Vox content on this site is sorted into categories:
Vox was a massive name in 1960s Britain, with guitars and amplifiers widely used by the very biggest names in British music: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals, The Hollies, The Dave Clark Five and the Yardbirds, to name but a few. Soon American acts would join the roster, most notably Paul Revere & the Raiders and James Brown, but also countless less well known bands. For a few short years in the mid 1960s, the Vox name was everywhere. Today, vintage Vox guitars are highly collectable, especially the teardrop and phantom styed guitars, and the more unusual models: early JMI guitars and those with complicated inbuilt effects circuitry.
But the story of the 1960s Vox guitars is complicated, with many different guitars made in different plants worldwide, often quite different from each other. But it started in England; JMI were making Vox guitars at a factory in Dartford, Kent (See pic), primarily for Shadows fans in the UK. After Beatlemania, Brian Jones' teardrop Mark VI and the British Invasion of 1964, they could not keep up with worldwide demand, especially in the US. JMI outsourced some production to two Italian factories, EKO in Recanati, and Crucianelli, primarily for the American market, and at it's peak had a huge number of models available. Eventually the UK factory ceased guitar production, and the last few Vox guitars available for several years, were the Vox Giant range guitars, made in Japan.
Today, many of these rare guitars are highly collectable, with vintage Vox guitar values on the rise. They are loved for their crazy shapes and for the exciting sounds from the built-in guitar effects. Have a listen to some vintage Vox soundclips.
The various Vox guitar manufacturers
Vox guitars have been produced by various manufacturers in the United Kingdom, Italy and Japan; for convenience, you can split 1960s Vox guitars into four main categories. Each had different components, and it is not too difficult to place a guitar in one of these groups, just by looking at controls, pickups etc.
Two UK-produced Vox Ace guitars from 1962/3
Vox Prototype Designer Mick Bennett drills holes for control knobs, of a Vox Mark guitar at the Dartford plant, United Kingdom
The Jennings shop, 100 Charing Cross Road, London, specialised in Vox guitars
JMI - Vox guitars made in England
The earliest UK Vox's were solid-body guitars, assembled in the JMI 'Unity Works' plant in Dartford, Kent, with components coming from numerous British suppliers. Later necks were imported from Italy, but even with an Italian neck, these are regarded as the British Voxs. Unable to cope with worldwide demand, a second plant 'West Street' was opened nearby in 1965, but was badly damaged by fire in January 1966. Numerous JMI guitars were produced in the UK, from the Fender-style solid bodies Shadow, Ace, Stroller and Consort, to more original designs, such as the Phantom, Mark and Marauder. These were primarily for the British market, though many were exported to the United States in the early/mid 1960s.
Crucianelli / Eko - Early Italian guitars
At the same time, there was significant demand for hollow-body instruments, something not easily produced in any numbers at the Dartford plant. So Vox imported a range of guitars from Italian manufacturer Crucianelli. These models include the Vox Lynx, Vox Cougar bass, Vox Challenger, and Escort bass. Furthermore, demand for solid body UK models was so high that certain guitars were produced simultaneously in Britain and Italy (primarily by Eko of Recanati). Italian Phantoms from this period have some differing components and construction from their British-built counterparts.
EME - Italian guitars for the US
The third main phase of Vox production is possibly the best known worldwide. These were the Italian built Vox's from the EME factory in Recanati; a joint Venture between Vox UK, Eko in Italy, and Vox's US distributor Thomas Organ. Most of these instruments were bound for the United States, where they were distributed by the Thomas Organ Company.
Although they have distinctive components, and often built-in electronic effects, most were versions of existing Vox models: primarily the phantom and teardrop shaped guitars (eg Delta, Starstream), Gibson/Gretsch-style single and double cutaway hollow bodies, (Ultrasonic, Viper, Cheetah, Apollo, Bossman) - plus the Invader and Thunderjet solid bodies.
From 1966 things started going wrong for Vox, ultimately resulting in the company briefly going out of business, and Vox guitar manufacture ending in the UK. By mid 1968, JMI were in the hands of the receiver. Leftover Vox guitars were distributed unbranded (though potentially still with some Vox markings) by Dallas Arbiter.
Vox Sound (Japan)
The last Vox's produced in the 1960s, (and into the early 70s) were the Japanese-made Vox Giant guitars. Aimed at the UK/European market, and first shown at the August 1968 Frankfurt trade fair. These guitars were mainly copies of American designs - Les Paul (and later SG) styled solid bodies and Gretsch Country Gent styled semi acoustics - quite nice guitars, but without the uniqueness of earlier models. These did not sell particularly well, and importation quickly stopped, leaving Vox to concentrate on Amplifiers for the rest of the 1970s.
