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The Who’s PA: 1967–1968

The advent of better microphones, including Beyer and Shure, the WEM (Watkins Electric Music) Audiomaster five-channel mixer and multiple WEM 100-watt transistor PA amplifiers chained together changed rock PA. The Who, along with the Pink Floyd, Cream, the Move, etc., were early adopters.

In 1967, the PA employed the Marshall model 1966 Major P.A. 200-watt PA heads and 1976 PA Column, 4x12 100-watt PA cabinets, and eventually the larger slanted cabinet model 1990 8x10 PA cabinets.

In 1968, the PA system was built around a Swedish-made Ackuset mixing board, one of the first mixers to incorporate both volume faders and echo on each channel.

For the 1967 U.S. tours, however, it was customary to use the usually inadequate house PA. Established venues like the Fillmore East, though, had Altec horn-loaded PA systems.

Sunn Coliseum PA

At the beginning of the first U.S. tour, the Who made use of the Blues Magoos purchase of a Sunn Coliseum PA on 14 July 1967.

Mark “Hoss” Amans, roadie for the Blues Magoos, has written that he purchased Sunn amplifiers and Coliseum PA in Tualatin, Oregon, on 14 July 1967, as the tour stopped in Portland. Because the Herman’s Hermits were sponsored by Fender and had matching amps, and the Who were sponsored by Vox and had matching Super Beatles, he thought it appropriate that the Blues Magoos also have a matching backline. So as the tour rolled on, the Who and Hermits used the Sunn Coliseum PA for the tour.

19 July 1967, Salt Lake City, Utah, the Blues Magoos’ Sunn Coliseum PA at stage right.

19 July 1967, Salt Lake City, Utah, the Blues Magoos’ Sunn Coliseum PA at stage right.

Excerpted from Mark “Hoss” Amans book, Where The Action Was:

When we were in Calgary, the Blues Magoos didn’t have matching equipment on stage. Hermans Hermits were sponsored by Fender, and they had all large Fender-dual showman amplifiers. The Who were sponsored by Vox, and had six Super Beatle Vox amplifiers. This was an amplifier I was well familiar with, because when I was with the Raiders, we were sponsored by Vox, as well. I knew Con and Norm Sundholm, because Norm used to play bass with the Kingsmen, and his brother Con started an amplifier company called Sunn, out of Tualatin, OR, just south of Portland.

So when we got to Portland, OR, to play the second gig of the tour, I called up Norm at the plant and told him my situation with the Blues Magoos. Here we were in the beginning of our tour, and I needed amplifiers and PA, bad. The Who, and The Herman Hermits didn’t even carry a PA with them, and in those days, we always carried our own equipment. We very rarely relied on the house to supply amps or PA systems. Keep in mind that this was long before the huge rental systems came into play.

So I took Mike Esposito with me and went to the Sunn factory. We went inside and told them exactly what we needed, and the guys really came through for us and sponsored The Blues Magoos with all Sunn equipment. We had all of the amplifiers for all of the instruments that we needed, and I told them that I wanted a Sunn Coliseum PA system which was customized with two horns on top of each speaker cabinet and two bottoms to a side. So that’s four horns to a side, and two bottoms to a side. And to this day, I still love that system.

I got back to The Coliseum with all of the gear in plenty of time to start the show. Even though though The Blues Magoos were better known at the time than The Who, the guys volunteered to open the show, and they let The Who play second, and The Hermits headlined. So I set up all of the Sunn amplifiers and PA, brand new, right out of the cardboard box. Looked very impressive.

The tour manager, Ed McAdams, used to handle a lot of the Dick Clark tours, and he knew me well. He put me in charge of all three of the road crews, because of my past experience. So unloading the truck, we had all of the Super Beatle amps, all of the Fenders, and all of the new Sunn gear from Portland. Also, all three groups used the Sunn Coliseum PA system, and they all liked it a lot. So I had to teach other roadies and cross-train them on all of the gear on stage. I was also in charge of the stage set up, all of the lighting, the sounds, and backstage security.

