"CROCODILE" - SELMER AMPLIFIERS 1963 TO 1965
Selmer Concord 8, courtesy of Dominic Blaazer, New Zealand
The famous croc-skin Selmers, probably the most
sought-after models due to their exotic good looks. Imitation
crocodile-skin (and snake-skin) finishes were commonly seen on British
footwear and fashion accessories in the mid-sixties, and Selmer
departed from their normally staid and traditional finishes by adopting
a very striking two-tone croc-skin/black colour scheme - just in time
for the September 1963 British Music Trade Fair. All fashions come
round again, flared trousers and the fabulous croc-skins !
Selmer's changes to their range of amplifiers, which had been quite
stable for some years, were more cosmetic than fundamental. The most
significant were the novel "blinking-eye" which pulsated in time with
the tremelo, the croc-skin coverings, enlarged Selmer logos and new
model names. It seems that it was an attempt to update Selmer's image
without investing in entirely new models of amplifier, and judging by
the popularity of Selmer amplifiers from this era it was highly
Again, descriptions of amplifiers which are simply modified versions of
those previously described are abbreviated and cross-referenced back.
We have made an exception for the Zodiac and Thunderbird which,
although derivations of previous Selectortone models, are so popular in
their own right that they deserve a full description.
THE CROCODILE SKIN PERIOD (Sept 1963 to Sept 65)
THE LITTLE GIANT
Referred to as the "NEW" Little Giant in the catalogue, because the circuits
and internal layout had been changed from those of the red/cream & blue/grey
periods. The valve compliment remained unchanged at 1 x ECC83; 1 x EL84; and
a EZ80 rectifier, together with the small 8" (or perhaps it was classed
as a 6"?) circular speaker. Still priced at 12 gns. as well.
THE MERCURY 5
Must have been considered a more "hip" model name, as apart from it's
croc-skin/black colour scheme, "blinking eye" and more modern Selmer
logo now mounted top right-hand side it is identical to the Standard
(blue/grey) and New Standard (red/cream) models - even the catalogue
description is the same bar the model name ! Good opportunity to put
the price up to 27 gns though!
Again a cosmetic make-over for the re-named Professional of the
previous eras - identical except croc-skin/black finish, "blinking
eye", new logo and price up to 32 gns. This model appears to have been
up-rated from 8 to 10 watts at some later stage.
THE CONSTELLATION 14
A re-named Stadium with croc-skin/black finish, "blinking eye", new logo and price up to 55 gns.
THE CONSTELLATION 20
up-rated to 20 watts, version of the '14', fitted with twin 12" speakers.
ZODIAC TWIN 30 (Later Version)
"Here at last is a new amplifier with built-in tone colours", trumpets
the catalogue. Errr - but didn't it say that about the blue/grey
Automatic Selectortone ? Indeed it did, and before that it said exactly
the same thing about the red/cream Selector-Tone Automatic ! So it
takes very little examination to spot that the Zodiac 30 is a thinly
disguised Automatic Selectortone in a new cab with 2 x 12" speakers
(rather than 1 x 15"), croc-skin/black finish, "blinking eye" and a
much larger Selmer logo along the bottom of the speaker cloth, which is
doubtless the reason for the 10 gn price increase to 85 gns.
But the Zodiac Twin 30 (and later Twin 50) is one of most popular
Selmers, so we will run through the features again here. In fact we'll
give you exactly what Selmer had to say about it in the catalogue.
"New Zodiac Twin 30. Four inputs - Two channels. Built-in
Tremelo with speed & depth controls and foot-operated switch.
Selectortone push-button controls. Very low noise and hum level. Fitted
with socket for extension speaker.
Here at last is a new amplifier with built-in tone colours. By simply
operating the exclusive push-button controls you are able to vary the
degrees of response from High Treble to Contra Bass, thereby obtaining
an infinite variety of tone colours. The new Zodiac Twin 30 is a
two-channel amplifier. Channel 1 acts as a conventional amplifier with
normal controls for volume and tone. Channel 2 is controlled by the
unique Selectortone push-button controls. This design enables you to
use one channel for a microphone without cross channel interaction,
leaving the other channel free for guitar and other musical instrument
amplification. Each channel has two high impedance inputs - giving you
a total of four inputs which can be used simultaneously. Built-in
tremelo on Channel 2 is instantly switched on or off by the footswitch
provided. Speed and depth of tremelo are adjustable over wide limits by
variable control knobs. Exclusive Selmer "Blinking Eye" (Patent applied
for) gives visual indication of tremelo speed. The Zodiac 30 is fitted
with two 12" loudspeakers and all controls are housed in a recessed
panel. A pilot lamp is fitted.
