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Who remembers 'Norris' UK amps?

Discussion in 'Sidewinders Bar & Grille' started by simoncroft, Nov 16, 2015.

  1. simoncroft

    simoncroft Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Does anyone remember the 'Norris' brand of amplifiers, made in the UK around the late 1950s and early 1960s? If fate had taken a slightly different turn, they could perhaps have been as famous as Fender or Marshall today. Although I know a bit about the brand and its history, I'd love to see some pictures!
     
  2. s5tuart

    s5tuart My Dad used to say.... Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Sorry Simon. That's a new one on me!! I only remember using Vox's and later Sound City and Laney stuff. I'll google it later.
     
  3. nungesser

    nungesser "My love a bigger than a Cadillac" Strat-Talk Supporter

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    wow I couldn't find a single thing about those amps on the web, fill us in with what you know or remember Simon
     
  4. simoncroft

    simoncroft Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Sorry guys, if you're going to start a thread, it really helps if you subscribe to it. That way, you know if anyone has replied!

    I have only scant information, and I believe I haven't seen one in years. Like Fenton-Weil guitars, they used to skulk around in the back guitar shops in the eary 1970s being ignored because they weren't even remotely hip any more.

    I'll post what I know later, then maybe someone will realise they've been looking at one but the badge is missing.
     
  5. mjark

    mjark Senior Stratmaster

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    Not familiar to me. I'll be seeing a friend at the Philadelphia Guitar Show this week end who's something of an English amp scholar. I'll try and remember to ask him.

    I did a little searching too with the same result you got. I ended up on Hilton Valentine's page though.
     
  6. simoncroft

    simoncroft Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Thanks for the interest. Just when these amps were made is starting to confuse me, and I'm wondering if they may have been made in very small numbers over a decade or so.

    I’m afraid I don’t have a massive amount to go on, which is why I posted the question. Here’s the only documentary evidence I have regarding Norris amplifiers. This press clipping was given to me by my boss at the time, Bob Paxman of Paxman Musical Instruments, in 1976. He knew I was a lot more interested in electric guitars that I was in the brass(wind) instruments we made, so he pulled the page out of whatever the musical instrument trade newspaper was in those days.

    Although Bob assumed I knew all about Ted Norris, the truth was, I knew almost nothing about this British amp-maker then. Today, it’s possible I know even less! I definitely saw the occasional Norris amplifier, but I was a young player, and most of these ‘sightings’ date back to when I was the proud owner of a Watkins Westminster combo. It was a great little amp, but that didn’t mean I could give you a coherent account of one amp’s qualities versus another. (I was still confused as to why some amps had more than one knob that affected tone. Tone was ‘tone’ wasn’t it?) Couple this with the fact that even I can’t always give a photographic account of something I saw in a music shop maybe 40+ years ago, and we have some scope for a blurring of history.

    Three things I definitely remember:

    1. Seeing a Norris combo somewhere in a central London shop before I even owned a guitar amp. With hindsight, I think this must have been a Norris Syncopator MkI because it seemed to have inputs for all sorts of strange things. I have a feeling one of the inputs may have been on a TV-style co-ax socket, like you’d use for an aerial, but I can’t be certain about that.

    2. Going into the Macari’s music shop on Charing Cross Road in London, and noticing they seemed to have quite a lot amplifiers for sale that didn’t seem to be finished. This would have been around 1969-70. As my spending power at the time barely stretched to a set of strings (and I could sense the staff knew it) I never had the nerve to ask about the ‘amps with long pot shafts and no knobs’. I do wonder if this was the last of the Norris stock, that unfortunately he was unable to finish. Interestingly, there were some amp heads and cabs, as well as combos.

    3. Being told by an experienced guitarist some years later, who was playing in a pub around Clapham Common in south London, that his Norris amp was better than anything Vox or Marshall had made. His amp was a combo, and I’m guessing it was an Executive, because it didn’t look like a 1950s record player! Although it was surprisingly loud, it was also capable of producing a great Cream-era Clapton ‘woman tone’, along with more modern sounds that sounded great on Wishbone Ash and other rock material of the day. I’ve never seen or heard a Norris amp since.

    Reading back the Ted Norris obituary after all these years, I think there is at least one major factual inaccuracy. I don’t believe for one minute that the circuit in the Norris amp was called ‘Howling Cat’. I’m pretty certain that this was just a satire on the ‘Wild Dog’ setting found on some Burns guitars of the time. Chances are, whoever wrote the obituary had never heard of Norris, so called a major amp manufacturer, and fell for whatever they were told.

    I remember the Norris amp as sounding great. After all these years, I’d love to know if it really was exceptional, or if I was just experiencing the excitement of hearing EL34s go into the ‘sweet spot’.

    EDIT: And when were the Executive amps made? Anyone?
     

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  7. TheGreenHornet

    TheGreenHornet BUZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

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    Remember Aims amplifiers, Plush amplifiers and London City amplifiers? :)
     
  8. simoncroft

    simoncroft Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    I think I'm right in saying that Aims and Plush are pretty much unknown in Europe. London City amps were made in Amsterdam in the Netherlands. As the name and styling implied, they were similar to a Marshall. It wasn't an amp that would be easy to sell in England, because we had so much home-grown product, but in the Netherlands, London City amps were a cheaper alternative to UK products.
     
  9. simoncroft

    simoncroft Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    As this thread is now several years old, I'll confess. It was a spoof. :whistling:

    I wrote the text, laid out the newspaper page, and found a couple of old photos that looked fairly authentic. After that, I put my print-out through a photocopier a few times so it looked old, then rescanned it.

    I just wanted to see if my imaginary amps would somehow enter guitarists' mythology. I was going to introduce the Norris Evacuator bass amp into the tale, but I thought I'd wasted enough of you good people's time.
     
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  10. stratman323

    stratman323 Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    I wasn't going to even look at this thread, but I saw that you had posted & I wondered if there might be an obscure gem of information coming up. And I read through it.... o_O....

    Devious old ******! :D

    And shame on you for thinking that there might be any fantasists on this forum. As if.
     
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  11. Thrup'ny Bit

    Thrup'ny Bit Grand Master Curmudgeon Strat-Talk Supporter

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    book.png
     
  12. s5tuart

    s5tuart My Dad used to say.... Strat-Talk Supporter

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    Why you little......!


     
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  13. simoncroft

    simoncroft Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    I'd forgotten all about this until my friend Clive emailed me to ask if I still had the artwork. I didn't, but I was able to use the Strat-Talk search function to find the original thread. With hindsight, I feel a little mean. :oops:

    Apparently, one of Clive's former band-members would like to post the artwork I screen-grabbed from here, and the background story, on Facebook. I said OK. Maybe the legend will take off after all!

    I got the idea from a web site about Spagthorpe motorcycles. If you search for them, there are many references to Spagthorpe bikes today. To my certain knowledge, the whole thing is a complete spoof and no actual bikes have ever been made.

    Should you wish to spread the word, please ask me for blurred images of the Norris Evacuator bass rig, of which only one prototype is known to have existed. I'm sure I could also provide a couple of images of the Norris Executive amp on stage. :sneaky:
     
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  14. stratman323

    stratman323 Dr. Stratster Strat-Talk Supporter

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    You deserve congratulations for finding your way around the Strat-Talk search function. I can never get any sense out of it. You're more likely to find something on ST using a Google search than an internal ST search.
     
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