Sunday, December 31, 2006

I will build a T-Wreck in his honor

One of my hobby gurus died on Saturday, December 23rd, 2006. Ken Fischer was the Strativarius of the guitar amp world.

He worked for Ampeg in the 60's and got his business going by hot-rodding guitar slinger's Fender, Marshall, Vox, and Messy Boogers (Mesa Boogie) amps. In the early eighties, while his fix-it and mod-it business was booming, a guitar slinger came into his shop and needed his Marshall Plexi Super Lead 100's sweetened up. After getting that sorted, the dude wondered if just having Ken make him an amp from scratch would be better. It was. Ken made him the finest guitar amp that he ever played through. That amp's name was Ginger, after the buyer's wife. If someone is selling Ginger right now and you are an interested buyer, plan on taking out a mortgage on your home. I know that some of his original amps go for tens of thousands of dollars now.

Anyway, Ken started up his own amplification company Trainwreck Circuits, after his biker nick-name "Trainwreck". His first model was the "Liverpool", second "Express", and third "Rocket". Ken carried on the tradition of giving amps names instead of serial numbers. Seeing how he worked with each client to make an amp according to his client's specific needs, all these different named amps are in fact unique. So, collectors are looking not just for a Trainwreck Express, they are looking for a Ginger, a Rose, a whatever.

Ken had developed many health problems since the late '80s and his amp building pretty much ceased in the '90s. This is when his willingness to share his knowledge really helped the world of music. So many great amp builders were inspired by this man and his knowledge, resulting in a renaissance of tone. Ken spent the last years of his life as resident Wizard for Komet Amplification. If you play electric guitar, you need to sample the sound clips of those amps. Start saving your pennies, though. Those amps are not cheap.

My dream was to have Ken personally make me an amp. I wanted there to be a "The Grunt" amp legacy out there with collectors drooling at the possibility of owning it over my dead body. It wasn't to happen. Well, in honor of Ken, I will learn my craft and build a Wreck of my own. I know it won't be as good, but I will try to channel his spirit when I form those big Mallory capacitors and watch the thing come to life. Maybe I will have a few hundred dollars to spend on a full compliment of Mullard 12AX7's and EL34 electron tubes to really get things cooking. I will start bit by bit. I really want to feel connected. That was Ken's philosophy on what an amp should do: be connected to the player, roar like a mother, have a rich harmonic complexity, and clean up nicely with a roll of the guitar's volume knob.

RIP, Ken.

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