The story of the first rock’n’roll guitar amp

[While the Vox AC15 wasn’t the first amplifier designed for the guitars, it appears to have been the first amp designed and built for the rigors of rock’n’roll. takes a look at its history. – AC]

Guitarists have heaped bounteous praise on the Vox AC15 since it first hit the scene more than 60 years ago. It has been credited as the first amplifier consciously designed for the electric guitar, the first amp manufactured specifically for the rock ‘n’ roll market, or simply the sweetest distortion generator ever conceived—but whatever the plaudits, there’s near-universal agreement that this unassuming little combo can do magical things when hit with the signal generated by steel wires vibrating over an electromagnetic pickup.

How unlikely, then, that this raging demon of sweet, succulent tone actually came about out of a collaboration between designer Dick Denney and entrepreneur Tom Jennings, who first became acquainted in the early 1940s while working to supply the munitions that would help Great Britain survive World War II?

The image isn’t very rock ‘n’ roll, certainly, but that’s where this pair first stepped onto the divergent, winding paths that would eventually bring them back together. A brave new venture on the outskirts of a then freshly swinging London of the 1950s would ultimately launch them to the top of the industry, supplying gear for The BeatlesThe ShadowsThe Kinks, and other world-straddling artists of the British Invasion.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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