Not for Sale: Storage Unit Cleanout

Jul 4, 2021

I’m taking a lunch break, so I thought it might be fun to post some photos of things I’m not selling, but that I rarely use or get to look at. I dug them out today moving them to the new warehouse.

The Sho-Bud “Compactra” amplifier was a hand-built tube amplifier made in the mid-1960s for steel guitarists. They didn’t make very many of them (I’ve heard they only made around 40) and they were pretty unstable, so there aren’t very many of them around today.

It’s a big heavy amp, and back in the day it was meant to give a pedal steel player the loudest “clean tone” you could get out of an amplifier. It has an Altec 15” speaker. I’m here to tell you, this is the loudest “clean” amplifier ever made. It buries a Fender Dual Showman. It makes mincemeat out of other “clean” amps from the same time period, like Standel, Kustom, or Baldwin. And it’s all tube! It will melt your face, it will make your ears bleed. I used to think that sort of thing was really awesome, not so much anymore. Ha ha…

It’s also, I found, completely unusable. At about 1 on the dial, it’s earsplittingly loud. The tone really kicks in when it’s at about 3 or 4, it sounds amazing, but it’s literally louder than ten twin reverbs. It will make you cry, it’s so damn loud. It’s darn cool, but it’s pretty humorous that way. It’s a beast! It’s unusable in today’s world!

I thought about trying to sell it the last couple of weeks. But this one is covered in gold sparkle Naugahyde, and gold sparkle is my favorite color. I’ve never been able to verify it, but I’ve heard that Buddie Emmons, the famous pedal steel guitarist, liked to cover his amplifiers in gold sparkle Naugahyde. Every other one of these I’ve ever seen is covered in black tolex. Maybe it’s Buddy’s amp? I don’t know. But I’ll keep it safe for now. And if I ever need to break a lease, I know exactly what amplifier I’m grabbing!


Here’s another wild one—a Rickenbacker Transonic amp. All you ever read about these amps is that they were used by Led Zeppelin on their first tour of the United States. They are solid-state amps designed by Bob Rissi (later of Risson amps) and made in the late 1960s in very limited quantities. They have a built-in fuzz and lots of 1960s gimmicks on them (Rick-O-Sound, the whole bit). BUT….what nobody ever talks about is the fact that they have the PERFECT Merle Travis-Joe Maphis tube Standel sound!

I’m not sure what it is, maybe it’s that Standel midrange dip, but when I got this amp for cheap I thought I would sell it and make a profit. Then I played through it. Holy cow! It sounded just like the tone on The Merle Travis Guitar album! how could that be, from an amplifier known for being used by Led Zeppelin and Steppenwolf?

I never used this amp much at gigs because it’s big and awkward and heavy, but I played an outdoor show in Fullerton once with this amp and R. C. Allen was in the audience. he came up after the show and said, “That amp really has that Merle Travis sound!” And R.C. owned Merle’s Standel amp! It’s just a weird thing I never would have guessed.

One memorable time that this amplifier was used: Scott Bomar brought Skip Pitts out to the Guitar Festival from Memphis to play “Theme from Shaft.” Skip was the guitarist on the original recording and he played the song through this Rickenbacker Transonic. I’ll post the YouTube video below, you can hear…this is a killer sounding amp. At one time, I was going to sell it. But how can I? It sounds too damn good.

And now you see why the storage/warehouse project is going slowly. Too much reminiscing and thinking about music. That was always my problem doing manual labor.