It was the last year Brian Jones contributed to a Stones album (two tracks on 1969’s last year of the Altamont Speedway Free Festival—which was headlined and organized by the Stones, and billed as “Woodstock West.” Sadly, it’s primarily remembered for its fatalities, including the infamous scuffle between a Hells Angel and a murderous meth user. Ampeg’s Bill Hughes and Roger Cox designed the “Super Vacuum Tube” amps with help from Bob Rufkahr and Dan Armstrong. The 95-pound, 2-channel, 300-watt head was originally loaded with 14 tubes, including six large, volatile 6146 power tubes.
Gear-wise, 1969 was the birth of Ampeg’s SVT amplifier—the backline choice not just for bassist Bill Wyman, but also for Mick and Keith Richards during the band’s 1969 U. A year later, the 6146s were switched out for more reliable 6550s.
As related by the late amp guru Ken Fischer, who worked as an Ampeg engineer long before founding Trainwreck Circuits, Hull felt “rock and roll doesn’t swing – it never will.” What swing for Hull?
Jazz, of course, and the piano and bass-playing Hull himself preferred, therefore, to cast his pearls before the princes of the jazz world – not the swine of rock and roll.
“You’ve got to keep in mind that Everett Hull hated rock and roll, he hated distortion – even when blues guys would play distortion,” Ken continued. So those R-12-Rs had blue Jensens in them, 6SN7 and 6SL7 octals [preamp tubes], which are always nice, fat-sounding tubes. Ampeg made it for a short while and all the jazz guys were complaining, ‘What’s wrong with the new Reverberockets? ’ So Everett Hull converted them back to 7591 [output tubes] because people were complaining.