Attractively finished in two-tone crocodile leatherene with modern
styling. AC mains only, 200/250 volts, 50/60 cycles. Valve complement
EF86 (2), ECC83 (3), EL34 (2), GZ34 (1). Output ratings British 30
watts, American 60 watts. Dimensions height 20", width 29", depth 10".
85 gns, including attractive waterproof cover."
Whew - all that and pretty too! What can we add ? Control panel has 4
inputs, 2 each of tone & volume controls, 6 pre-set tone
pushbuttons, tremolo speed & depth controls and a large pilot
light. The amplifier has castors and some are found with integral
folding stands, which may have been an optional extra.
THE ZODIAC TWIN 50
Introduced sometime around the first half of 1964, the 50 watt Zodiac
differed from the 30watt in being grid-biased as opposed to the Zodiac
30's cathode biasing. It would appear that this modification was mainly
responsible for the increase in power, as the valve complement remained
the same as the Zodiac 30. The two versions then were offered in
parallel until the end of the "Croc" era. Goodman's ceramic magnet
speakers were fitted to the new 50 watt beast - the previous Celestion
alnico magnet T731 units would not have been able to handle the
The price of a Zodiac 50 was 100gns when first introduced, increased to 105gns in September 1964.
THE THUNDERBIRD TWIN 30
The Thunderbird was initially a minimally-modified Twin Selectortone (i.e. twin KT88 valves in power-amp stage) in a slightly larger case
with croc-skin/black finish, "blinking eye", and large Selmer logo. Very soon
after the Thunderbird's launch however, the expensive KT88's were replaced
by twin EL34's.
The control panel was updated from that of the Twin Selectortone to include bass and treble controls for
each channel (rather than just "tone") and an extra reverb control. But
again, as this is one of the most sought-after Selmer amplifiers, here
is the full catalogue description. (It's actually almost identical to
the description of the Twin Selectortone in previous catalogues).
"New Thunderbird Twin 30, with built-in Tremelo and Reverberation (incorporating Hammond Reverberation Unit)
Based upon the extremely successful and well-proven Automatic
Selector-tone amplifier, this new Twin 30 has additionally an exciting
new Reverberation effect, two heavy-duty 12" loudspeakers and a more
powerful amplifier. The exclusive push-button Tone-Selector gives
instantaneous changes of response in five degrees from high treble to
low bass.. A chosen effect can thus be easily repeated without fumbling
with controls. Reverberation and Tremolo effects are individually
controlled and may be separately switched on and off from a remote
position by means of the double button foot-switch. Fitted with socket
for extension speaker.
Two channel amplifier with two high impedance sockets per channel.
Channel 1 is a conventional amplifier with usual volume and tone
controls. Channel 2 has the push-button Tone-Selector and Tremolo
facility. Speed and Depth of Tremelo are adjustable over a wide range
and the tremelo effect is instantly switched on or off by one of the
two buttons on the foot-switch. Exclusive Selmer "Blinking Eye" (Patent
applied for) gives visual indication of tremolo speed. Reverberation
effect operates over both channels and it's intensity is adjustable
from zero to maximum. The reverberation effect may also be switched on
and off by means of the second button on the foot-switch.
Two heavy-duty 12" loudspeakers. AC mains only 200/250 volts 50/60
cycles. Valve complement EF86 (2), ECC83 (3), ECC81 (1), KT88 (2), GZ34
(1). Output ratings 30 watts (British), 60 watts (American). Case
dimensions : Width 30", Height 21", Depth 10.1/2".
Case attractively finished in two-tone crocodile material. Fitted with
rubber-tyred castors to facilitate transport. 120 gns, including
attractive water-proof case."
THUNDERBIRD TWIN 50
As with the Zodiac, the Thunderbird 30 was soon supplemented by a 50
watt version, probably in mid-1964 shortly after the Zodiac Twin 50
introduction. However, in the new Thunderbird's case, a change in valve
compliment was made from that in the 30 watt version. Instead of the
Twin Selectortone/Thunderbird 30's twin KT88 power valves, two EL34's
were used as in the Automatic Selectortone/Zodiac models, with
grid-biasing. The full valve complement of the Thunderbird Twin 50 is
therefore: 2 x EL34: 2 x EC81: 1 x ECC82: 3 x ECC83: 1 x 6BR8: 1 x
EM84: plus a GZ34 rectifier valve. Again, as with the new Zodiac 50,
two ceramic-magnet Goodman's 12" speakers were fitted.
