Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Vox Phantom Guitar and Bass

In 1962 the Vox Musical Instrument Company introduced a pentagonal guitar they called the Vox Phantom. Tom Jennings and Dick Denney, the owner and designer of Vox amplifiers were enjoying success with the Vox AC15 and Vox AC30 amplifiers.

To compete with other guitar/amp companies such as Fender, they decided to add guitars to their offerings. These instruments were initially built by a cabinet making firm in Shoeburyness, Essex. The first instruments featured solid bodies and resembled Fender's popular guitars.

Jennings and Denney wanted a guitar that did not resemble any existing instruments; a guitar that would stand out.

They enlisted help from the London Design Center. The shape that was suggested we now know as the Vox Phantom

Although the guitar's shape looked nothing like anything else, the features resembled a Fender Stratocaster with the three single coil pickups and a tremolo.

The tremolo was based on the Bigsby B5. The bridge/saddle was much like a tune-o-matic unit.

The natural finished headstock was initially a six on a side unit that was a different shape than a Strat. The neck was maple. The fretboard was made of rosewood. The pickup covers were rectangular and were all parallel to each other. The tremolo was more like a Bigbsy unit than a Strat unit.

The pentagonal body was assymetrical with the lower portion having wider angles than the upper portion and the bottom was cut at an angle which was deeper on the lower side.

The control knobs were lined up along the lower bout.  The guitar had one volume knob and two tone controls, very similar to a Stratocaster. In the middle on the lower bout was a 3 position potentiometer with sort of a gear shift style lever to control which pickup was engaged.

Interestingly, the earlier model guitars was not designated with a Vox logo. The word, “Phantom” was applied to the headstock. Later models had the word “Vox” on the headstock, with “Vox Phantom” silk-screened on the body.

Production did not stay in the U.K. for very long and was moved to Italy where it was subcontracted to EKO. The EKO produced guitars had a higher retail price than the U.K. versions.

It appears the English made Vox guitars had a metal truss rod cover and no back pad.  The Italian versions featured a back pad, similar to those on Gretsch guitars and the truss rod adjustment was at the necks bottom.  So there was no need for a headstock plate.

The models were available either as a guitar or bass and offered with a white or black body. The body color did not make much difference since most of it was not visible due to the white pickguard that almost covered the guitars top.

A bass model was also produced. This came with two single coil pickups. One pickup was placed right at the heel of the neck and the other pickup close to the bridge.

The neck was similar to the guitar, maple with a rosewood fretboard. The tuners were four on a side. The headstock was painted to match the body.

The bass model was known as the Phantom IV.

The bass player for Paul Revere and the Raiders was Phil Volk aka Fang. He became known for exclusively playing a Vox Phantom bass. He uses black electrical tape on the back of his Vox Phantom bass to spell out his nickname.

The Phantom XII (twelve string) came in two versions.  One was a normal guitar and the other was a stereo guitar.

Tony Hicks of the Hollies was a Vox endorser and played a Vox Phantom XII on some of the bands songs.

Besides building the popular Vox AC30 and AC15 amplifiers, Vox's other well known and highly successful item was the Vox Continental Organ. It would make sense that Vox would offer a combo organ. Vox originally started out as The Jennings Organ Company.

The popular keyboard with the bright reddish-orange top and the harpsichord style key pattern (black keys with white keys on the top) was an instant hit.

Dick Denney determined in 1966 that Vox could build a phantom guitar with a built-in Vox organ. The Vox Phantom Organ was a very complex instrument.

The frets became electric contacts that not just changed the string length to create the guitars notes, but acted to change the transistors and create the organ notes. A row of buttons on the guitar's face created chords, much like a chord organ. The guitar was sold with a multi-pronged cable that connected to a generator unit.  Using 1966 technology, the Guitar/Organ was way ahead of its time and possibly the precursor to the Guitar/Synthesizer.
©UniqueGuitar Publications (text only)



Mr Noble said...

no photo of the guitar eh?

Marc said...

I ususaly try to keep one or two guitar stories ahead. I forgot to click on save for editing purposes. I'm attaching pictures right now. Sorry.

Thanks for reading my blog Mr. Noble.

Anonymous said...

I've owned a P VI since '77 and am thinking of selling it now. Only thing missing is the little bolt that holds the vibrato on. Otherwise, all original w/case. any thoughts on where I should try to sell? I just don't play much anymore due to a nerve damaging dog bite on left hand.

Anonymous said...

do you know anything about the phantom special its quite cool ,it has built in fuzz and tremolo among other effects
and then theres the guitar organ ,its cool put it doesnt work too well

Anonymous said...

Ah ... the treble pole pieces are LOWER than the others, because those have a HIGHER frequency responce than the lower notes. Duh. So this WAS meant to make volumes across the six strings more even. Fender and others did exactly the same thing (Fender with more detail though).

You really should know this as a collector and player.

Alan said...

The John Barry 7 bass player used a Phantom bass in the 60's. I actually played it at a gig with another band who had it in the 70's. I'd love to get one or build a replica.--Alan Teeside UK

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