In August 1967, the Who purchased their own Sunn equipment, though it is unknown whether they purchased any PA equipment or reverted to using house PA.

Sunn 1967 Coliseum Sound System features:

  • Controls: Four inputs— separate volume controls for each channel; treble, bass, master volume, power switch, standby switch, polarity switch.
  • Two 15″ JBL 130AS speakers; one JBL 375 mid-range driver with matching horn and Golden Sound Lens; one JBL 075 ultra tweeter. Four matching dividing networks (N1200S crossover)
  • Power output: 120w RMS; 280w peak.
  • Amplifier: Push-pull parallel, ultra-linear circuit.
  • Valves: Three 7025; one 6ANB; two GZ-34; four KT-88.
  • Speaker enclosure: Lower sections are rear-loading folded-horn design. Golden Sound lens utilizes a yoke mounting system for the 32lb driver.
  • Dimensions: Amp: 10″ x 24″ x 9½″; Speaker enclosure: lower section — 42″ x 24″ x 15″; Golden Sound Lens: 12″ x 24″ x 24″
  • Weight: 435 lbs.
  • 1968 U.S. MSRP: $3,695.

Sometime around the the 25 Nov., 1967, Village Theatre dates in New York, they would purchase a Sunn PA from Manny’s in New York. Bob Pridden had indicated that it was bought a couple days prior to the 29 Nov., 1967, date in Scotch Plains, New Jersey, though footage from the 25 Nov., 1967, Village Theatre, gig shows Sunn PA in use.

As recalled by Dave Goessling, the PA at the Union Catholic High School Gymnasium gig was a Sunn Coliseum Sound System, comprising two sets of Sunn Coliseum speaker cabinets topped topped by one Coliseum Golden Sound Lens on each side of the stage.

Click to view larger version. Ticket from Union Catholic High School gig, courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Click to view larger version. Ticket from Union Catholic High School gig, courtesy Angelo Del Monte.

Dave Goessling:

At Union Catholic High School in New Jersey, we were all at that show and helped road manager Bob Pridden load the groups’ gear into their bus after the show. We were all very interested in the gear, having a band ourselves. He told us that the band had bought all new gear at Manny’s in NYC just a couple days before, and that Pete had bought a number of those Coral Hornets all at the same time. He said they were fairly inexpensive, and sounded pretty good, and they expected them to last a while and be easy to piece together after smashups.

At the same time they bought the new, huge-for-the-time Sunn PA and Sunn amps. Those amps and PA made a big impression on us (see our fanciful drawings of our band’s dream gear, inspired by that show...). They were huge compared to anything we had seen anyone use up to that time.

The Sunn PA was likely used in the U.S. and Canada until July 1968, when they abandoned their gear at Canadian customs in Toronto after Pete and Roger had their passports stolen and were unable (or unwilling) to satisfy a $20,000 customs bond.

For the January 1968 Australia tour, Roger:

We couldn’t afford to take our own equipment so we had to hire what was there. We used these systems from, like, World War II. It was the PA. It was unbelievable.

For the 22 Feb., 1968, show at Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco, The Who used the brand-new $35,000 house PA.

Ackuset

In late July or early August 1968, after abandoning the Sunn gear in Toronto, they began using a PA system built around a Swedish-made Ackuset mixing board, one of the first mixers to incorporate both volume faders and echo on each channel. This drove four Marshall 8x10 PA cabinets.

