I mention this all the time, but I have a real fascination with old music catalogs and print media. The other day, as I was perusing all my catalogs and magazines, I came across my grungy Vox catalog from 1966. The Beatles were on the cover! On page 6, the print reads: “Vox: It’s what’s happening to the world’s top beat groups.” The text goes on to list some rather interesting band names that must have been using Vox gear.
There are some big hitters like the Beatles, the Animals, the Hollies, the Zombies, and the Kinks. But then there are some pretty obscure bands that I’d never heard of. Like, have you ever heard of Pinky Perky and the Beakles? Or how about Millie and the Embers? The Anzaks? The Black Sheep? The Palace Guard? The Guillotines? Naming some of these bands would make for a great drinking game.
Also, there on page 6 was one of my favorite old Vox guitars: the V241 Bulldog! The Bulldog was a straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll offering from a time when Vox axes were mostly odd-shaped (think Phantom or Mark VI teardrop) and outfitted with increasingly complex controls and electronics. The Bulldog simply had three pickups, a 3-way switch, a single volume knob, and two tone controls. When you compare the Bulldog to the ’66 Vox V251 Guitar Organ—which had more knobs and switches than a NASA control panel—it’s truly a lesson in economy.
Borrowing heavily from the Mosrite Ventures guitar, the Bulldog sports a similar carved top, a side jack, a zero fret, a large aluminum nut, and a vibrato that feels like a combination of a Mosrite and a Bigsby. There are all sorts of chrome accents, and, typical for the time, the Bulldog came equipped with a bridge mute, which you can press down on the strings in lieu of palm muting. Sunburst was the only finish option. The fretboard is a lovely ebony slab with tiny fret dots, and the neck—which doesn’t feel exactly like a Mosrite—plays fast. I also really dig the headstock, which is like an offset V that blends well with the large Vox logo.
You know how it feels when you hold a guitar and you know that it’s a real, robust, reliable instrument? That’s how the Bulldog feels.
The biggest difference between the Bulldog and the Ventures model is its sound. The old Mosrite guitars had some rather aggressive pickups and the Bulldog pickups are a bit sedate in comparison. I think that’s why I eventually sold mine. For me, it was kind of limited in the tone department. But still, it has a place in semi-clean surf music.
The Vox Bulldogs were built in Italy by the Eko Company. In a way, these guitars were almost “overbuilt,” because they used high quality woods and components, like a truss rod with their “Double-T” channel design that is rugged and works well. You know how it feels when you hold a guitar and it’s a real, robust, reliable instrument? That’s how the Bulldog feels.
I suppose Vox guitars were never really that popular in the U.S., which may have been due more to the price than the sound. At $399, the Bulldog was one of the most expensive guitars in the Vox catalog! In 1966, a Fender Stratocaster went for around $300, and a Telecaster was closer to $200. But guess what? The Mosrite Ventures model cost $398! The original Mosrite was a dollar cheaper than the Vox copy. Crazy, huh?
The Vox Bulldog faded from the lineup shortly after its initial release. In subsequent years, it sort of morphed into the V262 Invader, which retained the Mosrite shape but became much more complex, with features like a built-in tuner and effects such as boosters, percussion, and wah. That Mosrite, I could argue, was one of the most influential electric guitar designs ever. It inspired guitar builders from all over the world, and the amount of Mosrite copies made back in the day was really something. But rather than argue, I’m going to research some of the old bands in the Vox catalog. I wonder where Millie and the Embers are now.…
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