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Robben Ford’s new Little Walter 59’ with TS310 cabinet

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Jazz Guitar Today reached out to Phil Bradbury of Little Walter Tube Amps to discuss Robben Ford’s new amp.

JGT: How did you make the connection with Robben Ford?

Phil: I was hanging at a popular music store in Nashville with Vince Gill and Paul Franklin where we ran into Robben Ford.  Robben mentioned to Vince about something he had learned about amp tone stacks and he flagged me over and introduced me.  Robben and I had a very interesting discussion on passive tone stacks and ended up exchanging contact info.   I was holding a private amp showing in Nashville about a month later and invited Robben to come by and try out a couple models.  Robben showed up with a 1959 Les Paul Gold Top with P-90’s and a trapeze tailpiece.  After trying all the amps that I had set up on stage It was quickly obvious that the 59’ with the TS310 speaker cabinet seemed to speak to him.  The 59’ is my Series 9 (9 pin preamp tube), 50-watt model.  I had it hooked to my TS310 cabinet which had a trio of Eminence Legend 1028 10” 35-watt 8-ohm speakers.   It was obvious that Robben was very pleased with the tone of the 59’ and he especially liked the characteristics of the TS310 cabinet.   He wanted to play this amp at our first meeting.  The only thing left to do was pick a color and build it.

JGT: How did this amp come to be?

Phil: For several years Little Walter Tube Amps had concentrated on Octal (8 pin) preamp-based chassis. This was in the interest of capturing the magic of the original hand built true Point-to-Point construction of under 50-watt amplifiers. It became obvious that we also needed some “higher gain” models for the artists that needed a bit more “horsepower on Stage”.   When I started developing this amp, I had two main objectives: 1.  An amp with more on-stage power/volume and, 2.  The amp had to have the dynamic response and clarity of my Series 8 (octal pre-amp) models.  It took me over 12 months to get the amp to the point where I would feel good putting the “Little Walter” name on it.  At first it was just like every other amp, but by tweaking the values of several key components as well as the power transformer it turned out to have all the power we were looking for and the clarity and response as the original Little Walter tube amps.

JGT: What is the layout of this chassis?

Phil: This chassis has a pair of 6L6 power tubes, an ECC83 Preamp, Mid Amp, and Phase Inverter tube, and the AC/DC power conversion is handled by a GZ34 rectifier tube.   The control layout on this chassis is: Channel 1 – Bright Volume, Channel 2 – Normal Volume (each channel with a 2nd“Padded” jack), Treble Cut, Mid Cut, Bass Cut, and Presence.   As with all Little Walter chassis I do not use any Circuit, Tag, or Turret boards in my construction of the 59’.   By building the chassis in this way it takes longer but the final tone is worth it.    This chassis can also be bridged to “Fatten” the tone.

JGT: Is there a genre or type of music that this amp model works better for?

Phil: I do free amp clinics everywhere I can as well as supply back line amps for select music functions as well as our own Nashville show every summer.    This allows me to observe the amps in the hands of different players in every conceivable genre. When a new amp model is created the designer knows what he or she thinks it will be good for but until you put it in the field with different artists you don’t really know.  Over the past two years the 59’ has been used by Mark Lettieri, Paul Jackson Jr., Doc Powell, Vince Gill, James Burton, Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, and now Robben Ford.   In every case Jazz, Blues, Fusion, Country, the 59’ worked well for the artists.   

JGT: Does a certain speaker cabinet work better for certain genre’s?

Phil: I can ship the 59’ with a single 12”, a single 15”, a 212 cabinet, and the new TS310 cabinet.  The TS310 was at first designed to be a great Telecaster/Country cabinet but It has turned out to be great for every genre. Before the new TS310 cabinet the 59’ has been used almost exclusively with a pair of 112L (single 12”) cabinets. In this case I like to load two totally different speakers in the cabinets.  I have also shipped quite a few 59’s with the 212 cabinet.  The answer is that it works for all genres with any of the available cabinet types. The type of cabinet comes down to the personal preference of the artist.

JGT: What did Robben think when you delivered his new 59’?

Phil: I called our dealer in Nashville, Gruhn Guitars and store manager Rob Ruff told me we could use the “Rock Star Room” on the 2ndfloor.  We set the amp up and Robben unpacked his Telecaster (truly best Blues Tele I have ever seen/heard) and proceeded to kill us with tone.   Robben played a 68’ 335, an early Les Paul, and a couple of George Gruhn’s new prototype guitars.  Each guitar that was plugged in worked like the amp was designed for it.  By the look on Robben’s face I could tell that we had hit it out of the park.

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