Magnatone Guitars!

New for Fall 2013, a complete guide to Magnatone guitars and the stories behind them!

1938-1960 Steel Guitars

1956-1963 Bigsby/Barth Era

1964-1966 Starstream Era

 

Other Magnatones

From the late 1930s through the last 1960s, many retailers, distributors, and music publishing companies contacted for OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) manufacturing with Dickerson, Fators, Magna, and ultimately Estey. This was a big part of their business from day one and it continued to the Harmony, PA days of Estey. In the early days it was probably predominately Oahu and Bronson. In the 1960s, Ernest Deffner's brands PANaramic and Titano were popular. This practice wasn't limited to guitar amplifiers, Estey also many organs in the 1960s along side Estey branded organs for Montgomery Ward and Bradford.

 

In the 1960s, while the 400 series of Magnatone branded amplifiers production came to an end in 1963 when the Custom Series was introduced, Estey continued to build the 200/400 traditionally styled amps for some of its big OEM customers for several years.

Earlier circuits, like the 213 and 450 continued with engineering improvements. Whereas earlier circuits used tube rectifiers, the 63-65 OEM circuits moved to solid state diode rectifiers. Also, some of these circuits continued to use 6V6GT power tubes, perhaps at the request of the retailer (Panoramic, Titano), which Magnatone adopted the 7189A, 6GW8, and 6CA7 for their own line of amplifiers. One of these improved OEM circuits was the 96-10041 circuit.

 

  • Aloha
  • Americana
  • Ariatone
  • Bradford
  • Bronson
  • Crown
  • Da Vinci
  • EKO
  • Excelsior
  • Giutietti
  • Harmophone
  • HonoLulu
  • Leilani
  • Lyric
  • Oahu
  • Noble
  • Pacamp
  • PANaramic
  • Titano
  • Tonemaster
  • Lo Duca Bros. Twilighter
  •  

    Aloha Music Company

    The Aloha name was used by the Aloha Musical Instrument Co. and the Aloha Music Company of Corpus Christi Texas. It could have been the same company or two different companies. In the 1940s, there were Aloha steel guitars and amplifiers that both were built by Magna (or Dickerson/Fators).

    The amplifiers wore a silk screened crest, sort of a coat of arms looking thing. The chassis was a regular Magnatone chassis and said "Magnatone" and even a "M-197-3" (or whatever model). Because the name "Aloha" is completely absent from the chassis and cabinet, its common to find these in the hands of people that don't know its an Aloha. There was a "Ray Meany" version of amplifier sold with a "Ray Meany" guitar. While the Meany amp was a Magna build, I don't think the guitar was, although some earlier Aloha guitars were Dickersons.

    This "Ray Meany" model amp is an interesting transition model between Magna building the chassis in the bottom of the cabinet and the top of the cabinet. The chassis is the same stamped steel chassis that was used in the bottom of same era M-195-3 Varsity, just screened upside down and installed in the top of the cabinet instead of the bottom. The fuse and jack are even flip-flopped.

    This is a variation of the 1952ish vintage Magnatone cabinets. The screened Ray Meany crest is long gone.

     

    Americana

    See PAC-AMP

     

    Ariatone

    Estey built amps for someone that sold them under the name Ariatone. Information about this brand is somewhat hard to come by.
    There were a few different models including a 6V6 powered 8" speaker model as well as the 810 which is an advertised 18 watt push-pull amplifier with an 8" speaker. The tube compliment is 12AV6, 12AU6, and two 50C5s. With 120V rectified, they were lucky if they had 140V B+ for the 50C5's making an 18 watt rating a bit far fetched.
    Unlike most of the OEM amps Estey made which were generally re-branded Magnatone amp circuits, this 810 circuit didn't seem to be used in any Magnatone amp. In 1964, Ariatone sold some of the Starlite series amps under the name Ariatone. (Please contact me if you can provide more information about Ariatone).

     

    Bradford

    Estey made organs for retail store chain Grant's that were sold under Grant's electronics brand name Bradford. To accompany some of the organ models, an organ/guitar amplifier was produced in the mid 1960's (see Starlite Series amps).

     

    Bronson

    George Bronson left Oahu in the 1920's to start his own music publishing and distribution company. Pictures above is the "Melody King" built by Magna around 1949 for Bronson. Notice the BMC logo in the bottom left-hand corner of the chassis on one but not on the other. Although Bronson contacted with Dickerson, Fators, and Magna for many different styles of amps, the Melody King seems to the one that pops up more than other these days.

