I have spent a good portion of my mid- to late-twenties trying to find the right sound for me. At the time I was in an all-original band that did play covers to pay the bills. So needing something versatile but yet still sounded good and unique was keeping me quite frustrated in the search for that "holy grail" of Amplifier/Guitar tones. I had switched earlier on in my career (age 21-22) from solid-state amps to the tried and true tube amps.
I bought a 65 Fender Twin reissue. This is the holy grail of “clean-sounding” tube amps. I love this amp (and still own it) but there are problems. It’s just a clean amp; if you want distortion you need either foot pedals or some sort of distortion possessor. I had a multi-foot pedal possessor that handles the distortion and other effects. This was ok, but still just didn’t get it. After many years of lugging the Twin with other big amps and cabinets around, also with a row of pedals, my back and patience couldn’t handle it anymore. Also at this time my wife and I were putting together something new as a side project. This was to be our blues band.
I determined I needed something smaller, something that didn’t weigh a ton, that has a killer tonal range, that can distort and crunch up but yet can be as clean, like the Fender Twin if needed. Also, that could sound big and full without a lot of pedals lined up across the stage. With that said, with this new band situation (blues band) we would be playing in smaller clubs and restaurants that wouldn’t allow much room for all that other mumbo-jumbo.
I went to my local Fender dealer and started trying what they had (they are now closed). I tried the Fender Deville... oooh ahh great sound but too loud and too heavy. I tried the Fender 59 Bassman reissue ……………ooh ahh great sound but too loud and too heavy. I did try a Marshall JCM tube combo/twin or something or other. Once again too loud, great tube distortion but the clean channel just wasn’t clean enough for my liking. I prefer the sparkling glassy sound of a clean Fender amp. Also the Marshall JCM tube combo/twin or something or other was too heavy!
Continuing on... I tried the Fender Blues Deluxe. Ummm this is better, great tone, not too big, and can get dirty and clean very nicely. I almost stopped right there with that. But then I noticed next to it this little amp that looked like the Fender Tweed Deluxe but was considerably smaller and much cheaper in price. IT WAS THE BLUES JUNIOR. OK, "I'll try this little thing and see what it can do," thinking it would sound kind of small. Wow was I wrong!
I fired it up, turned both the pre and master volumes to about 5 and hit a D9th blues/jazz chord. Whump…the lights dimmed. A bright light beamed through the ceiling, lighting the room with a mystic golden glow around myself and this amp! As if God with all his angels had just descended in all his glory and power! I picked my jaw off the floor and started playing some of the best blues I had ever played before! I think I won five Grammy’s and three Handy's (blues version of the Grammy Awards) that day. Ha, no I’m just kidding, but this amp sounded like heaven in a little tweed box! Needless to say, I bought it on the spot. It was nice that the sales guy I actually had known and played music with and he gave me his store discount. This has been my main amp for about 17 years now.
My Blues Junior is the tweed version. Which is now discontinued. You can still get this amp but it comes in black Tolex covering. Like the picture above. This amp also came come with either a 10-inch or 12-inch speaker. Mine is the 12-inch. Fender specs this amp at a mere 15 watts but this is the loudest 15-watt amp I’ve ever heard. It has to be more like 20 watts. The layout on the panel is simple and vintage. Just a Pre-volume, Treble, Mid, Bass, Master volume and reverb master. The reverb is a spring verb type, of vintage caliber. The verb does sound good but it’s not as lush as my Twin-Verb. But don’t get me wrong, it is adequate to get the job done. I usually don't use much reverb, so it works fine for me.
In my opinion and years, this amp is probably one of the best sounding most versatile little amps you can find for the money then and for the money now in 2017. I have covered many styles of music and performed many types and sizes of gigs with this little Godsend. You will have no trouble covering styles ranging from Blues, Country, Gospel, R&B, Funk, Jazz, Hard Rock, Southern Rock, Pop, and Classic Rock.
The only thing you probably would need is maybe some sort of pre-amp boost/gain pedal for your solos. Not that the amp can’t produce great solo tones, in fact, it can. If you need something to drive it harder or take it over the top, a guitar boost pedal would be a good choice. For example: in a normal blues/rock situation I set the Pre-amp gain about halfway up and the master on 4. At that setting I can play softer and get great clean/rhythm sounds and then dig in a little to get a light crunch going, then stomp on my classic Tube Screamer “green” pedal for the lead solos.
This amp can also be set for those of you who like to use your master volume on your guitar to boost for leads, instead of pedals. I suppose you who like to shred metal and hardcore stuff, this amp might not work. But then again with the amp, all the way up can really scream, and with one of your favorite metal/crunch box in front of it could yield truly righteous metal shred tones.
This amp also has a boost setting called a fat switch. It’s not channel switching or the like but it does add fatness and a little more pre-amp gain. This does add to the versatility of the tonal range.
Let me also point out this amp makes a perfect studio amp. At 15 watts you can get great Stevie Ray Vaughan to AC/DC type of tones without waking up the entire neighborhood! The downfall is it doesn’t have a direct out or studio/line out. But to me this is no problem because I don’t record guitar that way anyhow, nothing sounds better than a good amp cranked up with a good mic in front of it.
Service / Maintenance
Like I said I’ve had mine for 17 years and in that time I’ve only changed the output tubes once! That was about ten years ago. Other than that all has been well. I’ve probably done 470 gigs and sessions with it. I just got back from Brevard NC, and Nashville where I used this amp. I have noticed that it may be time to actually change the tubes again.
At under $400.00 this amp was a steal. I got mine for $280.00! The new versions are much more now.
So for those of you who like your vintage/classic guitar served straight up with no fuss or muss, and with out the ear deafening volume of a 4x12 stack, or an amp that will break your back and give you a hernia, this amp can fulfill most of all your needs. You really owe it to yourself to at least go and try it out at your local Fender Dealer or used online.
Thank you for reading.
About the Creator
Mark R Darnell started music on trumpet at 10 and Guitar/Bass/Drums at 12. After returning home from Anderson University studying music Industry and Performance has been playing in the Michiana music scene for over 38 years. Nashville too.