Monday, March 9, 2015


My first electric guitar was an F-hole Suzuki acoustic guitar. I bought an external pick up and
A 1960 Suzuki Guitar
screwed it onto the guitar.  There was no proper amplifier so I just plugged it into the back of our Philips radio and played on gleefully.  Now this was in 1960 by the way. The “new” electrified sound thrilled me and many of our contemporaries who did the same.  A radio shop Chinese technician built his own amplifier with the tubes open and visible.  It had 3 inputs and we plugged three guitars to it for the bass, rhythm and lead guitars.  By today’s standards this would be something of a cave-dweller’s gadget.  By 1962, the same technician had developed his own tremolo channel…quite an ingenuous chap he was. By that time some of bands in KL and Penang were already using the early Gibson and / or Fender amplifiers which I could not afford.  I used a Fender amplifier complete with tremolo effects at a recording at Radio Malaya Melaka once and it was an exhilarating experience.

Notice Reverb Unit and the William's amp at bottom right

In 1964, there was a company in  KL named Williams and if I am not mistaken became Bentleys later.  If I am not mistaken Uncle Ho of SES Sound has his roots from Williams. This company made their own amplifiers with Goodman speakers and my band bought two of them using our savings from our gigs.  One was a bigger one with two 12 inch Goodman speakers inside.  In 1963 a friend of ours bought an external reverberation unit with a spring inside that generated the reverb effects.  I remember using it to play “Telstar” by The Ventures.  While playing the guitar, I “kicked” the reverb unit and we got “space effx”.  Of course these were tricks to sound different from the other bands and competitors.
The much coveted Swiss Tape Echo Unit
The Schaller Disc Echo Unit

Then in 1964 the tape echo units became available and brought a new dimension to guitar players to sound like the Shadows.  The best one was the Swiss Echo and that cost some $ 800 which was like paying RM 10,000 today….a good second hand car cost that much.  There was another option - The Schaller Echo unit which also cost about $700.  As usual I lost out on buying either one and settled for a Watkins Copicat that cost about half of that amount.  This is the unit that I used for all my commercial audio recordings with The Jayhawkers and TV appearances.

Later on the wah-wah pedal made its appearance and I bought one.  At about the same time the fuzz-box also became available and this became a must for playing rock music even then.  The last one I bought was a Roland Phaser in the late 70’s.
The Roland Phaser

A Modern Guitar Effects Rack

These days, I am happy playing the guitar only with a little reverb and some delay effect.  Of course many of these gadgets for guitars are taken for granted but if one has gone through what I have gone through, only then would one begin to understand and appreciate the wonderful array of guitars and effects that are available today.

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