Vox Sound Equipment Limited
mid 1968 - early 1970
The change to Vox Sound Equipment Limited
In December 1967, Royston Industries, the company that owned Jennings Musical Industries (Vox), went into receivership. A little under two months later, the selling off of subsiduaries began. What had brought the group down was the failure of the black box flight recorder - the Midas - into which the profits of JMI and others had been poured. The dangers inherent in Royston's project were apparent early on:
The Observer, 22nd November, 1964. Royston had taken Jennings over in January 1963, signalled in "The Guardian" newspaper, 30th Jan. 1963.
The snippets above are from the Birmingham Post, 8th and 9th December 1967, signalling the trouble that confronted Royston Industries. That it was the black box "Midas" flight recorder that did for Royston, has long been known from the "Vox Story", ed. Dick Denney and Dave Petersen. But it is interesting to have more on the dates from these newspaper sources.
The collapse of Royston proceeded in stages. Part of Burndept Electronics, though not the division that had assisted Vox with the development and manufacture of the solid state line, passed to the Crompton Parkinson Group in February '68; and it was probably at this time that plans were made to re-formulate Vox.
The choice of "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" as the new name was for almost all purposes pre-defined. As the extract below from the issue of "Beacon" magazine (July 1967) shows, VSEL already existed as a company separate from JMI (and had done for some years).
"Beacon", the house magazine of Royston Industries. The extract above comes from the issue dedicated to Vox, which had just won the Queen's Award for Industry (in April '67).
In spite of all the troubles, the Jennings name continued nonetheless to appear on equipment, and in public, throughout the first half of 1968. A purchase order for Tone Benders, approved by the receiver, can be found on this page.
That things were in flux in 1968 may have been sensed by the eagle-eyed though. The full-page adverts for Vox in "Beat Instrumental" magazine which had always given "Jennings Musical Industries" as the name, suddenly stopped in February 1968. Normally there was something on the company every month - see these pages for instance - but all goes silent.
The last public show attended by JMI seems to have been the Frankfurt Music Fair (Musikmesse), March 3rd-7th, 1968. The advert posted in "Melody Maker" magazine can be seen here.
The first official printed notice of the winding up of JMI appears in the "London Gazette" for 26th July. Approval of the process took place on 9th August (reported in the "London Gazette" for 29th August).
The two pieces above - from the "London Gazette", 29 August 1968 - signalled the formal start to the winding up process, which could in some cases be fairly protracted. The important thing, however, is that JMI will in August 1968 have ceased to be a going concern, the normal form of words being "ceased trading". Note that Burndept Electronics, which assisted Vox / JMI in the solid state line, was formally wound up alongside JMI. Both continued as new businesses though.
For those who did not read the Gazette, the demise of JMI could be seen in electronics magazines - notices of the sale of Jennings (and Burndept) assets at the West Street Works in Erith - principally guitars and organs, though amplifiers and spare parts are encompassed too. For pictures of the Burndept Works (on West Street in Erith), shared with Vox from 1965, see this page.
Practical Wireless" magazine, September 1968. Much the same text appeared in "Radio Constructor" magazine, August 1968.
At least some of the items presented were "bought in" by the new company, "Vox Sound Equipment Limited", which had come into being by this point (around June 1968) - see the comments of Reg Clarke in the article in "Beat Instrumental", below.
Given that VSEL took over the rooms formerly occupied by JMI in the West Street Works, it is reasonable to assume that it acquired the furniture too. Again, note what Reg Clarke says: "We have even bought our old factory in Erith, Kent". It is interesting to see that a catalogue of the sale was printed.
An auction was also held at the Dartford Road factory, and as at Erith, a catalogue printed of the items for sale. One visitor who attended the Dartford Road sale remembers seeing two AC100 chassis (no boxes) - he bought one, no. 3 on this page.
Syd Wedeles, a former JMI employee, had already snapped up for his own business, the spare parts stocked in the Jennings shop at 100 Charing Cross. The shop, owned by Jennings from 1950, was sold in January 1967 to the Macaris. Perhaps an indication of the beginning of the end? An overview of the history of 100 Charing Cross Road under Jennings can be found here.
