Blondes, brunettes or both!?

Somewhere in 1958 or 1959 Leo Fender decided that the tweed amps needed updating to something new and different. The results were the blonde and brown amps which debuted in 1959. Besides the obvious cosmetic differences, some of the new features incorporated included slant front panels, separate heads and cabinets, tone ring cabinets, new vibrato circuits, new tone circuits, two channels with separate tone controls for each channel, optional JBL speakers, solid state rectification, more power, more headroom and more high-end response. These amps are much brighter and aggressive, probably due to a desire to but through better on stage in a band with drummers, bassists and other guitar players. Leo made firm decisions on circuit design as unlike the tweed amps, all of these amps have push-pull power amps, fixed bias and long tailed phase inverters (except for the Princeton).
Blonde amps are piggyback heads and cabinets while brown amps are combos. Almost all of the time! There are exceptions which were either prototypes or custom ordered. You will even find the rare tweed amp covered in brown or blonde tolex.
There are nine combos and five piggybacks. As with the tweed amps, the brown and blondes evolved over time with different circuits in the same amp models. They spanned the gamut from small practice amps to large stage-ready professional amps. The smallest was the single channel Princeton. It sports two 6V6 tubes, 5Y3 rectifier, a single tone control, a Cathodyne phase inverter and puts out about 12 watts into a Jensen or Oxford 10” speaker. It uses a simple one-stage tremolo circuits that modulates the bias. The Brown Deluxe has more power at 18 watts into an Oxford 12” 12K5-6 speaker, long-tailed phase inverter, two channels, and a beefier GZ34 rectifier tube. Brown Deluxe amps don’t have a lot of headroom but has a sweet yet aggressive overdrive when cranked.
The Vibrolux and Tremolux are basically the same amp in different formats (combo and piggyback). Both use new treble and bass tone controls with a tapped treble pot that is unique to the brown and blonde amps. Tremolo is created by a two-stage bias modulation circuit and both use 6L6GC output tubes. The Vibrolux uses a 12” speaker. The early Tremolux amps have a 10” tone ring cabinet and later ones come with a two 10” cab. I would imagine that the single 10” speaker couldn’t handle the power and blew on a regular basis. There is a rare version of the Tremolux that uses 6BQ5s. This is one smoking sounding amp due to the high plate voltages!
Most of the other amps are similar to each other with different speaker configurations. These include the Super, Pro, Bandmaster, Concert and Vibrasonic. The similarities include treble and bass tone control circuits, output tubes, two channels with two inputs each and long tailed phase inverter. Typically the earlier versions used tone control circuits without the tapped treble control, 6L6GC output tubes, two tube (four-stage) tremolo circuits and 6L6GC output tubes. The later versions typically have tapped treble controls, 5881 output tubes, three tube (five-stage) tremolo (vibrato) circuits and 5881 output tubes. The Super is the only one in this group to use a GZ34 tube rectifier whereas the others use diode rectification. The Vibrasonic uses a larger output transformer for a wider response and more headroom.
Speaker configurations were: Super: two 10”, Pro: one 15”, Bandmaster combo: three 10” (rare!), Bandmaster piggyback: one or two 12”, Concert: four 10”, Vibrasonic: one JBL 15”.
The Bassman is in a group of its own with some unique features. One of its channels is labeled “Bass” and is specifically designed for bass use. Early versions came with a single 12” tone ring cabinet. Later versions had two 12” speakers. This is the only blonde amp without tremolo.
The Twin and Showman are basically the same amp chassis in combo and piggyback formats. They all use the three tube vibrato circuit, extra large output transformers and four output tubes for lots of power. The early versions used a unique circuit design on the bass control whereas the later versions used the typical blonde/brown tapped circuit. The Twin always came with two 12” speakers (typically Jensen P12Ns). The Showman used with one 12”, one 15” or two 15” JBL speakers.
Late in the blonde era you will find transition blackface circuit amps in blonde head cabinets. Details on blackface amps next time!