Gabor Szabo – Amplifiers
by Jimmy Stewart
Most guitarists have always been unhappy with the sound of their amps. It’s so hard to find an amplifier that will give you the sound in every situation that you need. But there was one amplifier Gabor used that I took a liking to. It wasn’t a real powerful amplifier, but powerful enough. It was an amplifier that was made in Texas and it was called a Toby amp.
The amplifier looked like a small trash can. That’s not a discount in description. It had two 10″ speakers that came out either side of this round shape, which was this small trashcan shape. It was a very nice sounding amp. That amp, of any amplifier, seemed to have Gabor’s sound just built in to it. It was very, very clear. It wasn’t extremely powerful (I think it was probably a 60-watt amp).
The manufacturer really had made a great amp. But I don’t think it caught the market and got hot because of the rock and roll players needing another type of amplifier. But it was a great design. I’ve never seen another design like that. It was easy to travel with. Gabor always put that amp up on a chair or a small stool so it would disperse its sound. And, of course, we’d always mike our amplifiers to disperse the sound out into the audience.
Gabor also tried a (Fender) Twin Reverb 100 watt with the two 12-inch speakers. Of course, that was a great amp when he went more towards a heavier funk playing. You needed the volume to have the instrument cut through. The Twin Reverbs are fabulous amps, they’re just a little heavy and quite uncomfortable to manage.
Also, because of the status of Gabor (and me as a guitarist with him), we had many instrument manufacturers that were trying to get us to play their product. One time, Mystoso approached Gabor about playing this synth guitar instrument or gadget they had. I’d never seen one before. It was one of the first guitar synthesizers. It looked like it was on a stand, very similar to a music stand and then you had a box with all these different buttons on it. I remember Gabor playing with that synthesized guitar or one of those sound modules. But it just didn’t track as well as Gabor needed it to track.
I, myself, was approached by the Baldwin piano company which, with the assistance of Charlie Byrd, had developed a classical guitar that could be amplified, called the Baldwin Classic guitar. That guitar also had a very fine Baldwin amp that was used for their keyboards and it was also used for guitar. It had dual switch for stereo or mono and it was basically two amps in one. The back side of the amp was totally monophonic and the front part of the amp had all these buttons that could change the color of the instrument itself. I’ve actually had three of those Baldwin amplifiers (they’re no longer with me, I’ve sold them). They were very fine amps. So I ended up in great shape for my sound with Gabor. And it’s probably one of the reasons why we had dropped the electric guitar sound later on in the early 70s.