Lafayette Guitar Amps

29 10 2008

The conventional wisdom on Lafayette guitar amps is that they were manufactured by Univox and then rebadged. I’ve ran across examples of this in photographs but I believe that the same Japanese factories that made Univox amps for Univox also made Lafayettes rather than Univox specifically making Lafayette units.

In either case, both Univox and Lafayette tube amps from the mid 1960’s were considered at the time to be cheaply made and inferior to such industry leaders as Fender, Marshall, Vox, Gibson.  They were intended for younger players in the “student market” and in that ambition, they were pretty successful.

Lafayette Part Two

29 10 2008


Lafayette ran into major financial difficulty when the FCC authorized a new Citizens Band (“CB”) spectrum with 40 channels. Lafayette’s buyers had firm commitments to accept delivery of thousands of the older design units, and were not able to liquidate the inventory without taking a serious loss. Eventually, all of the old CB radios were sold for under $40.

With less than 100 stores, far fewer than the aggressively expanding Radio Shack’s thousands of local outlets, Lafayette Radio remained more of a dedicated enthusiasts’ store than a mass marketer.

The company was also hurt by the advent of electronics retailers relying on aggressive marketing techniques and competitive pricing in the late 1970s. Many experienced managers departed. Formerly a national chain, the remaining Lafayette stores in the state of New York closed by the end of 1981.

Most of Lafayette’s models were not the best performers nor were they the worst performers. Products ranged from stereos to two-way radios for Hams and CBers, and shortwave listeners. Many were dedicated types with special functions, such as VHF receivers for police and fire channels built into a CB radio. A complete model line included many models and brand names to choose from for just about any purpose, as opposed to just a few.

The product line also covered other manufacturers’ products through seasonal catalogs. The company’s best selling products were often shortwave receivers, parts, and portable radios. In the 1960s, most Lafayette brand radios were rebranded Trio-Kenwood sets, which were of moderate performance and build quality.

A significant share of 60’s and 70’s vintage Lafayette hi-fi gear was manufactured by a Japanese subcontractor named “Planet Research”. “Criterion” brand speakers were built by several offshore and some domestic assemblers. 

Lafayette also sold a variety of electronic musical equipment made by different manufacturers. There were solid-body and hollow-body electric guitars, probably made by Teisco or Harmony.

Microphones, amplifiers, and various electronic effects such as reverbs were available. One of the most famous effects that Lafayette sold was the Uni-Vibe, used by many musicians, most notably Jimi Hendrix. Robin Trower, Stevie Ray Vaughan and others later used the effect to emulate Hendrix’s sounds and achieve new ones of their own.

About Lafayette

29 10 2008

According to Wikipedia, Lafayette Radio was a radio manufacturer and retailer based in Syosset, New York in America. The company sold radio sets, amateur radio equipment, citizen’s band (CB) radios and other communications equipment, as well as electronic components and even tools, through retail outlets as well as by mail-order.

Established in the 1920s, Lafayette Radio Electronics (LRE) thriving mail-order catalog business in electronic components was a boon to the amateur radio operators and electronic hobbyist located in areas where such components were not available in local retail outlets. Lafayette’s main competitors were Radio Shack, Allied Radio, Heathkit and independent radio dealers throughout the United States.

The company offered a free 400-page catalog filled with descriptions of vast quantities of electronic gear, including microphones, tape recorders, speakers, and other components which could be obtained for free by mailing in a coupon.

By the late 1970s, Lafayette expanded to major markets across the country, struggling to compete with Radio Shack,  which had purchased rival Allied Electronics around 1970.

Elmore James: It Hurts Me Too

17 10 2008

Cheap guitars and dusty old amps coupled with a masterful slide guitarist, who was also my favorite blues singer of all time, the great Elmore James. A contemporary of Robert Johnson and Sonny Boy Williamson II, who didn’t get the chance to make his own recordings until 1953, James recorded this, the second version of “It Hurts Me Too”, in 1961, two years before he tragically passed away at 45. In what sounds like a classic case of Mississippi-style razorblade slashed speakers, just listen to the way that the amp that the guitar playing the bass line is going through is distorting. Blues heaven.

Say Hello To A 1968 Lafayette 99-9141WX

11 10 2008

Ever seen one of these before?

Three Hours Past Midnight: Johnny “Guitar” Watson

10 10 2008

Johnny “Guitar” Watson rips it up in 1956 by taking the low volume Lowell Fulson approach and injecting a bit of Guitar Slim into it. No Guitar Slim videos seem to be out there or even any 1950’s Johnny “Guitar” Watson clips but this audio track does the business.

Ladies And Gentlemen, The Great Lowell Fulson

10 10 2008

Okalhoma born, California guitarist/songwriter/singer Lowell Fulson was perhaps the top bluesman of the late 1940’s and into the early part of the next decade. Here he’s doing “You’re Gonna Miss Me When I’m Gone”, just one of his classics, in what looks to be the early 1950’s, playing through possibly a Gibson amp?