Stalking the Wild Premier - November 2004

This has been a great week for me as far harp amps go. I have loved Premier amps from the first time that I ever saw one and I have collected a dozen over the past few years. Since I started the HarpAmps.com web page with its taxonomy of premier amps, Premiers are recognized as a major Harmonica Amplifier and the prices have sharply increased. I see Twin-8's go for $500 and up. Model 90s which used to go for $35 at guitar shows are up as high as $300. Since you could build a new one for under $100, I find this a little silly.

Last Friday, I received in the mail the guts of Premier Model 88N that I purchased on eBay for under $20. It appears to be in excellent shape and even has all but one of the premier catalin knobs. Premier made several versions of this amp. There is a layout diagram of the 6SN7 version (model 88 - no N) of the amp under the schematics section on my site, but they also made a 12AX7 (88n) version, which is the one I bought. Both of these amps have 4 6V6 tubes that are hooked up push-pull with two to each side. This makes them about 50% more powerful than a normal Bassman type layout with 6L6's and it takes advantage of the nicer tone of the 6V6 tubes.

My first task with the 88N chassis is to build a semi-cabinet for it so that I can manipulate it more easily. I need to power it up under a variac, check voltages, and see what needs to be done. I don't want to stick my fingers around the metal chassis to work on it and, since it is a two part amp, I want to hold still when I work on it. I will build a wooden box out of shelving with the front and back open, exposing the controls and the guts. I want to do this in such a way that when I build the permanent cabinet that it will accept the chassis box in a "plug and play" sort of arrangement.

If the transformers are in good shape and after I recap it, I want to make the final cabinet. I don't know the impedance of output transformer, so I will try to measure that and select speakers to fit. I would like a 4-10 design or twin-12 for this. Originally it looks like it was a 12 inch and a smaller (8 or 10) speaker designed to be placed on either side of the stage. The output transformer looks very small and I might have to put a larger transformer in it. This will keep me busy on cold January nights.

Saturday, I went to the Fall Philly Guitar Show, which is actually in Fort Washington, a Philly suburb. This show is a huge show with mostly high-end guitars that is held in the Spring and Fall. I always manage to find some piece of junk hidden under the tables and I have documented it a couple of times before. I remembered to bring my camera so here are some sampled of what the show is about. The prices were higher than I ever remember, which is a good sign that the Dollar is doing poorly, and investors are returning to putting their money back into collectables until the coming inflation and recession are over.

I usually see lots of nice mics at this show and these two tables were no exception.

As I walked in, I saw a Premier Twin-8 right out in front. This was the cheap Twin-8, with the Solid State rectifier. At least it had the 6L6 power tube. I can't believe that they wanted $485 for this.

The next Twin-8 had a tag for $500. This had the 5Y3 tube, though. It had the clunkier case and not the "widow's peak" version with the gold grill.

I found a row of very neat harp-style amps with a $225 Model 50 at the end.

I found this booth full of over-the-top custom amps. I don't know if they would make good harp amps, but if you like Premiers, you might appreciate these.

The find of the day is this "Tempo" amp. Any Premier lover will recognize a Model 50 at a glance, but Multivox must have OEM'd this for someone. It uses inch plywood and with a 6-inch speaker was as light as a feather. Inside it had the 6SN7-6V6-5Y3 combination so it must have been a late 1940s amp. They wanted $150 for it, and came down to $125 while I watched, but Erica told me not to spend any money. (An order that I would soon break.)

This is the second OEM version of a Premier amp. I actually bought a Model 50T at the Albany Guitar show last month that had the name Calvin on it, but it was a real 50T and the first that I had ever seen outside of a Premier Brochure. I don't have pictures of it, but I took it out to the Blues Jam at Pete's Saloon in Elmsford, NY and it was given much praise and love by the Harp Players.

 

I saw an all-wood tone Model 90 for $325. These came in classic Premier two-tone, all wood-tone and black vinyl, but inside they are mostly the same circuit. Premier used an odd tube combo and some day I will document it.

Here's another Model 110 for $295. I suspect that the 110 is a good harp amp, but I have yet to own one. I am watching eBay for a junker to restore.


 

I was alone at the show. I hung around for about 45 minutes and couldn't find anything that I wanted. In the past, I have always bought a mic or found a premier red knob or two, but this show was a bust. I only had $15 in my pocket. Times have been hard in West Nyack with doctor bills and high mileage cars dropping dead unexpectedly.

As I was leaving the show, I saw a "walk-in" toting around a nice looking Premier amp on a hand truck. At these shows, the best deals are not with the dealers, but with the walk-ins who try to sell to the dealers or anyone else who is interested. This guy had nice Premier Model 71 and I asked him if I could snap a picture.

The dealers at these shows are there to sell and won't buy anything unless they can get it at rock bottom prices. I asked the guy how much he wanted for the Model 71 and he said that no dealer had offered him more than $50. Jokingly, I said I'd give him $75. He said "It's a Deal" and after a trip to the cash machine I ran to the truck with the Model 71 under my arm. I don't know why he wanted to get rid of it so bad. He said he had been there two hours and the amp was not getting even a nibble, so I guess he just wanted to off it on the first one who'd pay more than $50.

The Model 71 is the Link Wray "Rumble" amp. According to popular mythology, Link Wray recorded "Rumble" on a 71. It has two 6L6's and 4 12AX7's and a 5U4GB rectifier. It has a pot to adjust the bias, which is not usually found in amps from this era. I previously purchased a junker for $35 that I got working. The only problem with the amp is that it is too heavy to carry around.

 

 

The one that I bought is missing the speakers and tubes and might have transformer problems. It does have all of the knobs, though. The golden grill cloth is in fairly good shape with only one tear in it.

 

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The JT30 Page Popular links

I began collecting data about the microphones used by blue harp players before there was an internet. I began organizing it into JT30.com in the late 1990s. I accumulated more stuff than I remember. This is some of it.

Street Theory

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A guide to learning to play Blues Harp

Microphone Information

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Harp Amps

I've been collecting Harp Amps for a while. This is the old Harpamps.com website. There is lots of information here. Here a coupld of links.


Harp Tab

A collection of songs and riffs that I’ve worked out over the years, plus some libraries of stuff I’ve converted to tablature. I’ve included most of the notes and instructions that helped me when I was learning to play blues harmonica.

Basic Riffs Simple harp tabs for songs Blues riffs and phrases.

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