Latest Vox Updates
The most recent content posted to this site on vintage Vox guitars:
The Vox Stroller
was the brand's entry level electric solid body guitar, fitted with just one pickup and a fixed tailpiece. Although aimed at student guitarists, it wasn't a terrible instrument, but did lack somewhat in adjustability, having no accessible truss rod and only a floating rosewood bridge. But this example is actually quite an improvement on earlier versions, with a standard 1/4" jack and a solid mahogany body. 1967 price £18 2s. JMI ceased UK guitar production in late '67, and combined with decreasing demand for the Stroller, this surely must be one of the last examples shipped.
A nice example of the Vox Clubman II
bass, built by JMI in Dartford, Kent in 1963. This is a lightweight bass, short (30") scale and very easy to play. It is an early example, and as such has a thin black scratchplate and side mounted, coaxial output jack. JMI offered left handed examples of their solid body Vox guitars and basses at 10% premium. Production numbers are unclear, but left-handed examples rarely come up for sale
The Clubman was one of the earliest UK-built guitars produced by Vox at it's Dartford plant. As an entry level model it was very light, fitted with the most basic components, and not made of the most select woods, but it's unique styling, low price and easy playability made for a relatively popular guitar. Initially there were two guitar models, the single pickup Clubman I and dual pickup Clubman II, and a companion Clubman bass
- check them out in the 1962 Vox catalogue
. The guitar was redesigned in the middle of 1963, getting a new Strat-style body, but examples with the older body style were still being shipped perhaps as early as the start of 1964.
The Vox Consort was produced in the UK throughout the mid 1960s; originally modelled on the Fender Jaguar
, it was one of JMI's better quality instruments, with many features not seen on lower-priced guitars. This early example mixed innovative tone circuitry with Vox's original chrome-covered V1 pickups, for "every possible variation of tone from bass to sharp brilliance". By the middle of 1963, the model had been redesigned, becoming less Fender-esque and more Vox - have a look at the redesigned Consort in the 1963 Vox catalogue
A recollection of life inside JMI's two UK Vox
factories in Dartford: Dartford Road, and West Street, Erith, circa 1965/66; building Vox solid body guitars; working on special instruments including a highly ornate Vox Soundcaster for the Royal family and a five-string Symphonic bass for the Hollies; plus sharing your sandwiches with Bill Wyman! By Tony Russell.
bass was one of the models produced by JMI in the UK, primarily for the early sixties British market. It was comparatively high priced, still cheaper in the UK than the Fender Precision
that it was emulating, but not by much, and actually more expensive in the USA. It only sold in small numbers in Britain and barely at all overseas. No equivalent model was produced in Italy, and although it remained in UK price lists as late as 1967, it is unlikely many instruments were shipped beyond 1965.
This early Vox brochure comes from summer 1963, still the early days of JMI production, and shortly before the beat boom of the mid 1960s. At this time, Vox guitars were built in the UK, primarily for the British market. The company had refined it's production methods, to some extent, and many of the guitars shown are quite different from those in the Choice of the Stars
catalogue from late 1962. Includes primarily Vox solid body guitars, basses and amplifiers. See other Vox catalogue scans here
The Vox Ace
was one of the early UK-designed Vox guitars produced by JMI in Dartford, Kent. It had been in production since at least 1962, but was redesigned for late 1963 with a more current look and a higher quality feel. The pickups were upgraded, as was the body; it was now thicker and made of solid wood. Despite this the guitar was now actually lighter in weight, due to a shorter overall length. Have a closer look at a sunburst-finished Vox Ace from 1965.
This is one of the earliest JMI catalogues to show guitars, and although undated it was most likely printed in late 1962 or early 1963. There are many well-known Vox guitar and amplifier models shown, amongst several that would be completely redesigned before appearing again; the most interesting examples are perhaps the Phantom I and Phantom II
which are electronically quite distinct from the Phantom that would follow a little later. The Vox Escort
and Vox Soloist
only appear in this brochure, being deleted before the next was printed in mid-1963.
The Vox Ace
was available from at least 1962 and at least as late as 1966, however it underwent a significant redesign in mid 1963; the result bearing little resemblance to the initial design. Two early Vox Ace guitars are shown on this site: they are hard to date accurately, but the first is perhaps a 1962 Vox Ace
, the second slightly later, probably an early 1963 Vox Ace
. Although still one of Vox's earliest guitar models, the Vox Ace was a noticeable step up from other well-known early Vox guitars such as the Vox Shadow
and Vox Stroller
. It sold relatively well in the UK in the early 1960s, but in the latter half of the decade was overshadowed by more iconic models, such as the Vox Phantom
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