Supro Amplifiers: the Lore, the Legend, the Tone
by Dave Hunter
The legendary Supro logo with signature lightning bolt stirs several images simultaneously for most guitarists. Sum these up as unique looks, individual tone, and a near-mythic cool factor that is unmatched in the world of vintage tube guitar amplifiers; but the most common reactions to all of these sensations are best rendered simply as, “I want one!” Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Albert Lee and countless other stars wanted one too—and got ’em, using Supro amps to lay down the foundations of blues and rock. But the roots of the Supro brand go way back to a time well before the period for which we best know them now, to the very birth of the electric guitar.
Supro’s origins date to the pre-electric guitar days and the formation of the National Resophonic guitar company around 1926, with roots in the resonator guitars that became a blues tone standard prior to amplification. National and Dobro merged in the early ’30s to form Valco, and Supro. Soon, Valco-made Supro amps were tearing it up on Chicago’s south-side scene, establishing a tone that has been synonymous with gritty blues ever since. By the mid 60’s, Jimi Hendrix was playing a Supro Thunderbolt amp on tour with Little Richard and the Isley Brothers. A few years later, Jimmy Page, inspired by the raw tones of the Chicago blues scene, cut seminal Led Zeppelin tracks on a Supro Model 24… and so the chain of influence goes, full circle from Chicago blues, to London blues-rock, with Supro the hip tone to beat.