Canadian Amplifiers – Verlage
The cabinets looked suspiciously like Fender cabinets, but the story goes that these amplifiers were prebuilt Fanon amplifiers slightly modified and fitted into ‘Verlage’ cabinets. This was a common practice in the early days of guitar amplifier manufacturing. Many guitar amplifier companies used Dynaco power amplifiers early in their ‘career’, and this meant that the power supply/output section was a well designed, well filtered affair, with beefy transformers. The Retracto-Bar was devised as a way around the patented Fender Tilt-Back legs! JBL speakers were used on the ‘Deluxe’ amplifiers. In the end, because these amplifiers played relatively clean (Hi-Fi quality power supply and output transformer, JBL speakers), they lost favor with the Rock ‘n’ Roll guitar players looking for more overdrive. To date I have never seen one Verlage amplifier, and this information is provided through advertisements and word of mouth from old-timers. I have been informed by one reader of these pages that Ken Verlage is alive and well today somewhere in Calgary, Alberta. I may have to investigate that rumor further. Reader Glen Kessler has provided quite a number of Verlage Amplifier catalog inserts, and a few are shown below.
First up is the Club 50. It has top-loaded controls, like the Tweed-era fenders, but the similarities end there. The control panel has a distinct 1970’s vibe to it, as does the cabinet style itself. The amplifier is rated at 45 watts RMS, but it’s called a Club 50. Why not a Club 45? Or how about a .45 Caliber? Also worth noting is that the amplifier came with a standard ‘Verlage’ speaker(?), or an upgrade gave you an Altec speaker. My guess is that this was a bass amplifier (no mention is made of ‘effects’ such as Reverb or Tremolo), and played really cleanly, with a lot of headroom. I’m sure the Club 50 would sound very nice, like a Fender Pro or 1/2 a Twin, and the single 15″ speaker would really move some air.
Next up, the VTR100 is also an interesting looking amplifier. Again, the model number does not match the output wattage, and that leads to more questions. First of all, Fender during this time in their advertising and catalog inserts listed how many tubes were in the amplifier. Fair enough, but they had a propensity for counting a 12AX7 as two tubes! It was listed as having ‘two-tube performance’ in Fender catalogs, and Verlage listed the model VTR100 as having ’12-tube functions’, which is a fancy way of saying the amplifier could have at least four12AX7’s and four output tubes inside. However, to confuse the customer, the tubes inside are listed at the bottom of the insert! We have four 6L6’s, two 12AX7’s, one 12AU7, a 6AU6(!), and a 6CY7(!!!). By the average customer’s math, 4+2+1+1+1=9, and I would certainly demand the extra 3 tubes I was paying for! The 6CY7 is a real oddball tube. It is a dual-triode, much like the 12AX7 used earlier in the amplifier. However, the 6CY7 has no heater center-tap to run the filaments either series or parallel, and the gain of section #1 is 68, much like a 12AT7. However, the second section has an amplification factor of only 5! The second section has a very low plate resistance, and can take a peak-positive swing on the plate of 1,800VDC! It would have a lot of headroom, and very little gain. Very different. The amplifier is advertised as having a regulated power supply, which is probably the 6AU6 and the 6CY7. The last interesting ‘feature’ of this amplifier is the mentioned fact that it has a selectable output impedance. Not all that unique, but something that the advertising department felt should be pointed out.
And, lastly, we have a Verlage speaker cabinet. Not much of noteworthiness, other than the fact that the cabinet came with a plethora of options. Gliders were one option(!), and the speakers could be literally anything. You could choose from ‘Verlage'(?) speakers, as well as Altec, JBL, or SRO. If you read the size specifications, you’ll note that this ‘Compact’ cabinet is sized akin to a Fender Twin Reverb, albeit 3″ deeper! Not really all that compact, but I’m sure this would make an excellent match for the VTR100 if you were a chicken pickin’ Telecaster player.
Reader Larry Richea submits the following;
“I can recall spending an afternoon with him (Ken Verlage) about 1971-2 and watching him hand modify the preamps in a VTR-100. I would play a little, suggest a characteristic, more ‘creamy’ perhaps a little dirtier . . . and he would get in there and solder away.
His 100 Watt VTR 100 head had a built-in ‘Dynacomp’ option available (an industry first I believe) and I wish I could find one of these heads today for that sound (like Hendrix’s three Plexi stacks at Woodstock but not so loud).
If you look closely at the VTR 100 it internally blended the two very noticeably different preamps. One very sharp and bitey, the other Creamy- Jazzy smooth. No short jumper cable needed like in the Plexi’s. He was very interested in obtaining a good distorted sustained sound for guitar players. He also produced a very popular bass unit which incorporated a 15″ folded horn that I believe he said came from an Electro-Voice design.
We Saskatchewan rockers used to stack up these folded horns and couple them to Altec 511b’s with 808 drivers for P.A.; worked great! Ken sold Altec Horn cabinets for this purpose and he included 3-step attenuation to better match the Altecs to the Folded Horns
Ken moved his manufacturing facility to Regina in 1972. He built the amps and cabinets in the basement of a Wool shop on Rose or Hamilton Street in the downtown section where the Cornwall Center Mall is now located. His retail outlet was located on the second floor of that same store. Talk about inconvenient. Within a year he moved the operation to the Angus Street site mentioned in the VTR-100 brochure (near Taylor Field). In all I would estimate that he punched out a few hundred units until the whole thing seemed to crumble by 1975-6.
The last I saw of Ken was around 1994 sitting in a downtown park in Regina.”