Amazing Story: Stolen Amp Returned after 5 Years
Well, it is not a short story…and you already know how it ends:
It was a dark stormy night, somewhere to be certain. But in Nashville one night, it was clear, cool and starry. The bus was parked there in the Kroger lot where we met to embark on a “tour” which is actually just a 2 or 3 nights of weekend gigs in the country music world.
I happened (well not just happened, having worked to make it happen for a very long time in Southern California) to be working for a country artist named Gary Allan. Not a household name to be sure, but during my tenure with Gary we were able to sell a few million records. The other guitarist in the band was Jody Maphis, whose father was the great Joe Maphis, the great California country music icon.
This night, Jody had yet to show up, and I had been waiting for him. In his possession were a couple of amps: Standel amps. Anyone who knows their country music guitar player nerd history knows that Joe Maphis (along with his wife Rose Lee) played his famous double neck Mosrite through a Standel. Rose played her acoustic through a two-tone pink and black Standel, which was eventually given to Jody for Christmas when he was five years old along with a blue miniature Mosrite guitar.
In the 1990’s, when Danny Mckinney restarted Standel with the blessings and help of the original Standel founder Bob Crooks, a catalog appeared at Jody’s house. Of course, Jody and I looked at that catalog with great scrutiny: trying to figure what was different from the original 25L15, what was the same, and most importantly, what would we order if we were to get the opportunity to do so.
While working for a signed artist was great, the pay wasn’t. So while we dreamt of such things happening, for me it wouldn’t be a reality; I have a wife and kids and my meager sideman income was…okay, let’s say wasn’t…buying me any Nudie suits or Standel amps.
However, little did I know that Jody, who wasn’t bound by the same marital or parental bindings that I owned, arrange a deal (the details which I am still not privy to) to procure a pair of amps for us to use (and own). Perhaps the best part is they were not 25L15’s but rather prototypes of new models Standel was looking to use to expand their line. Not, that a pair of 25L15’s would have been a bad thing.
No, I was wrong: that wasn’t the best part. The best part is that they were aesthetically created for what we both wanted. Jody’s was two-tone red and black, and mine was two-tone seafoam and cream.
No, that wasn’t the best part either. The amps were seemingly created for each of our playing styles. (Okay, this may be a stretch here, but it sure felt this way.) Jody’s amp was the prototype for the Switchmaster. Jody was playing a pretty rock n’ roll style at this point, and his amp had two 10” speakers. I believe he either had a master volume and/or and extra gain stage, and perhaps reverb.
My amp was a new model with a resurrected name: the Artist model. The preamp was basically a modified 25L15 pre-amp as I was after more traditional sounds, but the power section was more powerful (what can I say…we played way too loud). I think it was rated at 100 watts provided by four 6550 tubes. The speaker was a single 15” Standel recreation of the JBL D-130 (originally, replaced by a Standel recreation of the JBL D-130f). Also built into this amp was a effects loop which never was used and might not have be functional, and…wait for it…
Naw…I’m not going to tell you.
Okay, I will: a three knob reverb which drove a three-spring Accutronic pan. A couple of months before the amp went missing, I had replaced the pan with a two-spring unit as used on a Fender Twin Reverb and I liked it much more than the original.
The amp also had a piezo input, which sounded great with my Gretsch, but one of the tone controls didn’t work with it. I may have used that input to record with once or twice, but I never used it live.
The amp sounded great, but I guess I wouldn’t need to tell anyone that. Whenever I played or recorded, that was what I used. I always got compliments on my tone, and the looks of the amp was always a conversation starter.
There were a couple of times it was in the shop. Once, when we were playing the Austin rodeo there was a power spike that blew the screen resistors. And, I blew the speaker, hence the replacement with Danny’s D-130f. The reverb pan went out, as they do, but replacing it with a 2 spring unit worked better for me.
In fact, most of the stages we played were so springy (no pun intended), that the reverb couldn’t be used without a tremendous crashing noise happening if there was any kind of a show going on.
I switch guitars a couple of times, but I always used the Standel.
Even after my time with Gary ended (too soon in my opinion), I used the Standel. I started using the Gretsch again (Gibson had given me a Chet Country Gentleman and I used a couple of Tomkins custom guitars for a while), and I was in tonal heaven playing the clubs on lower Broadway in Nashville (even if I may stepped down in quality of gigs).
I tried to always be gracious and let other guitarist sit in when I was playing on lower Broad. I figured the more mojo playing into the guitar, the better. Once I had done so and took the opportunity to relieve myself. While in the restroom I heard some guy tearing it up (in the good way), and I swear I momentarily thought,” I wish my rig sounded that good!” before I realized it was my rig!
