His first attempt at making an amplifier was to save money for his band. Due to word of mouth there was a demand for his amplifiers. He went on to make and sell more. Within five years he had established his own company which he named Kustom Amps.
All of Ross’s amplifiers used only transistors instead of tubes. In the mid 1960's we didn't care if the amp had tubes or transistors. We wanted big, clean and loud.
Fender came to the transistor market in the mid-1960’s and failed miserably, due to their amplifier line which seemed to have acquired a bad reputation for not being dependable. But in 1966 Bud Ross hit the jackpot. His amps and speaker cabs were incredibly well constructed and many of his early products are still in use today despite being forty to fifty years old and having little or no maintenance.
The amplifier chassis was made of steel. The cabinets used wooden frames. All were covered in a vinyl material known as naugahyde that was applied using a tuck and roll covering design. Naugahyde is a trademark of the Uniroyal company which was Kustom’s supplier. Beneath the vinyl was a poly-foam sheet. This was similar to what was being used in automobiles from that era.
Not only did Ross build amplifiers, but he also built public address systems using the same design. Ross did all of this from a small factory in the small town of Chanute, Kansas.
There was nothing similar to a Kustom amplifier. It was unlike anything Fender or Gibson made. Although Vox and Marshall would be on the scene in a few years, Kustom was to be popular until the company folded, because they were different. They sounded great and that’s all we cared about. Besides that, these were huge impressive amplifiers.
The success of his amplifiers allowed Ross to diversify into manufacturing radar and car monitors that were used by law enforcement.
John Forgarty of out of Creedence Clearwater Revival is still using a Kustom K200 A-4 (100 watt) amplifier. This 1968 model had the usual reverb and tremolo/vibrato and also harmonic clipper and boost controls. Kustom amps came with anywhere from 50 to 100 watts.
The oldest ones came with a black plexiglass front plate with the logo in the center and also a power/polarity three was toggle switch on the back and two arms to wrap the power cord around while transporting the amplifier. The control knobs were in two rows.
Other users included Motown bass player James Jameson, Sheryl Crow, Waylon Jennings, Leon Russell, Johnny Cash, Roy Clark, The Jackson 5, Carl Perkins, and The Carpenters. The original Kustom amplifiers will say Kustom by Ross.
|Bud Ross with Kustom Kat|
In an original promotion Kustom gave away "Kustom Kats" with the purchase of an amplifier. I had one of these and gave it away to my girlfriend.
Although I have never seen any amps other than guitar and bass amplifiers, I’ve read that Ross also made amps for classic guitar.
Before synthesizers became affordable and plentiful, we had combo organs. Kustom made two versions of organs.
Unfortunately Bud Ross was a compulsive gambler and gambled away his company in a poker game. The company was picked up by a conglomerate and changed hands a few times.
The company was eventually sold to the Baldwin Piano Company of Cincinnati Ohio. At the time Baldwin was venturing into the guitar business by purchasing Burns Guitars and its inventory. Could Kustom amp schematics be the basis of Baldwins amplifiers? I don't know. Baldwin failed in the guitar market and sold off much of its stock.
At that time an employee named Bob Monday purchased the naming rights and inventory of Kustom. Bob would travel around to guitar shows and sell off inventory piece by piece.
In 1924 a musical instrument and supply manufacture known as Davitt and Hanser started up in the musical instrument business. They eventually moved to a warehouse in the Delhi Township in the western section of Cincinnati. By the late 1980’s they had purchased the Kustom name and began importing solid state amplifiers with the Kustom name.
These amps looked nothing like the ones Bud Ross made. There was some interest in their products. In 2005 Davitt and Hanser got serious about Kustom amps and started experimenting with different models.
One of their most popular was a small 15 watt solid state practice amp with a sparkle tuck and roll covering.
Recently Kustom revamped their line-up of electric tube and solid state amps and acoustic amplifiers. The amps are excellent, especially the Coupe models that have somewhat of a design reminiscent of tuck and roll on the amps topside.
Let's get back to the Ross Kustom line.
In the 1970’s Kustom came out with a product line under the Kasino name that produced guitar/bass amplifiers and P.A. systems.
Shortly after losing the Kustom Company, Ross moved to Los Angeles and started Road Electronics which manufactured Road Amplifiers. These are fairly obscure, but they were definitely made by Bud Ross.
For a brief while Kustom produced a line of it’s own guitars that were also made in Chanute Kansas.
It is my understanding Semie Moseley had a hand in the Kustom guitar design. Moseley is credited in a Vintage guitar interview as having worked for or consulted several guitar manufacturers.
Wurlitzer subcontracted it’s line of guitars through a Kansas manufacturer named Holman-Woodell.
In 1967 he was offered a job with Bud Ross and his company and left Holman-Woodell.
It was a semi-hollow body instrument with a cats-eye sound hole on the upper bout and controls on the lower bout, which gave the appearance of a Rickenbacker style guitar.
The guitar came with dual single coil DeArmond pickups, a more or less Gretsch style adjustable bridge and a control panel on the guitars scratch plate that included individual volume and tone controls for each pickup a Gibson style toggle switch and a front mounted input jack and of course the Bigsby. The bolt-on neck was topped with a rosewood fretboard inlaid with four dots for each position marker below the 12th fret. The 12th fret had 3 position marker and subsequently there were 2 markers at the high G and high A fret, then one each at the B fret and C sharp fret. The neck was bound and had a steel nut.
The guitars came in several different coulors including natural, white, blue, wineburst aka watermelon burst, cherry-orange suburst, natural ash, black ash and white ash.
The guitars were also produced with or without the Bigsby. The non-Bigsby models bore a trapeze tailpiece.
I must give the company credit. Hanser has been continuously innovative in maintaining Kustoms reputation and putting out excellent products.
Visit Kustom's web page
Scotty Anderson uses this Kustom Amplifier on all of his gigs.