     

    Crown

    At right is a 260 or 280 with a "Crown" emblem. I'm not sure about the history of this brand. It might have been a music store brand. I don't think it was related to the famous Crown that made lots of tape recorders and SS power amps in the 1960s and 1970s (they were building their own stuff in the early 1950's). If anyone knows the story, please contact me..

     

    Da Vinci

    Milton Mann was known as "The Music Man of Orange County" in the fifties and sixties. At the height of the accordion popularity, Mann had 20+ schools with 7,000 students and nearly 100 teachers. Under the name Da Vinci, Mann sold accordions made by Sonola, and amplifiers made by Estey.

    These were based on the premium Magnatone circuits, as well as the economy models.

     

     

    EKO

    Several amplifiers were built for the EKO brand including the 213 and 260. The 213R and 260R featured reverb and were most likely 413 and 460 designs.

     

     

    Excelsior

    Excelsior Accordion Co. was founded in New York City in the twenties by Egisto Pancotti, an accordion repairman and recent immigrant from Castelfidardo, Italy. Along with his brothers, Roberto and Archimedes, Egisto grew the accordion business through the thirties and became a well established name in the Accordion business. In the forties, younger brother Roberto had a falling out when Egisto brought his son Mario in as a partner. Unhappy with a realignment of equity, Roberto set off on his own to to form PANccordion (see below). In 1948, Egisto moved back to Castelfidardo to open an accordion factory and left the New York operation in the hands of his son , Mario. Edward Pancotti (another son, I think) was also a key figure in the company as it moved forward.

    The Excelsior sales room, head office, and factory were originally all located at 337 Sixth Ave in Greenwich Village. Later they moved to 333 Avenue of the Americas. Excelsior contracted with several amplifier manufacturers for Excelsior branded amplifiers including Valco and Sano. They might have contracted with Estey as well. At some point, Excelsior established a presence in Chicago with an office and factory outlet at 3147 North Luna Ave.

    Excelsior can be found under a few different names Excelsior Accordion Co., Excelsior Accordions, Inc. and Excelsior House of Music.

     

     

    Giulietti

     

    The Giulietti Accordion Company of NYC re-badged amplifiers from several manufacturers including both Ampeg and Estey. Most Giulietti amps floating around today seem to be Ampeg or Sano amps, but there were a few Estey builds. The above pictured amp is probably from 1962 or 1963.

    The Giulietti S-8 with reverb was a 440.

     

     

    Harmophone

    Harmophone was a St. Louis Music Supply Co. (SLM) brand by the time Magnatone became the OEM for this brand. SLM was a major distributor of Magna (and later Estey). The Super 130 pictured below is a rebranded 213.

     

     

    Honolulu

     

    Here is the only example I've found of the Honolulu brand. The sticker says "Phoenix Ariz." and in comparison to the Leilani, it is identical even down to the sticker design.

     

    Leilani

     

    The Leilani brand was distributed by Gourley of Santa Monica from the early 1940s well into in the 1950s. The speaker cloth was screened "Leilani" and a sticker was affixed to the chassis. The earlier Dickerson models only carried the Leilani name. The one pictured at right was a Magna era build.

     

    Lyric

    Magna and (later) Estey manufactured amps for Lyric Electronics of Lomita, CA. There was a "Lyric" Magnatone amplifier earlier in the 1950's, but these Lyric amps are different. The earliest one I've seen was from 1959, and they were made through 1964 or 1965. Lyric later contracted with [Audio Guild](audoguild.html> for amplifiers.

     

    Oahu

    Oahu emerged as one of the larger national music distributors during the at the time when the Hawaiian music craze of th thirties and forties. For examples of the early Dickerson/Fators built Oahu's, see 1937-1947 Dickerson. Oahu still contracted with Magna in the late forties and maybe very early fifties, although soon they switched exclusively to Chicago based OEM's.

    Below, the cabinet construction resembles the Bronson above (an Oahu competitor). The "Tonemaster" grill area on the front lights up when the amp is powered up. (photos courtesy of Steve Evans).

     

    Noble

    The Don Noble Company of Chicago contracted with Magnatone several times, from the early days of the late 1940's, through the 1960s (including some of the Royalite topped Custom Series, note the M4 pictured at left). Noble also sourced amps from other manufacturers including Ampeg. While Estey and Ampeg were premium amps, much of Noble's catalog offerings were low-end economy models.