Then, it really was a dark and stormy night. Nashville was suffering a fairly heavy rainstorm, as it is wanting to do now and then. Who would go out an a night light this?
The answer is someone who knows no one would go out on a night like this. Under cover of the night, and with rain and thunder covering up the sounds of his/her/their actions, the garage was broken into.
I admit that I hold responsibility in its taking. The garage was not attached to the house (see what you insurance policy says about that). I should have wheeled the amp into the house (it was in a road case). I didn’t, and believe me I regret it.
The next morning a neighbor knocked on the door, but I was unable to get up and dressed in time to answer in before they thought it a futile task. After I pulled on my trousers, I ventured down the street to see what was so important that someone would knock on the door at seven in the morning.
When I saw the garage door open my heart sank. When I looked inside my heart stopped beating for a moment.
Not only was the amp gone, but my pedalboard, too. But the pedalboard (with some vintage and nifty pedals) didn’t matter. It was the amp that mattered.
It would be a lie to say not a day went by without me searching for the amp in the five years it was missing. But, I can say I doubt there was more than three days in between searches.
The first thing I did was call the police. You want the police report. You want to give them serial numbers (you have them right? If not, stop reading now, and go right them down and email them to yourself so you have them forever!). I did that. I made a copy of a picture of my amp and took it to pawn shops. I checked the internet. I posted on my website, my myspace page (whatever that is), facebook…
This was nice: There’s a website call screamingstone dot com, and they contacted me and asked if they could post my info on their site. Screaming Stone is all about the retrieval of stolen musical instruments, and worthy of checking out. They have tools on their site that allows you to search all craigslist at once, as well as other places that sells gear on line.
For me, these searches didn’t turn up anything…but it is still worth doing.
I also happen to write Danny at Standel. My best move, even if I didn’t know it at the time.
Years later, on a dark and stormy night…just kidding…Danny sends a respond to my original “my amp was stolen” email (we talked on the phone in between, so the non-response on the email was a non-issue) saying something alone the lines of, “I think your amp had found me.”
Again, my heart stopped beating. In my searches on the net I have found a few amp with the same color scheme. Once, or twice my heart may have skipped a beat. This time it stopped. It wasn’t close. It wasn’t looked like. It was.
At first I thought Danny had it. I don’t read emails all that well the first time through and usually I read what I want to hear. But the amp was not in his possession. He simply received an email from someone who had it.
I am certain the guy who had it didn’t know it was stolen. I felt that deep inside, but I couldn’t tell you why.
I didn’t feel he was the guy who stole it, but, what I did feel was…what….how do you not scare away a butterfly, a stray dog, a wild horse? Actually, I don’t know what I didn’t want to scare away other than the guy that has my amp that I would love to get back.
Ponder, ponder, and ponder. PONDER!
I asked Danny at Standel to let him know that amp was the one he built for me, that it was stolen, and he was sure I would like it back. And he did.
The next day I received an email with the subject line: Long Lost Standel. And, that he wanted to see it returned to its rightful owner.
There were a few emails exchanged in between him and me. I have to say he responded to each I had sent him, but it was the time between each that was killing me. From the day Danny said he received the first email, and today, the day the amp was returned to me, seems like a few months or a year. Actually, it was only three weeks.
I wanted Ben, because the guy that had the amp was named Ben, to feel comfortable.
No longer in Nashville (since moved back to Southern California), I needed a surrogate to act on my behalf to get the amp (I knew from what Danny had told me in subsequent conversations since the email that the amp was still in Nashville). There was only one call that needed to be place. The most trustworthy guy in nearly the entire world was already in Nashville, and as luck would have it, was already a friend of mine. Let’s call him “Jeff”.
Eventually, a date was sent up (and that would be today) that Ben, the guy with the amp, and Jeff, the guy that would pick it up on my behalf, would meet in the parking lot of the Home Depot at 100 Oaks in Nashville.
This happened without a hitch, but only because of the characters involved.
First, Ben. For being a stand up guy, wanting to do the right thing and actually doing it.
Jeff: because even when the world is coming to an end you could count on him.
Danny: who just has goodness in his heart.
After Jeff met Ben today to pick up the amp, he left me a voice message and said Ben was a real steady guy…polite…the kind of person we’d all want our kids to be. And, when Jeff said how much it was appreciated and such things should be rewarded, he said just doing the right thing was reward enough.
And I think that is great: a tribute to Ben and his parents.
This isn’t about me (okay, I get a prized amp back), but Ben is going to be rewarded for his doing the right thing with a custom guitar I used with the amp. I hope he is happy with it and feels…well, at least a portion as happy as he has made me feel today.
There are more details than that in this story, but this is the just…the short version!