Quilter Amplifiers

Shortly before Randy met Danny, he was working with a bass player named Mike Castevens.  Mike rode an old Indian motorcycle and was working at this guy Pat Quilter’s formative guitar-amp shop.   

Randy was using a Fender Single Showman at the time and he was constantly blowing it up trying to play Jimi Hendrix licks. He really needed the Dual Showman version, but you couldn’t just add another speaker to the existing cabinet, the output transformer was set to drive only one.  Randy’s father passed by Fender Musical Instruments in Fullerton each day on his way to work, and he would take in the amp every other day or so to get a new speaker. After about five warranty replacement speakers (expensive JBL D130F’s) he was basically advised that he was expecting too much from the amp. What to do? 

Mike introduced Randy to Pat Quilter, saying “this guy is an electrical genius, he can build you whatever you want.” Pat’s first idea was to replace the single 15 with a set of four 12-inch speakers wired for the same impedance. These were the heaviest-duty speakers available from a local electronics store. They held up for a little while but eventually fried as well. However, Randy thought this was progress at least, and remained interested in what would happen next at “Da Shoppe”. The group Randy and Mike played in broke up, so equipment plans were put on hold, but when Danny joined the band, Randy realized that Pat Quilter was what Wildfire needed. 

Mike Castevens, who played bass with Pat Quilter’s younger brother in their high school band “The Blown Mind”, had commissioned the first Quilter amp with the inspiring nameplate “A Quilter Sound Thing.”  It was a 100 watt amp that sold for $250.  Pat remembers that he had to do everything over twice before it worked, and that he made about 3 cents an hour after all was done! 

“Flushed with success,” according to Pat, he went into business in 1968 and quickly connected with several local bands in Southern California, including Wildfire. A great part of the dominance of the Wildfire sound was due to the next-generation Quilter amplifiers they used.  Randy got an early prototype of the “Model 500” which had 200 watts, but only 3 main control knobs – volume, treble and bass.  Pat squeezed in a little mid-range knob to add “contour” and give the sound more overdrive, but Randy didn’t consider that one of the main controls.   

Having learned not to skimp on speakers, the Model 500 came with a single tall cabinet holding no less than six Altec 417C guitar speakers – a truly cosmic experience! There are a few 455 and 500 heads in the Quilter museum, but no original Quilter speaker bottoms have surfaced – no doubt they were eventually recycled as closets or storage units.   

  The earliest Model 500 amplifiers were plenty loud, but there were some bugs in the design.  For some reason, about 25% of them would “just blow!”  If they made it through a few gigs, they were usually good for life.  They were the loudest thing available, even compared to a Marshall stack at the time.  Danny played through a newer, cleaned-up Model 455 with a 2 x 15 Altec bass cabinet. 

Later Randy asked Pat to build him a bigger stack, and he was rewarded with a 500 watt monster with 2 4-12 cabinets.  The stack contained a faceplate that said “The Randy Love Model” and cost him $2,100.  It stood about 8-10 inches taller than a Marshall and, according to Randy, “just kicked ass!”  Unfortunately, the power of this amplifier did not catch on with other bands. 

By about 1972, it became clear to Pat and his partners that they had missed their chance to take over the world in guitar amplifiers.  Marshall had already become the standard for “big stacks” and other companies had taken up the rest of the business.  Beginning in the mid-seventies, “Quilter” became “QSC” and refocused on rack-mounted general purpose amplifiers. The company has since worked its way to leadership in the general sound reinforcement industry. 

Check out today’s Quilter amps at www.qsc.com.

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