Jimi Hendrix’s Sunn 100s

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Sometime in early 1968, Hendrix signed an endorsement deal with Sunn amp. Allegedly, he was approached with this idea by Buck Munger (PR, Sunn Amps.) sometime after Monterey Pop Festival.

I went backstage (Monterey Pop Festival), and by the end of the night, I knew what record label he was on. Someone invited me, I think it was Chas Chandler, to a gig in Los Angeles to come and see Jimi and talk about equipment. So I showed up at this gig, it was in Santa Barbara, and had a very quick conversation with Jimi wherein I said “I work for this small company in Oregon, and we make high quality stuff; we use JB Lansing speakers and Dynakit transformers: I had all my little buzz phrases, and I was a musician. He just said, “Hey man, set me up for this gig. It’s down here, this is the date, have all the stuff there and we’ll see what happens.”

Buck Munger, Straight Ahead Magazine 1996

Looking at the tour dates, Jimi played a gig at Robertson Gym, Santa Barbara on February 11, 1968. Interestingly, he was already using Sunn amps at that gig, and Buck Munger is seen in the background monitoring Jimi’s performance. It is likely therefore that Buck and Jimi struck a deal sometime prior to the gig itself, and that this was the first time that Jimi ever used a Sunn amp live. According to most sources, the actual deal took place after the Anaheim gig on February 2, 1968 – during which both of Jimi’s Fender Dual Showmans allegedly broke, and the band managed to play only four songs.

The amplifiers broke down during the first show, resulting in only four numbers being played during the second show. After the show, Chas and Jimi were approached by Buck Munger representative for Sunn Amplification who replaced their Fender gear (provided at the start of the tour, but not powerful enough for Jimi’s tastes) with brand new Sunn equipment.

1968-02-09 Anaheim Convention Center, Anaheim, California USA

According to photo evidence, Jimi used what appears to be either a 100s or a Spectrum II model (they look identical) for a very brief period of time. Only seven days after he started using the amps, at Music Hall, Houston, Texas, he made a public statement that the move to Sunn was a mistake. It seems that at this time Jimi just couldn’t find an amp that would satisfy his needs, and the frustration was starting to set in.

… a nightmare jumps out to me, here in Houston. I was not at the gig, I was back in Los Angeles. But somebody called me, and said that Jimi got up on stage and did a long monologue about how shitty these amplifiers were performing for him here. By Houston, he was having a little trouble. After Houston, things started running downhill.

An interview from Houston Chronicle (19 February), further confirmation needed

He did, however, continue using the amps, and was seen with a huge stack of Sunn heads and cabinets at The Scene Milwaukee on February 28th. By mid-March 1968, Sunn heads were gone and were replaced by a Marshall / Sound City head combo.

Sunn Cabinets

In the beginning, Jimi mostly seemed to have used four Sunn 100-F cabinets, with two more sitting on top of them horizontally. These were originally shipped with one JBL D-130 in the bottom and an L-E 100-S in the top. According to Buch, Jimi later requested that all the cabinets be fitted with 12″ Eminence speakers. These continued to be used until the end on the 1968 US tour, although by that point Jimi had already stopped using the Sunn heads and went back to Marshall.

We then went to four 12″ Eminence speakers at Jimi’s request, and we also took his advice that the minimum acceptable power at that time was 100 watts. [continued] Jimi was used to the big numbers, and when he turned his Sunn amps up, he got a lot of noise he didn’t like.

Various Comments About Jimi’s Gear, Crosstown Traffic

There is some talk that Jimi continued using Coliseum P.A. tops for guitars altered to 120W, but we haven’t seen those on any of the photos.

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Rich Trevaskis
Rich Trevaskis
1 year ago

I and members of my previous band saw JH play the music hall in Cleveland on March 26, 1968. I don’t remember seeing any amp heads but he was playing a literal wall of 2-15 sunn bottoms with silver domed JBL D130’s. As I remember there were 30 bottoms stacked up across the stage.

Bruce Reed
Bruce Reed
1 month ago

Wow, this confirms my recollection. I saw Jimi that night at Robertson Gym in Santa Barbara, with a full backline of Sunn amps. Interestingly enough I happened to attend a “going-on’tour” party a few weeks later in the Hollywood Hills for the Bonzo Dog Doo Dahh band. Mostly Brits with Townsend & Entwistle in attendance. Who should happen to walk in, but Jimi. He bounced around the house and was being hounded by the hanger-on-ers, and happened to stop right next to me. Being a musician myself I tried to think of something cool to say, so blurted out “hey, Jimi, I see that you are now using Sunn Amps.” He looked down at the floor (yes, he was shy) and said “No, man, I don’t use those Sunn Amps” and eventually walked out the front door. I was 18 and that was the greatest thing that ever happened to me at that time.

Bruce Reed
Bruce Reed
1 month ago

I also met Groucho, so I am not impressed much with celebrities! Advantages of living in So. California back then. Cheers!