Hot Gear Friday: The Hiwatt Stack

Growing up as something of a wannabe rock star, my dreams as a teenager were probably more focused on guitar gear than on cars than for most teenage guys. 

And in fact they still are.

And the big mack daddy of ’em all, to a kid who grew up a Who fanatic and who played guitar for two years before he knew there was a way to strum the guitar other than windmilling, was the amp that Pete Townsend, more than anyone, made famous; the Hiwatt.

Famous largely for getting smashed during Townsend’s “destruction is art” phase from the mid-sixties to the mid-seventies, the Hiwatt was also famous for being clear, powerful, reliable and very, very loud.  It was part of the “big three” of Brit guitar amps of the sixties and seventies, along with Vox (which was the Fender of Brit amps) and Marshall (which was, hello, Marshall).

Of course, being all Brit and exotic and all, they were impossible to find in North Dakota.  Although rumors from travelling musicians had it that you could occasionally – rarely – see one at Marguerite’s Music in Moorhead.  And so, one day, when I was finally old enough to do road trips to Fargo/Moorhead with my friends, I made the pilgrimmage.  I walked into Marguerite’s…

…and found nothing.

So the second time I took a road trip to Fargo, I tried again.

And there it was.  No, not the stack, but the “Studio Stage” combo…

…which, truth be told, may or may not have been up to the standard of the original “stack”, with its two cabinets with eight 12 inch speakers and 100-120 watts of pure electonic meth.  It’s hard to say..

…and it prompts the question; if you’ve never tasted, say, scotch, and you walk into a bar and someone gives you a glass of six-week-old WalMart scotch and, next to it, a glass of 30-year-old LaPhraoig, do you think you could tell the difference?

I dunno.  The little combo was a joy to play, but then everything at Marguerite’s was.

Even if they’d had an honest-to-goodness stack, could I have cranked it to the stops to get any idea of its real performance, in the middle of a music store?  Probably not.  It would have blown half of Moorhead and all the topsoil in Clay County over the Red River into North Dakota.

Someday.  Someday.

9 thoughts on “Hot Gear Friday: The Hiwatt Stack

  1. Laphroiag is very peaty while cheap scotch like J&B is at best weak and usually burns quite a bit going down.

    Also, Laphroiag 30 years goes for about $250 a bottle and at least $25 a shot. Cheap scotch can be had for $19 a bottle and $5 a shot. The price difference should alert the drinker to a difference.

    I have hosted a few scotch tastings and even Kermit can tell the difference between JW Red and JW Blue.

  2. I’ve never been much of a scotch drinker – but a friend of mine brought some 30 year old Laphraoig back from Scotland a few years back. I had a shot. Not only was it the first scotch I’d ever had that I actually enjoyed, but it was in fact one of the most striking tasteing experiences of my life.

    And I think I’ve found it under $200, but that was a while ago.


  3. If it’s 12 year old and single malt it’s prolly a good bet. If Duce is buying it’s even better.

    We went Marshall all the way, back in the day. They had the cool little one with the reverb and repeat percussion. Perfect for those Deep Purple covers.

  4. Guys, you are obviously connoisseurs of good whiskey.

    Nope! I am not.

    If you like drinking Laphroiag or Laphraoig, you ought to try Laphroaig.

    I’m a quarter scots, and I play the bagpipes. But I’ll let you have the “spelling scots-gaelic whisky names” event in the Caledathalon.

    Or half-credit, anyway; the correct spelling for Scotch and Canadian liquor is “Whisky”; American and Irish varieties are spelled “whiskey”.

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