The new company
Below, a snippet from The Aberdeen Daily Express, 12 June 1968. The same report was also given in the Birmingham Daily Post, 10th June 1968.
It is not clear who or what "Surminster" was - very probably some misunderstanding on the part of a syndicating agency. But the reports at least indicate that Royston had off-loaded Jennings Musical Industries by early June 1968.
Indeed, in "Beat Instrumental" magazine, August 1968, Reg Clarke states that "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" had been "born at the beginning of June":
Reg Clark is pictured in an item from "Beat Instrumental", September 1969, further down this page. The underwriting merchant bank may have been the Corinthian Bank, which figures in the story of VSEL's winding up in early 1970.
Vox Sound Equipment Limited in business
The change to "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" is likely to have been visible first, publicly at any rate, at the British Musical Instrument Trades Fair at the Russell Hotel in late August 1968.
A snippet from Gary Hurst's account of the British Musical Instrument Trade Fair at the Russell Hotel, London, 21st - 25th August, 1968, from "Beat Instrumental".
In September 1968 the advert below appeared in "Beat Instrumental", giving "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" in small print. For those who had not seen the magazine notices or had report of the Trade Fair in August, this may have been the first indication that Jennings Musical Industries was no more:
No. 65. September 1968
A letter of November 1968 noting at foot the officers of Vox Sound Equipment Ltd. Cyril Windiate, the managing director, had formerly been Tom Jennings's secretary. Reg Clark, general sales manager, came through from JMI too.
Reg Clarke and Cyril Windiate among others at the awarding of a Beat Instrumental competition prize, around September 1969 - published in the October issue of the magazine.
The VSEL display at the British Musical Instrument Trade Fair, Russell Hotel, London, 17th-21st August 1969. Short descriptions of the Vox equipment on show were given in Beat Instrumental, October 1969.
As to how long VSEL lasted, the ad below from "Beat Instrumental", January 1970 (repeated from the October and November '69 issues), indicates that the company was still in business at that time - but only just as the receiver had been called in on the 7th January 1970. Trading was still possible under the receiver, but the terms were generally fairly exacting - purchases had to be approved, regular reports made, and so on.
In February 1970 VSEL became "Vox Sound Equipment Limited", the Vox name and order book having been saved by George Stow and Michael Birch. See this page.
The last ad mentioning "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" in Beat Instrument, Jan. 1970.
Documentation kept with Supreme no. 2231 records its purchase new at the end of November 1969:
Hang-tags of the amp and speaker cabinet, and receipt of purchase (no. 6597). The documentation was produced and the amp and cab tested on 26th November.
The company that sprang from "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" in early 1970 was "Vox Sound Limited" (VSL), on which see these pages. The first public notices of VSL appeared in "Music Business Weekly" magazine.
Further documentation and details on VSEL will be provided in due course.
As mentioned above, for the first third of 1968, the Vox solid state line continued to appear with "Jennings Musical Industries" on control panels and serial number plates.
JMI Supreme serial number 1258, on this page, was certainly assembled in early '68.
It is likely that the production of other amps in the range continued in the same vein, providing the re-formulated Vox with enough units to keep things going until mid year. August - the British Musical Instrument Fair - was evidently the moment chosen to put publicity for "Vox Sound Equipment Ltd" before the public.
Leading up to that point much work must have gone on. There were new designs - a new control panel for the amps:
The designation on the control panel - "Vox Sound Equipment Ltd". Older Supremes, that is to say those produced in 1967, have "Jennings Musical Industries" - see this page for instance.
Serial number plates were new also:
A relatively early VSEL plate - note the hand-stamped detail. The sequence of numbers for all amps in the VSEL solid state range began at 2000.
Handsome labels for speakers:
And there was a new range of PA amps - the PA50SS, PA100SS and so on (see this page) - and of course promotional literature.
For "Vox Sound Limited", which succeeded Vox Sound Equipment Limited, running from 1970 to late 1972, now see this page.