10 August 1968, Jaguar Club, St. Charles, Ill., stage-side view of Ackuset PA rig: rack with four power amps (Dynakit 60w?), bottom; an Ackuset 6-channel mixer with sliders, top right, and Ackuset All Sound tape echo, top left. The band in the background is the second warmup band. (Photo: Rick Giles)

Click to view larger version. 10 August 1968, Jaguar Club, St. Charles, Ill., stage-side view of Ackuset PA rig: rack with four power amps (Dynakit 60w?), bottom; an Ackuset 6-channel mixer with sliders, top right, and Ackuset All Sound tape echo, top left. The band in the background is the second warmup band. (Photo: Rick Giles)

Rick Giles:

I first saw the Who on Aug. 10, 1968, at a small venue in St. Charles, Ill., which was a converted roller rink. Sat on the floor with about 300 other people. Very up close and personal so to speak and VERY, VERY, LOUD. But it was a life-changing experience. Keith’s drums were unmiked except for a vocal mike. You could hear Keith perfectly over John’s two Sunn 200s bass amps with four speaker cabinets and Pete’s two Sound City stacks. They used a Swedish PA system called Ackuset for power and four Marshall 8x10 speaker cabinets for speakers. The cabinets were set up like a “T” — that is, one cabinet was set upright with the other on top horizontally. No throwbacks or monitors and you could hear the vocals perfectly like you always could with the Who. They always had the best PA equipment every time I saw them.

Additional info on Ackuset:

1967–68 Photos

7 May 1967, in Sweden, four 8x10 PA cabinets precariously perched.

7 May 1967, in Malmo, Sweden, four 8x10 PA cabinets precariously perched.

6 May 1967, Stockholm, Sweden, with house or borrowed Akuset PA cabinets.

6 May 1967, Stockholm, Sweden, with house or borrowed Ackuset PA cabinets. According the account in The Who in Sweden, it was a “miserable PA-system.”

View of Premier flush stands and Premier 250 bass pedals.

Click to view larger version. 7 May 1967, Kristianstad, Sweden, Bobby Pridden visible behind “table” at stage left.

Click to view larger version. View of Premier flush stands.

Click to view larger version. 7 May 1967, Kristianstad, Sweden, Bobby Pridden visible behind “table” at stage left.

27 May 1967, Pembroke College, Oxford, a Marshall 8x10 PA cabinet slanted precariously perched.

27 May 1967, in Oxford, a Marshall 8x10 slanted PA slanted cabinet precariously perched in a “T” configuration.

Sunn Coliseum Sound System pictured in brochure, as used by the Who from 1967–68 in North America for PA.

Sunn Coliseum Sound System pictured in Sunn brochure, as used by the Who from 1967–68 in North America for PA.

6 April 1968, at the Fillmore East, New York, with Sunn Coliseum PA cabinet topped with two lenses visible at far right.

25 Nov., 1967, at the Village Theatre (later named the Fillmore East), New York, with possible first use of the Sunn PA, with a Sunn Coliseum PA cabinet topped with two Golden Sound Lenses visible at far right.

Collage of 29 Nov., 1967, at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. View large version at The Who Concert Guide. (h/t Dave Goessling.)

Click to view larger version. Collage of 29 Nov., 1967, at Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. (h/t Dave Goessling.)
 
 
 

2 Aug. 1968, with speaker cabinet laid in front of stage as “monitor.”

2 Aug. 1968, at the Singer Bowl, New York, with speaker cabinet laid in front of stage as primitive “monitor.”

23 or 24 August 1968, in Oklahoma, two 8x10 Marshall PA cabinets visible at front of stage.

23 or 24 Aug. 1968, in Oklahoma, two 8x10 Marshall PA cabinets visible at front of stage.

Notable events

1967:

Resources and Information

Acknowledgements

Special thanks to John Hughes (john@pureneasy.fsnet.co.uk) for assistance with this page.

Sources and related sites:

Articles

  • “Rock hall hails Heil’s wizardry. Metro-east native created equipment for stars.” From the Belleville (Illinois) News-Democrat (archived version), Tuesday, 9 May, 2006
  • “Bob Heil: A Living Live-Sound Legend,” from Musician’s Friend, May 2006
  • Guitar Player: The Who’s Sound System. How it grew from 200 to 75,000 watts. By Steve Caraway and Tom Wheeler. November 1977.

Manufacturer’s sites