Blackie Pagano Shows Off Vintage Guitar Amps, Including One That Belonged to Django Reinhardt

A long time ago, in a New York that seems a galaxy away, I found myself stum­bling out into Times Square in the rain-drenched, pre-dawn hours from a friend’s record­ing stu­dio, and stum­bling into a dis­card­ed Ampeg Jet J12, a vin­tage gui­tar amp pow­ered by tubes (or as the Brits say, valves). Some­one had aban­doned this beau­ti­ful rel­ic on the curb. I dragged the filthy thing into a cab home to Brook­lyn, cleaned it up as best I could, and went to sleep. The next day, I pow­ered it up (it worked!), plugged in my gui­tar, and entered the world of vin­tage tube amps. I would nev­er be the same again.

The gui­tar amplifier—perfected, some would say in the 1950s by Leo Fend­er—ini­tial­ly pro­vid­ed jazz gui­tarists a way to project over horn sec­tions in the big-band era. They even­tu­al­ly became instru­ments in their own right with the rise of Dick Dale’s surf rock sound and the advent of elec­tric blues and rock and roll. But, in the ’80s, vac­u­um tubes gave way to sol­id-state tran­sis­tors, then dig­i­tal, and tubes fell by the way­side. How­ev­er, since grunge and the garage rock revival, tube amp tones have once again become the stan­dard for most rock gui­tarists, even if they’re now often dig­i­tal copies.

But some die-hards nev­er gave up on tubes, and one of those, fea­tured above, is Black­ie Pagano, who has spent his days repair­ing and main­tain­ing vin­tage vac­u­um tube gui­tar amps and “all man­ner of audio mad­ness.” In the short doc above—part of a series of pro­files of New York­ers—Black­ie shows us Djan­go Reinhardt’s orig­i­nal amp and quotes Lux Inte­ri­or, singer of psy­chobil­ly punk band The Cramps, who once said that tube amps “turn music into fire and then back into music.” In just under three min­utes, the soli­tary, tat­tooed Pagano may con­vince you that vin­tage tube gui­tar amps are tru­ly mag­i­cal things, whether you find one on eBay, at Gui­tar Cen­ter, or on an NYC street­corner at four in the morn­ing.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jazz ‘Hot’: The Rare 1938 Short Film With Jazz Leg­end Djan­go Rein­hardt

The Sto­ry of the Gui­tar: The Com­plete Three-Part Doc­u­men­tary

A Young Eric Clap­ton Demon­strates the Ele­ments of His Gui­tar Sound

Adri­an Belew Presents the Fine Art of Mak­ing Gui­tar Noise — Past, Present, and Future

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Wash­ing­ton, DC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

by | Permalink | Comments (0) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.