Saturday, 1 October 2011


Watcha Brummies!!

Well it's late afternoon on the 30th September......f******g **** I haven't done the blog!!  "Oh come on" says Lucy you said we were gonna have an afternoon listening to "The Best of Middle of the Road"......We sometimes like to piss ourselves laughing for a couple of hours and they're always a safe bet when we've run out of drugs.

So anyway....I'm now sacrificing my afternoon in the sun, being topical weatherise, -  "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" blasting out, envious of those opening lyrics, I snap my fragile pencil asunder with a shattering snip.

Miraculously, at that very same moment, The Wolverhampton Cabaret Groups Association are having an 'Open Afternoon" (where you can safely bring along the grandkids in the knowledge that there will be pie stalls and plenty of rib tickling rejoinders) They too are playing the same CD which they refer to as their set list.   The opening words "Where's yer Momma Bin".......limp out of their 28 watt PA Home entertainment System "Tekkin um tu lirricul eaven" "Aaar, it'd be bostin' in harmony"  "We can do that old step routine, but spice it up a bit when we get to the 'Ooee Chirpy" bit with an occasional "wedding tackle thrust", it's guranteed to get a scream from the bingo crazed crowd they play to - even if you're a bass player.   Anyway I digress, let's get right on with paying homage to someone quite magnificent!!

Charlie Watkins doesn't have the ring to his name that say's "Rock God", his name lends itself more to images of a man who might work for Birmingham Parks Department maintaining flower beds somewhere or other, but rock god he certainly was and still is.  Speaking mainly for the British scene, he was the man who gave us all the things we needed to achieve our dreams as guitarists, bassists and vocalists.  

Charlie Watkins wasn't alone in this quest, he was partnered by his two brothers Reg and Syd.   Reg had launched the second ever British solid body guitar, the first being the dreadful Dallas Tuxedo.  Reg and Syd would go on to design and build the massively popular Watkins Rapier range of guitars that sold by the boatload during the mid sixties priced between 20 and 50 pounds and which gave every Hank Marvin wannabe a chance to become a rock and roller.  I had one because I couldn't afford a Hofner. 

The Rapier line was a 'niche filler' but Watkins Guitars faded away all too rapidly, probably due to the fact that they were known as a budget guitar maker and never really taken that seriously.  The real Watkins 'name' was gained from it's amplification arm of the business and that was Charlie's area of expertise.  Starting with the Watkins Westminster.

This amplifier was a lovely thing and had a very nice tone.  Incorporated was a tremelo input as standard which was a nice extra.  Four inputs, around 10 watts of output, it was the perfect first amplifier to use at a dance hall and this amp was very popular amongst the many, many bands that were around then.  The magnificent Dominator came along and Everyone wanted one, it was so stylish.  Charlie thought that the V fronted cabinet would help with sound dispersal although he said that he didn't really know of it would actually work.  

However, the real jewel in the crown of Watkins amplification was not an amplifier at all but - the Watkins Copicat echo chamber. 

This is still an amazing piece of kit, unbelievable really since it was first made in 1958.  Charlie had cleverly placed a Copicat demonstration model in his Music shop before the unit had been brought into production and the day they went on sale he sold all 100 units that had been made.  Johnny Kidd and The Pirates being the first outfit to buy one.

During the early Beatles years 64-66, VOX and Selmer ruled the roost in the amplification stakes with Fender coming in 3rd.   In 1966 Charlie started to make W.E.M PA Slave Amps and never looked back.  There had been a gaping hole in the PA market and W.E.M became the market leaders.  There wasn't a big band who didn't use W.E.M equipment, Hendrix, Rolling Stones, The Move, Pink Floyd....the list is really endless.  A trip to any of the UK's largest festivals would have found you hearing the sound through a W.E.M PA sound system.  Probably the first to have a mixer too.

WEM brought out a whole new range of amplifiers that reinvigorated the brand name and they sold well.

There are a couple of specialist sites on the internet about the Amps and Guitars respectively that are really worth a visit and I have only scratched the surface of this remarkable story of success of Charlie Reg and Syd.  

Harold Camping, had predicted that the world would end in 1994, he was wrong.   Sensationally, he predicted once again that the world would definitely end in May of this year.  Stuff my old boots, it didn't end then either!!

Harold Camping hurriedly de-camped from his pad and took to the hills, to some hideout, however he has said in explanation, that he had made a slight 6 month miscalculation in his prediction and that the end will now come in October, the 21st to be precise. 

Just in case he is right this time, I'll say "Thanks for reading the blog and thanks to all those muso's whose paths I crossed that made my life a more colourful place to exist in".  Will this be the last blog? I doubt it. 

Harold has a record of being completely wrong but amazingly, his personal wealth for constantly being wrong during this period of hoodwinking has reached over 100 Million dollars!!   It doesn't make sense, I've been talking bollocks all my life and I'm still poor as a church mouse.

Take Care out there....

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