There is quite a history of tube guitar amplifier manufacturers from Canada, and I thought you might be interested in a few of their stories. Below are a few advertisements that I have come across (along with any anecdotes I can relate to you) or some rare Canadian-made tube amplifiers I have acquired over the years.
And I’ve begun adding photographic evidence of Canadian made tube guitar amplifiers that I know nothing about in hopes someone reading this can shed light on the mystery and even provide magazine advertisements and/or catalog inserts. So, without further ado;
Beltone Amplifiers are the first of a handful of ‘Canadian’ amplifiers that I know next to nothing about. The few examples I have seen were all the exact same ‘model’, and my guess is that these were simple ‘student’ amplifiers. If you have any information on Beltone (or any Canadian amplifier company) please let me know.
Cobra Amplifiers are yet another make of amplifiers I know little about. My best guess is that since there was a plethora of small companies in Eastern Canada making tube amplifiers, this could be a ‘here today, gone tomorrow’ brand we may never get the whole story on. Or they could be a ‘stencil’ line from someone like Pine Electronics. If any reader has any information to share, I would greatly appreciate it.
Garnet Amplifiers aside from being the creator of the ‘Garnet’ line of guitar amplifiers used by Canadian supergroups The Guess Who and Bachman Turner Overdrive, Mr. Thomas ‘Gar’ Gillies has a very colorful past. This includes fronting The Gar Gillies Orchestra and working as the radio repair technician for the Winnipeg Eaton’s department store (a Canadian equivalent to Sears/Roebuck) during the 1930’s! Garnet also manufactured the Gibson Lab Series amplifiers during the early 1980’s right here in Winnipeg.
Johnson Amplifiers were built in Brandon, Manitoba as early as 1949. Albert Johnson did well for himself, until the invention of Rock ‘n’ Roll and Garnet amplifiers!
Keil Amplifiers are one more line of amplifiers that I had absolutely no prior knowledge of until recently. Here is the only Keil amplifier I have ever seen. What do you know about them?
Symphonic Amplifiers were made in Montreal during the late 1960’s, early 1970’s as a budget line of guitar amplifiers. That’s all I know about them. Hopefully these pictures will jog someone’s memory and a old magazine ad or catalog insert will surface.
Traynor Amplifiers are probably the most well known of the classic Canadian made tube guitar amplifiers. The fact that they were located in the thriving metropolis of Toronto (and real close to Buffalo) didn’t hurt. They started out as all tube PA’s, guitar and bass amplifiers during the 1960’s. Mod-meisters love ’em for their Fender inspired tag board, which is very easy to work on. After quietly leaving his own company, the ‘Traynor’ brand name was soon switched over to ‘Yorkville’. ‘Yorkville’ amplifiers are still made today, but certainly not by Peter Traynor and not with tubes.
Verlage Amplifiers were made in (of all places) Humboldt, Saskatchewan during the mid/late 1960’s. Actually, Saskatchewan seems like a hot bed of activity today, with guitar makers and amplifier builders that outnumber Toronto! I have not been able to find out much about Ken Verlage, so this sample advertisement will have to do the talking for him!
Wort Amplifiers are as rare as hen’s teeth to begin with, and that’s only the solid state models. Try to find a tube model, and you will really know what ‘rare’ means. I found an example of the tube amplifiers, and here is the proof! Made in Winnipeg during the late 1960’s, these all-tube units are built like a brick tank, and have a sound to match (which is a good thing, trust me). Check out the photograph of the lovely hand wiring.