Sunday, December 31, 2006

Ken Fischer

It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Ken Fischer. My friend Bobby Salomone called this afternoon to wish me a Happy New Year and during the course of the conversation, he asked me if I had heard about Ken. The details of Ken's passing are not as important as the contributions that he made, and the legacy he left to the world of guitar amplification.

Ken designed and built guitar amplifiers that have "Holy Grail" status among the tone-freak upper echelon of players fortunate enough to have plugged into one of his creations. His Train Wreck and Komet amps have already achieved iconic status.

I learned to love one of Ken's creations during the time that Mark Knopfler was at Shangri La recording his album of the same name. The studio was almost obscenely outfitted with an array of vintage tube amplifiers. Mark could choose from multiple tweed Fenders, Vox AC30s or AC15s, Marshall 45s or 100s, and other rare units made by Watkins, Magnatone, you name it.

One day, A package arrived and Mark had me unwrap what turned out to be a Ken Fischer Komet 60. It was beautifully done up in red so we paired it with a vintage red Marshall basket weave 4x12 cabinet. When I first saw the Komet, I thought, "Gosh, that sure looks lets plug in one of these real amps and go to work." Then Mark Spent the morning putting the Komet through its paces while graciously showing me how full of shit I was.

The red Komet responded to every nuance of Mark's exceptional technique and played a big role in the recording of the "Shangri la" album. The greatest guitar amp, sitting in the middle of a room, doesn't sound like anything until someone plugs in. I was lucky enough to witness a great amp being played by a guitarist who was able to coax everything out of that box of metal and glass.

Ken Fischer built amplifiers that respond to the abilities of great players and his passing puts into focus the finite number of units that are to come from his hand. I am grateful to have experienced Ken's fine work first hand and I very respectfully wish him eternal peace.

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