Steel Trappings

More Magnatone

More Magnatone Part I-1

June 27, 2016 • John TeagleInstruments and Luthiers

The series of articles titled "More Magnatone" originally appeared in the March, 1998, and April, 1998, issues of Vintage Guitar and are reproduced here by permission from the publisher and the author. The first series of articles covers Magnatone MOTS amplifiers and the second series of articles covers Magnatone steel guitars. Article section identifications have been enhanced for clarity. © John Teagle and Vintage Guitar.

Introduction Part I

What started out as a one-time pictorial on mother of toilet seat (MOTS) covered amplifiers has turned into a running Dickerson/Magnatone history, covering both the amps and the Hawaiian guitars. Last month, the alligator-attired Professional amp was allowed space, due to its close association with the MOTS Hawaiian guitars. This month, the MOTS requirement has been totally thrown out the window to make way for more amps from this important (and often ignored) company.

Note: the section on "Dating your MOTS Hawaiian" slated to run this month has been expanded to include all the Hawaiian/steels and will be in a future issue, along with closeups of the remaining six-string, eight-string, doubleneck, tripleneck and quadrupleneck sliders, not only in MOTS, but metal, wood, and lucite!

PART I: More MOTS Amplifiers

The author's three-tube, 8" permanent-magnet speaker 1946 Dickerson amp (discussed last month) that was lost in the mail ended up safe with a neighbor (over 10 days for priority mail, Merry Christmas!). This is an early post-WWII amp, with a speaker dated 1945 and the more rounded-edge shape and generic black handle of the small pre-WWII models. However, the grille "cloth" is not the heavy wire mesh expected, as seen on the Dickerson amp pictured in Richie Fliegler's Amps, The Other Half Of Rock 'N' Roll (pg. 109, top right of group shot). It's possible that amp is a leftover Delbert Dickerson model, but the logo decal points to post-WWII, as seen on all the '46 to '48 Hawaiians with the Dickerson brand name. Unfortunately, attempts to track the amp down have been futile.

A similar (but earlier) version is pictured in the Feb. '98 issue of Guitar Player magazine (pg. 90) with the original stencilled Dickerson logo, first seen in '38. While the earliest models (e.g. serial # 0010 from the cover of VG, Jan. '98 had three stripes (call these Style 1), the amp in GP has only two stripes (Style 2), pointing to early '40s. The stripeless example pictured in Fliegler's Amps still has the original-type grille (Style 3), which was updated for the model pictured here in VG (Style 4).

Following this amp came the final pre-Magna version, having a new chrome "kitchen cabinet" handle, graphics that cover the entire grillecloth and a less-rounded cabinet with back panel ca. '47. These were available with the Dickerson brand name, as well.

Both post-WWII Dickerson and early Magnatone used an interesting material to cover their speaker openings; window screen, just like on your back porch door. The majority of these grilles were covered in two-tone "fuzz" (black or purple on greyish brown). Unfortunately, the mohair-like base coat apparently blocks the passage of air, as in sound pressure, and gets literally blown out if the amp is played at "high" volume.

Visible deterioration around the speaker opening on many of the grillecloth scenes supports this theory, although normal wear and tear from the outside is also a major contributor. The monochromatic logo used for the introductory example left air spaces in the unfinished areas for sound to escape.

One of the absolute coolest versions of the two-tone grille was applied to the K&H amp, yet another brandname for that same old '47-'48 pre-Magna MOTS amp. Compare it to the palm tree/coconut climber, musical staff, and purple Leilani amps on pg. 109 of Amps. Even the control panel is the same, save for the missing "Mfg. By Gourley" sticker. The pot code dates this three-tube, single 8" permanent-magnet speaker beauty to late 1948.

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