Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Original Crate Amplifier

Gene Kornblum
In the late 1970’s, Gene Kornblum was shopping at a Crate and Barrel store and was impressed with how the products were displayed in wooden crates. Kornblum just happened to be the CEO of St. Louis Music.

For those unfamiliar with the company, St. Louis Music started out in the 1920’s as a music store and a publisher of sheet music. Over time, the business grew and they started selling their own line of imported instruments.

These included Alvarez, Yari and Electra guitars as well as violins, violas cellos, Remo drum heads and many other music supplies.

Bernard Kornblum started the company. After Bernard retired, he handed the reigns over to his son, Gene.

Gene Kornblum, impressed with the display crates, wondered if a crate could be used to house a guitar amplifier. That is how Crate Amplifiers came into being.

The original Crate CR-1, introduced in 1978, was housed in a bare wooden crate. It just made common sense to call this, “The Crate Amplifier.” The amp was marketed as a practice amplifier. It was only 10 solid-state watts, but came with a 12” speaker that gave it a rich full sound. As a plus, it was manufactured in the USA.

By the 1980’s St. Louis Music had sold enough Crate Amplifiers to warrant enlarging their existing business and manufacturing capabilities. Within a few years, the wooden crate housing look was left behind in favor of traditional tolex covering. A whole range of Crate solid-state amplifiers was being offered.

As tube powered amplification gained popularity, Crate launched a line of tube-based models that became popular. St. Louis music eventually took on some other amplifier lines other than Crate, which included Vox and Ampeg.

However, the one unique amplifier that stands out in my mind is the original wooden Crate model.

The original 10-watt solid-state amp featured Gain, Treble, Bass, Master Volume controls with 2 inputs all going into a 4 ohm, 12-inch speaker. The rear of the amp featured a lineout jack. Everything was housed in a simple pine cabinet.

In 2005, Kornblum and his family sold the St. Louis Music business to a company called Loud Technologies. Along with the sale, the new owners acquired all of the company’s brands including Crate, Ampeg, Blackheart, and Alvarez.


Young Vic said...

My first impression is that I love the tune, with some killer guitar riffs and some heavy beats, but I am not a fan of the vocals.

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Steve said...

I just picked up a Crate I amp - the original version. It was my first amp back in 78; it sucked then, and still sucks! But, I love the "look". I am going to gut it, and put in new (tube?) components and an Eminence Patriot Texas Heat speaker. Anyone have any experience doing a complete re-build?

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