In 1978 Jim Kelley quit his band, sold his Alembic bass, rented shop space from Luther Dale Fortune, and began doing business as Active Guitar Electronics in Tustin, California. Relying on a college electronics degree, years as a TV broadcast engineer, and experience working for Forrest White, Tommy Walker and Leo Fender at Music Man in Anaheim, He went to work doing amplifier repairs and modifications. As a result of this work, he determined that the push-pull output section of an amplifier produced a better sounding distortion than did the preamp section in master volume type amplifiers. It seems obvious now, but at the time it was a profound revelation. Subsequently, He built a series of prototype amplifiers, and with the tireless help of Todd Wilson from Fortune Guitars, he endeavored to eliminate any and every detectable bad sound from the amp. This resulted in a final design which he showed at the 1979 Winter NAMM under the Fortune name. The basic amplifier had 6 tubes and 3 knobs. It was an electronic hot rod, and it was small and loud. He sent one of those first 5 prototypes in a figured mahogany cabinet to Eric Clapton out of gratitude for the profound effect his music had on his life.
The Complete Story ...
Thats one of the First Fornute Amps given to Eric Clapton
This is one of the rarest first Jim Kelley Amps ever made out of my private collection . It has the NR 19 . and was made in 1979 . I had great luck to get this amazing historic Amp from another collector in Hamburg Germany who bought it at the end of 1979 at the Hamburg Guitar Store called Nr1. it was one of 3 Amps delivered to Germany in 1979. Actually the Store Nr.1 wanted to buy it back from the owner after he put this amp on Reverb but my offer was a bit higher and he preferred to sell it to a historic collector rather than to a Shop...........by the way Joe Bonamassa"s Amp is from the same year so this amp with the Nr.19 must be one of the last ones under the Name Fortune Amp before Jim changed it to Jim Kelley Amp . Its a historic great amp in mint condition.
MY super rare early Produktion J.K Amp with the old Brand Fortune )))
Here the Original e mail from Kim Kelley who wrote to the last Onwer
Here you see the inside of the first Kelley Fortune Amps with the classic black USA Boards and Handwireing the same as Dumble used for the first amps and also the first approx. 12 Kitty Hawk Germany Tube Amps .
Because Dumble was looking for a dealer who would sell his amps in Germany he was smart and thought to send his amps just in parts to Kitty Hawk and then they would put them together and sell these amps for him. After they found out what they sounded like they copied his amps and used some parts for amps... his parts then Dumble found out and stopped sending parts to Kitty Hawk Germany . There were at most 12 amps built and they sell for sometimes over 20. 000 - 30. 000 Grand and do not have much to do with the Standard or Custom Serie . The sound is great like a bit Dumble and a bit Kitty Hawk and still great amps but ..
Ok back to the Track and My Experience
This amp had the official American crunch sound.
The first three gigs made me really reinvent my guitar playing. I played less power chords lets say the solo went through me. Literally at the other end of the range of heavy sounds imaginable, he turned my old 338 Gibson into an old cello with seemingly endless breath.
Jim Kelley gave up after two or three not even loud chords during the sound check. A small, threatening cloud of smoke came from inside, the fuse blown and there was silence. I finished the tour with my replacement Selmer amp. That went quite well, but of course it wasn't the same.
A few weeks later, i brought the amp at Jellinghaus for an identical model with a mahogany case. This amp also only lasted a few weeks before saying goodbye in the same way. Then one came with tolex in caramel and finally a black one with two channels. But none of them were allowed to stay for more than a few weeks. The frequent defects simply made the amp unsuitable for a touring band. And so the wonder box was soon replaced by the LAB and later by a Super Reverb.
Once again, a few power amp tubes had said goodbye and silenced the amp.Admittedly, Jim Kelley's original idea was absolutely brilliant: He created a concept around the same time as Randall Smith and Howard Alexander Dumble, which was not based on numerous options and channel switches, but on simplicity and purism.
Supposedly the inspiration came to him while he wanted to revive an Ampeg combo that had been burned down by water damage. To do this, he used old Fender transformers from a twin reverb and combined this powerful amplifier with four 6V6 tubes, which were fed by a split-load phase shifter.
The pre-stage consisted of a combination of Fender and Hiwatt circuit elements, especially considering the tone control, which was based on the so-called James Baxandall principle. This is a kind of extended treble and bass control that is very effective. Both controls also support the amp's gain behavior.
The principle, however, was basically contrary to the ideas of Boogie and Dumble. While the preamp works as cleanly as possible, the overdrive sound was created almost exclusively in the final stage, for which the 6V6 were predestined. The sound always remains stable and extremely contoured.
An Electrovoice 12L speaker with 200 watts was installed in our first amp. This speaker was another reason for the enormous fundamental tone and the fat mids of the amp. Of course, he weighed through the massive hardwood case (in this case maple), the huge transformers and the speaker a felt weight.
When repairing the illustrated amp, I quickly realized why these products were usually not enjoyed for long. The 6V6 tubes ran at 485 volts, which quickly eliminates most of these types. Even the most patient vintage tubes can withstand a maximum of 410 to 420 volts. That was already the case back then. And so Bonnie Raitt, Lee Ritenour, Robben Ford and Mark Knopfler soon had to part with their beloved Kelley combos.
But there is hope! With the more modern 6V6 from JJ there is a tube that works reliably with voltages of up to 550 volts. I used these tubes in the Kelley shown at the time. It still runs perfectly to now . I guess if this tube where available in early 1970 Jim kelley would have sold many more amps than just 600 . Now every owner of a original Jim Kelley or Jim kelley Fortune Amp are lucky
In 1985 and about 600 amps later, Jim Kelley gave up his small boutique workshop. In the United States, most of the professionals had grown into lavish rack systems, and good 6V6 tubes were also no longer available. For a few years now, the Kelley amps have been built again under the leadership of John Suhr. These amps can even match the originals. The beautiful design has also remained.
In Germany the amps are sold at Station Music in Jettingen-Scheppach. Whether vintage or new: these amplifiers are not cheap. For a boutique amp in this category, the prices used are be € 3900 and up. In addition to combos in a hardwood case, models in black Tolex as top or combo, additional boxes and of course the Powersoak known and highly praised by Kelley are also available.
There are very good sound examples on the Kelley homepage or on YouTube videos by the well-known test blogger Pete Thorn or by Joe Bonamassa, who has also been a customer for some time. Despite the technical weaknesses mentioned at the beginning, these amps still belong to the first tier of boutique legends for me today. Their sound is so distinctive and unique that I would prefer a Kelley to a Dumble or Boogie Mark I o to a Acoustic 165 Amp
An original will hardly be found. There are probably less than a dozen of these amps in Germany.
A nother Rare Bird The Jim Keleey 2 Channel Amp
Some RARE old Pic for Jim Kelley in Produktion
Rare Test out from a Germany Music Magazin from 1980 in full Size
Out from a old Vintage Music test Magazin from 1980