Vintage Guitar - March 2018 - open - 41

Charlie Watkins photo courtesy of The Guitar Magazine, UK.

combo arrived. The tube
commensurate w it h
complement includes
a product intended to
three ECC83s (a Euromeet a price point.
pean 12AX7 equivalent)
And yet, who cares?
for preamp, tremolo,
For all that, this Scout
and phase inverter; two
can sound superb, with
EL84s in the output
a clear, slightly edgy
stage; and an EZ81 recticlean tone and a snarly
fier - Mullards all, and
bite when cranked to
all apparently original to
the point where sweet,
the fine amp on display
swirly overtones and
here. The amp was rated
an inherently British
at 14 watts, and that's
midrange grind emerge.
likely accurate given
It has a soft, roundthe duet of EL84s in
sounding tremolo, too,
cathode-bias with no
operated on this exnegative feedback.
ample via mini-toggle
With that configurainstalled by a previous
tion, the Scout could
owner in place of the
have been a more formifootswitch jack.
dable beast with a stoutJust a few years on
er 12" speaker instead of
from the release of this
its 10" Elac with Alnico
combo, Charlie Watmagnet, but Watkins
kins and company were
wasn't thinking very far
probing heavily into
in that direction. Until
solidstate technology
he busted out big-time
and devising far more
in a different avenue of
powerful creations that
the volume wars (more
would assist musicians
below), Watkins was all
in another realm of the
about supplying a novolume wars. Watkins'
toriously under-served
mighty WEM publicdomestic market with
address systems were
affordable gear to help
among the first to sucget the guitar boom in
cessfully power large
motion.
outdoor rock festivals
An accordionist who
Charlie Watkins in the early 2010s, seated on a mid-'70s WEM Dominator combo.
in the U.K. The first
played professionally
big test involved Watfor a time after servkins' 1,000-watt WEM
ing in the Merchant Navy during World
scene that involved no real money, and
P.A. rig at the 1967 Windsor Jazz and
War II, in 1949, Charlie opened a record
Watkins' amps consistently ref lected
Blues Festival for performances by Small
shop with his brother, Reg. Two years
that ethos.
Faces, Cream, Fleetwood Mac, and others.
later they moved from Tooting Market
At a glance, and from a little distance,
Though 1,000 watts might today seem a
to their home turf in Balham, another
the Scout's circuit looks like a typical
paltry output rating, it was unprecedented
south-London borough, where they also
hand-wired affair from the era, and in one
at the time; the previous year, the festival
sold accordions and other instruments.
sense it is. But those components are all
used a system totaling 200 watts! After
Charlie saw the guitar's potential popuhand-soldered to a relatively crude printed
pushing the knobs to full for headliner
larity, but despaired of fellow musicians'
circuit board (PCB) with wide traces in
The Crazy World of Arthur Brown (who at
inability to be heard amid the noise of
evidence once you look more closely.
the time had the #1 hit single with "Fire"),
horns and accordions while also being
Even so, the board carries lust-worthy
Watkins was visited right there at the
aware of the shallow pockets most had
components such as yellow Mullard/
mixing desk by the Windsor constabulary
in ration-choked post-War Britain. After
Phillips "mustard caps" like those found
and ordered to appear in Reading Crown
f ledgling efforts that were supplied by an
in the most desirable vintage Marshalls,
Court on charges of disturbing the peace.
outside manufacturer in 1952, Watkins'
plus some of the WIMA capacitors that
He was acquitted, and would provide WEM
first semi-successful own-brand guitar
were standard equipment for Vox. Even
systems of up to 4,500 watts for future Isle
amps emerged in '54, the same year that the
so, these were simply off-the-shelf parts
of Wight and Hyde Park festivals before
British government lifted 14-year restricin their day, which is why so many British
abandoning the festival-P.A. side of the
tions on the sale of meat and bacon. Yet
makers used them. Otherwise, the Scout's
business later in the '70s.
his primary guitar market - the London
construction is largely consumer-grade -
Charlie Watkins lived to be 91 years old
"skiff le" players that preceded rock and
not badly put together, but soldering is a
and died in his south-London home on
roll - was still a backroom/coffee-shop
bit blobby and the wiring is of a standard
October 28, 2014.

March 2018

41

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