     

     

    PAC-AMP

    PAC-AMP was an amplifier brand that Estey built for in early sixties. These are not very common these days and must have sold in small numbers originally. There were a few models offered, among them were the 215, and a 382 (based on the 280A). The 215 pictured is from 1961 or 1962 and is based on the 213 (photo courtesy of John Sisson). I'm pretty sure the PAC-AMP was sold by Pacific Music Supply Company of Los Angeles.

    Pacific Music Supply Company was the western area distributor for Estey in the 1960's. The sales region included, not only the pacific coast states, but the ten states west of Colorado as well. Joe Steinhauer was president, and with the main office in Los Angeles, he no doubt, had convenient access to Torrance. I suspect that in addition to PAC-AMP, Steinhauer also was behind the Americana amp as well. PAC-AMPs are not common, and Steinhauer sold many more Magnatones than be did PAC-AMPs.

     

    PANaramic and Titano

    The Ernest F. Deffner Company was a musical merchandising business started by Ernest Deffner in 1930's New York. Deffner had sales managers around the country that distributed anything having to do with musical instruments including woodwinds, stringed instruments, as well as accordions and amplifiers.

    During the height of the popularity of the accordion, Deffner became a distributor for Robert Pancotti's PANcordion company, and developed a close working relationship with Pancotti. Later, in early 1960's, Deffner acquired Titano Accordion Co. and distributed both PANcordion and Titano through his same distribution channels.

    For both accordion brand names, Deffner contracted with Estey to build a line of amplifiers. The PANcordion amplifier was called the PANaramic.

    These were re-badged Magnatones. The only differences I've seen, other than cosmetic, might have been speaker choices and control panel layout. One exception to this is the Titano 383. By 1964, there were some other circuit changes that Estey engineers incorporated into the amplifier (see 96-10041 for details).

    The Estey/Deffner relationship ran to 1964 or 1965. I'm not sure if Deffner continued with the Custom Series. Sometime around 1965 or 1966, Deffner switched from Estey in favor of Audio Guild Corp. (AGC) for the manufacture of PANaramic and Titano amplifiers. The AGC amps are completely different circuits than the Estey builds, although they do employ the same vibrato circuit.

    PANaramic models:

    • 1220 was an early 1960 model based on the 260.
    • 1208 a budget model based on the Estey 441 (1963).
    • 1210 based on the 213 and later the 96-10041 (1960-1965).
    • 1240
    • 1262 based on the 260, probably replaced the 1220. (1963).

    Titano models:

    • 314 based on the Magnatone 213 and 413, early 1960 models were two-tone white and black.
    • 383 1960, 1961. based on the 280.
    • 262R was a reverb model, probably based on the 460 with 2 12" speakers.
    • 413R probably based on the Magnatone 440.

    This Titano is forsale at jayrosen.com Photographed by Sibila Savage Photography.

    For more more information about Deffner, see www.accordions.com

     

    Tonemaster

    See Imperial Accordion Company

     

    Twilighter

    The Lo Duca Bros. Co. was a vaudevillian accordion act turned music distributor based in Milwaukee Wisconsin. Tom and Guy Lo Duca opened a music store in 1941 Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The initial primary focus to was music lessons. It was impossible to import accordions from Europe, so Tom Lo Duca designed is own and had them made in Detroit. After the war, Lo Duca Bros. invested in Italian factories and began importing the Lo Duca designs from Italy. Lo Duca started selling US built guitar and accordion amplifiers under the names "Duca-Tone" and "Twilighter". At first, the amps were most-likely made by Valco, but they eventually had Magna and Estey manufacture them as well. They also began to import import EKO guitars from Pigini (1961)

    The 1960's Twilighters were certainly Estey builds. At some point in the early sixties, Lo Duca also sold the premium Magnatones with the Magnatone name and affixed this medallion to the front to indicate the dealer.

    Also, oddly enough some of these amps were produced with the name Lo Duca and some with La Duca . Below is from a "TWILIGTER 260R". "Twilighter" and "La Duca" were misspelled on the screened control panel (Estey did the screening too!) so there might have been some "dust up" at Lo Duca at the time.

    Some Lo Duca amplifier models:

    • 260R a "260 with Reverb", or more accurately a 460.
    • 213R a "213 with Reverb", or more accurately a 440.
    DA/MagnatoneAmps.com

     

     

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