The Vox New Escort appeared towards the end of UK guitar production, and was only included in one British Vox catalog, the 1967 Vox guitar and bass, although it was first shown at the BMI trade fair, August 1965, and marketed with a price tag of 75 gns. It's design is clearly influenced by (or maybe you could say a direct copy of) the Fender Telecaster, and it's single pickup sibling the Fender Esquire. This might seem a little surprising; whilst they had produced several Fender-esque designs in the early 1960s (such as the Vox Shadow and Symphonic bass), by this stage Vox were much more famous for their unique designs such as the teardrop Mark VI and Phantom guitars. The reason seems to have been purely down to demand; Telecasters don't seem to have been widely available in the UK. Jennings (Vox's parent company) had been distributing Fender guitars (including Telecasters) in the UK until mid 1962, and when this arrangement ceased they attempted to fill significant UK demand with their own model. Selmer took over Fender distribution in late 1962, but omitted it from early publicity. American guitars were still not widely available in the UK, often with limited numbers coming in and expensively priced.
The following description comes from the 1967 Vox catalogue
A new dual pick-up guitar - latest addition to the VOX range - which incorporates all the well-known VOX features PLUS: a high quality sycamore neck adjustable at the head end; very high output moulded pickups; fully adjustable bridge; quick action string cast tailpiece; unique 'Steel Tone' sound. A new patented bridge mounting greatly enhances tone.
Calling it a copy is perhaps a little unfair, when you consider the teardrop-shaped headstock, but it was certainly very close in terms of body and controls. It was a substantial guitar, with a much heftier body than a lot of Voxs - not at all dissimilar in feel to the Fender on which it was based. It was fitted with two (scratchplate-mounted) Vox V2 pickups and had a pretty nice sound.
JMI had offered a Vox Escort, somewhat similar to a Fender Jaguar, from late 1960 to early/mid 1962, though this bore no resemblance to the New Escort. In the same way the Soundcaster was named to evoke the Stratocaster, it would seem the New Escort was an attempt to evoke a connection - if one were needed - to the Fender Esquire. The name was certainly appropriate for the new guitar.
With psychedelia exploding in the brains of musicians and audiences in 1966-67, JMI's innovations in electronic gadgetry couldn't have been better timed. Vox has started producing 'Special' versions of many of their higher end guitars, with built in tone controls, fuzz and a particularly trippy 'repeat' effect. The New Escort was no exception, with the New Escort Special produced with all of these in-built effects; and a tremolo tailpiece replacing the standard stop tailpiece. Only a handful of demo instruments were produced before the companies demise in 1968.
The following images and text all come from 1967 issues of Beat Instrumental magazine
This news story from Beat Instrumental shows Labour M.P. for Dartford, Sydney Irving, at the Jennings plant, being shown a Vox New Escort. Note the black pickup covers and no bridge cover.
The staff at Jennings headquarters, in Dartford, had a visit from their M.P. recently. Mr. Sydney Irving, representing the minister of trade, went along to thank all the staff for their contributions to England's export trade. Here he is with Mr Tom Jennings. Left to right, Mr. M.P. Lipperton (Guitar inspector), Mr Sydney Irving, Mr S. Johnson (Ass. regional controller), Mr Tom Jennings
This image comes from the 1967 British Musical Instrument Trade Fair, Russel Square London. Whilst Dick Denny demonstrates the Vox Winchester, Dave Roberts plays a Vox New Escort Special, with built in electronic effects.
Dick Denny and Dave Roberts demonstrate the latest Vox equipment in Jennings "psychedelic theatre".
Another image from the 1967 British Musical Instrument Trade Fair:
New guitar for Shads - One of the many celebrities at this year's trade fair was Shadow Bruce Welch he is seen here being presented with a Vox New Escort guitar by Jennings liaison officer, Charlie Corbett. After the presentation, Bruce commented "Hank will be dead chuffed with this".
One can only wonder why Bruce Welch wasn't sufficiently "chuffed" to keep this New Escort Special himself. Too 'out there' for the Shadows perhaps?
The most notable New Escort user was Graham Nash of the Hollies who sports one in the video for "I can't let go".
Despite the demand in the United Kingdom for Telecasters, the New Escort seemingly only sold in small numbers. When Vox UK guitar production ended in 1968, excess bodies and necks were sold on to UK distributor Dallas Arbiter, who (very briefly) sold a range of Vox guitars, often with Vox branded pickups, bridge covers etc, but typically without decals and serial numbers. Dallas Arbiter even promoted these guitars, allocating them new model numbers in their 1969 catalog. However the New Escort was not included in this publicity. Dallas Arbiter were the UK distributors of Fender at this time, so perhaps this was the reason, or perhaps they had them in insufficient numbers. Some models were available in large numbers, and are actually more common than the Vox-sold version (Soundcaster, Symphonic bass), others come up relatively infrequently. The New Escort is pretty rare either as a Vox or Dallas Arbiter sold instrument. But oddly, at least some of the Dallas Arbiter New Escorts that have surfaced had contemporaneous Watkins-made Telecaster shaped headstocks. These certainly don't appear to be made from another neck that has been reshaped. It has been suggested that these necks were ordered especially to complete the remaining parts, using any teardrop necks on Phantom and Mark (teardrop) models. Whilst this may be the case, it seems odd that Dallas Arbiter would order such necks, especially at the risk of damaging their relationship with Fender.
The image below shows a Dallas Arbiter-sold New Escort with Telecaster-style neck. It is not completely original - the pickups have been swapped out for a pair of Gibson Les Paul Deluxe mini-humbuckers, making an absolutely awesome playing and sounding guitar
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