RIP Jess Oliver

Although there isn’t much in the news online, I read on today that legendary amplifier innovator Jess Oliver passed away yesterday. Jess invented and patented the infamous portaflex “flip-top” bass amps in partnership with Ampeg. In the early 1960’s he created the Baby Bass, the SB-12, and the B-15N which is considered the holy grail of bass tone by most bassists and can be heard on just about every recording in the 60’s and 70’s and was most famously used by James Jamerson on literally EVERY Motown hit of the 60’s. I personally own a 1964 SB-12 and it is nothing short of magical to record with. In the early 70’s, Jess parted with the Ampeg corporation and started his own company called Oliver Amplification. His two products that managed to sell before going out of business were the Powerflex 502 (an “improved” B-15N) and Powerflex P500 which featured a 2×15 cab. The coolest though is that instead of detaching the lid of the cab and flipping it over to reveal the all tube head, the Powerflex’s all tube heads rise out of the cab by an internal motor at the flick of a switch. They also retract the same way for easier transportation. These amps are incredibly rare and if you ever come across one, they’re certainly worth the money. I had a chance to grab a 502 once and I took too long….STILL kicking myself!! But it’s amazing to think what this one man did not only for the bass community but for all of modern music. He literally created the staple of what great bass tone should sound like and that sound has stood the test of time along with the Fender basses they coupled so well with, even outliving its creator. That’s when you clearly become legendary. RIP Jess. Your work will never be forgotten.

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