Vintage Guitar - July 2016 - Open - 72

The Vega
Model 120

V

By Dave Hunter

iewed from our contemporary perspective, it's difficult to fully
appreciate how different the music scene in general - and the
guitar scene in particular - was back in the early part of the last
century. When the electric guitar hit the ground as a viable entity in the
mid 1930s, everything was up for grabs... and no one was certain it wasn't
just a flash in the pan.
Vintage guitar

72

July 2016

Just two, maybe two and a half
decades later, the market had
settled down considerably, and
the leaders in guitar and amplifier
stakes alike were found in the two
biggest names that remain with us
today - Gibson and Fender. Had
you been canvassing the guitar
scene in 1936, however, you might
have put even money on Vega to
remain a contender 20 years down
the road.
Going on brand strength,
history, and general popularity, Vega was in no way looking
like a company that would be
noted just a generation later
as an "also ran" of the early
guitar boom. Founded in Boston in 1881 by Swedish-born
Julius and Carl Nelson and a
group of partners, Vega made
guitars and mandolins from
the start, but became a particularly big name in banjos
by the early part of the next
century. In the early 1900s,
the company also expanded
to brass instruments after
purchasing Boston's Standard
Band Instrument Company.
Then, when amplification
looked to be the way forward
for the guitarist who needed
to be heard above all that din,
Vega jumped in with both
feet. The Gibson ES-150 of
1936 is often cited as the first
production-model electric
guitar released by a major
manufacturer, but Vega's own
electric Spanish guitar, the
Electrovox, hit the market that
same year - with a humbucking pickup, no less - and the
company produced amplifiers
to accompany the range. And
if that's not enough to give
Vega street cred, it's worth
mentioning the company had
a retro-fit pickup (referred
to in catalogs as a "head")
available for banjo as early as
1929, with an accompanying

Amp and photos courtesy of George Aslaender.

* Preamp tubes: two 6C5
* Output tube: 6L6
* Rectifier: 5Y3GT
* Controls: Volume and
integral on/off switch
* Speaker: 8" Rola field coil
* Output: approximately 5 watts


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