All this did not come cheap however. The price for a T/Bird Twin 50 in September 1964 was 135gns!
Zodiac and Thunderbird Speakers:
Evidence strongly suggests that early 30W versions had Celestion
alnico-magnet T731 speakers in "oyster-hammer" (silver/gold) colour.
These were a version of the famous Vox "blue" speakers found in AC30's
of the era, without the magnet cover. The 50W (and the later 30W)
versions had ceramic-magnet Goodmans speakers with grey Selmer-logo
plastic magnet-covers, and it is likely that the upgrade to 50W was
made when these (then) high-power speakers became available.
Unfortunately both versions were somewhat notorious for blowing
speakers, and many are now found with later Celestion "greenback"
ceramic-magnet speakers, which are almost certainly non-original as
they did not become available until 1966. (Thanks to Ted Breaux for the
I have never seen a Twin Selectortone model featured in any catalogue
during the Croc-Skin period, although several visitors to this website have
claimed to own a "Transition Twin S/Tone" - i.e. a conventional TST
with various black/grey covered cabinets. Up to now, I have always dismissed
these as blue/greys that have been re-covered by previous owners. However, I
have now received photos of one Twin Selectortone that could in my opinion be
factory-covered in "croc-skin". Whether this was done when the amp
was brand new, or whether it started life as a "bluey" which was
later re-covered by Selmers, I wouldn't like to say. I'll leave that to the
jury......... However, please note that its Serial No of TS/1028
indicates a fairly early one produced during the blue/grey period. Oh, and
apparently there isn't a cut-out for a magic-eye in the speaker baffle, so
presumably this isn't simply an amp fitted into a Zodiac cabinet.
THE BASSMASTER 50
The Bassmaster head and matching speaker cabinet outfit seems to have been introduced in 30 watt guise with a blue/grey finish.
The croc skin version probably started out at 30 watts, but, just as
the Zodiac, was up-rated fairly soon to 50 watts. However, most
examples that have survived to the present day seem to be the croc-skin
version with the up-rated 50 watts output. (Probably 50 watts of raw
power would have seemed excessive to most groups prior to 1965 anyway!)
Despite it's name it sounds good for both guitar and bass, and was
probably intended for use with guitar through the normal channel and a
bass plugged into the bass channel.
Size 21" x 8.1/2" x 8". Croc-skin covering to the top and base, black
vinyl to the sides. Plastic strap handle and two Vox-style brass vents
on top. Control panel has pilot light, on/off switch, and 2 inputs per
channel each with volume, treble and bass controls. Rear of chassis
holds fuse, voltage selector, power lead and output jack to speaker.
Valves ECC83 (4), EL34 (2), GZ34 (1).
The size of the matching cab was about 30" x 24" x 12" and this held a pair of 12" speakers.
THE TREBLE AND BASS 50
The T'n'B 50 would appear to be physically identical to the Bassmaster
50 apart from the model designation on the front panel, and very
similar inside with the same valve line-up of ECC83 (initially 4 - but
3 in later models), EL34 (2) & GZ34 (1). Both appear to be
multi-purpose amplifiers suitable for bass and/or guitar. The
Bassmaster was the earlier of the two models (introduced during the
Blue/Grey Period). The T'n'B was introduced in 1964 and both were
produced in tandem for a short time until the Bassmaster was dropped
from the range in favour of the T'n'B, which became one of the most
popular Selmer models judging by the numbers still to be found today.
A TnB 50 has recently been found in a novel role; as a PA system for a
church in Manchester. The speaker columns used with the amplifier are
the original Selmer TV/4/8 units, and hence it would seem likely that
the TnB was Selmer's recommended PA amplifier prior to the introduction
of the dedicated PA amps such as the PA 50. Click HERE to have a look at the church's system. (Thanks to Peter Ratcliffe for finding us this.)
SPEAKER CABINETS AND COLUMNS:
Picture courtesy of Steve Rowley, Staffs, England.
"The Rattles" - Hamburg c1965
Proceed to THE BLACK PERIOD (1966 - 70)
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