Our website mentions that we stock guitars in many categories, including – “acoustic, electric, unique, interesting, exceptional, collectable, rare, retro, cool, vintage, classic, or just weird & wonderful.”
This one definitely fits into the “weird and wonderful” category. It’s a super rare and very interesting Vox Guitar Organ from 1966.
The “Guitorgan” was the ultimate attempt by VOX to be at the forefront of innovation in the ’60s. Based on the mid 60s Phantom guitar, VOX then added the innards of their Continental organ and built it all around a solid aluminium neck.
You can play it as an ordinary guitar, a guitar-organ, solo organ or as an organ rhythm to a guitar melody. The body features more knobs and buttons than one could hope for. The V251 connects to its own power-supply unit via DIN plugs and a four-conductor cable (power, guitar output, organ output and common). The power supply unit in turn has individual outputs for guitar and organ, which connect to any two channel guitar amp.
In “normal” mode, organ tones are triggered by pressing any string onto a fret – each fret has 6 individual sensors, so any string fretted in a particular position will emit an organ tone at that pitch. There are individual trim pots accessible on the rear, which enable tuning the organ to the pitch of the guitar. Ridiculously complicated, but it works.
There is an option to silence the lowest two strings, and the organ section, as a whole, can also be switched off. There is a four-position octave selector, a six-position effect selector, a four-way selector for the percussion, and a flute selector.
The guitar section is equipped with two Vox pickups, a three-way selector, and conventional volume and tone controls. In common with Phantom models, it has a Bigsby-style tremolo unit, a fixed-intonation bridge and individual Vox-branded tuners.
Only about 80 of these were ever made. Of that, about one third were black. The first one made went to JOHN LENNON, the second to BRIAN JONES of the Rolling Stones. Lennon’s was later sold at a charity auction for over 300,000 UK pounds. The instrument never became popular though it is seen as a precursor to the modern guitar synthesizer.
Research shows that functioning examples of the 1966 VOX Guitar Organ can fetch US$5000 and up these days. Very few of them still exist in any condition, and this one actually works …. kinda.
The guitar section is all operating properly. The pickups, switching, volume & tone controls all work as they should, and it actually sounds quite good, in a funky 60s kind of way. The aluminium neck is rock solid of course – it is a fine piece of engineering, and obviously will never move or twist.
After a little cleaning up we were able to get the organ section to work, in a basic sort of way. The percussion section is a mystery, but all the strings are making contact with their individual sensors on the frets – mostly. That is, some strings are making some sounds on some frets, and it can be intermittent.
But all the parts are there, and everything appears to be in original, unmodified condition. And amazingly, in the case are all the original circuit diagrams, plus a complete owner’s manual and technical notes.
All that said, this would be an amazing project for a tech minded adventurer setting out on a mid 60s journey of sonic discovery. And this one is priced accordingly.
Quirky video demo – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RtUrpzkfeuI