‘Wipe Out!’” he said. Things took a natural progression from there. “My first road gig was with Ray Wylie Hubbard – one of the original Texas outlaws. And we warmed up for Willie Nelson for six months in 1978.”

The Voxes are a ’66 Vox Super Beatle, ’66 Royal Guardsman, ’66 Buckingham. In front are a 1970 Kustom Black 25, ’69 Gold 100, ’71 Cascade 150, ’71 Blue 150, ’71 Black 150, ’66 Vox Berkley II, ’66 Viscount, ’66 Cambridge Reverb.

Gant then spent 10 years in Los Angeles beginning in 1979, where he was fortunate enough to work with great guitar players including Jerry Cole, Al Bruno, Redd Volkaert, and Pete Anderson. And of course, he was very aware of their rigs. “Al was using a Fender Twin Reverb with a Gibson ES-345; Pete used two blackface Deluxe Reverbs with a tube Echoplex and a 1960 Fender Telecaster; Jerry had a Music Man 65 Leo Fender gave him, along with his ’56 Strat.”

A mid-’80s stint with Reba McIntire’s brother, Pake, had Gant playing in a band with a high-profile opening slot for Reba. But when work began to slow in the late ’80s, he loaded the station wagon one more time and moved to Nashville, where good fortune, it turned out, awaited.

Two prime vintage Standel amps from 1965 – an Artist X and a Custom XV.

“I had one of those ‘right place, right time, right product’ things happen,” he recalled. “Reba’s old bandleader was writing with this new kid named Garth Brooks, and gave him my phone number – this was before he’d released any albums – and I got the gig as his fiddle/keyboard player.”

If you followed pop music in the early 1990s, you need no introduction to the name; Brooks became one of the biggest stars in any genre of the era, selling some 113 million albums in the U.S. –  second only to The Beatles – and releasing six albums that achieved Recording Industry of America (RIAA) diamond status for selling more than 10 million units each while undertaking huge sell-out tours. Being a professional musician at that level offered Gant the opportunity to buy some cool toys. And like so many musicians before him, that sort of freedom got him bit by the “vintage bug.”

Marshall 32203 JCM JCM 800 with matching cabinets. ’66 Vox Super Beatle.

“During a break in touring in ’95, I bought a couple ADAT recorders so I could try my hand at songwriting, and I needed a guitar amp for demos,” he said. “So I bought a ’70s Fender Bassman 10… The obsession was started!

“Thanks to consignment stores, internet sites, and every music and pawn shop I was lucky enough to visit while on tour, the collection has grown,”  he adds. “But I’ve been selective, which has provided bragging rights to a diverse collection. I have tweed, blond, blackface, silverface, and solidstate Fender. I have most colors of Kustom, a complete set of ’66 Thomas Voxes, several Standels, Acoustics, Sunns, Marshalls, Ampeg, Music Man, Gibson, Gretsch, Kay, and Alamo.” All told, he owns more than 60 amps, including a handful of prime Fenders like a ’57 Pro, a ’62 Bandmaster, and a ’64 Bassman.

Fender two-fer; a 1957 narrow-panel Fender Pro and a ’64 Bassman.

For Gant, finding and buying unusual amps is a fun pastime, of course, and he’s firmly of the belief that amps are meant to be heard and that his should have a purpose. “But what?” he asked himself.

“What could I do with a collection of vintage amps? Then it hit me. I live in Nashville – Music City – country stars make music videos. I figured I’d rent my vintage amps for video shoots.”

Kustom klatch; a ’68 Cascade 200 4×10 with JBL speakers, and a ’69 Model 100 in Red Sparkle.

So he composed and mailed fliers, dropped business cards at video-production companies, and started a rental service. And the response has been good. One high-profile video that features his multi-colored Kustom amps is “These Days” by Rascal Flatts.

“Since then, I’ve had another brainstorm. While shopping for a calendar last year, I noticed that all the Beatles, guitar, and Corvette calendars were filled with pictures I’d already seen,” he said. “I wanted something different. I’ve got all these cool amps, why not an amp calendar?”

These days, Gant’s time is occupied running his rental business, looking for vintage amp deals, marketing his new amp calendar, and playing gigs, including the ocassional Garth gig, with Gordon Kennedy or Johnny Garcia, who plays guitar for Brooks’ wife, Trisha Yearwood.

So it has gone for the keyboard player whose fascination with guitar amplifiers began as a child, then played a role in leading him down a musical path in life, and in the years since has caused him to occasionally sleep with an amp in a bunk aboard a tour bus!

This article originally appeared in VG’s March 2009 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.

No posts to display