Vox Sound Limited
Overview: early 1970 - to late 1972 / early 1973
In early 1970 "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" (VSEL) ran into financial difficulties and folded, to be replaced a few months later by a new company - "Vox Sound Limited" (VSL). The purpose of this page is to gather together a body of contemporary reports and documentation relating to the changes that took place.
The chronology in 1970 is:
7th January: VSEL placed in receivership.
Second half of Jan.: Negotiations to save the business (and attendant speculation).
Early Feb.: The business is saved, the deal led by Michael Birch of the Birch Group (Birch Electronics). VSEL becomes VSL.
Late Feb.: VSL does not set up a stand at the Frankfurt Trade Fair (Musikmesse), 22nd-26th Feb., but four members of staff attend to promote the new company.
By 7th of March 1970: Joseph Wright had been appointed Director - presumably Managing Director - of VSL.
March to June: VSL concentrates on honouring orders placed with VSEL and drumming up new business. During this period, further Trade Fairs are not attended, however.
Early summer: George Stow, who had a controlling interest in two companies that had supplied VSEL (and which continued to supply VSL), winds up three businesses that formed a part of his Stolec Group in order to merge with Birch - the Birch-Stolec Group is brought into being by August 1970 at the latest.
Significant events in 1971:
Early February: George Stow is appointed managing director of VSL.
February / March: VSL production is moved from Erith to the new "Birch-Stolec" factory in Hastings (St-Leonard's-on-Sea). A showroom is opened in the west end of London - at Gees Court, near Selfridges. George Stow becomes managing director, and John Wyatt is confirmed as head of the Field Sales team, though his new position had already been publicised in August 1970.
For the formation of "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" in the summer of 1968, see this page. VSEL was based at the West Street Works in Erith.
THE END OF VOX SOUND EQUIPMENT LIMITED
1969 was not a particularly good time to be selling, or hoping to sell at any rate, large numbers of solid state amps. The British market had strongly tipped towards valve. Added to that, European amplifier manufacturers were springing up at an alarming range. Competition was intense.
And the American market had more or less been ruled out from the moment that JMI threw in its lot with transistors, in other words, from 1967. The Thomas Organ company (Vox USA) already had its own line of solid state amps. The massive Vox export successes of 1964, 1965 and 1966 were a thing of the past.
"Music Business Weekly", 17th January, 1970, front page.
"Cash Box", an American music industry magazine that regularly reported on matters in the UK, also signalled in January 1970 that all was not well:
"Cash Box" magazine, 31st January, 1970.
January saw VSEL's last advert in "Beat Instrumental" magazine, a repeat of an ad placed in November '69:
"Beat Instrumental", no. 81. January 1970.
In February 1970, the magazine ran, on pages 21-36, a "Focus on Amplifiers". There are sections on "Jennings Electronic Industries" (Tom Jennings's new company), Hiwatt, Park, Laney, WEM, Marshall, Selmer and so on and so forth, but no sign of Vox. Vox does not exist. It has completely disappeared. Speculation ran in several directions:
"Music Business Weekly", 24th January, 1970, front page. In 1974, Reg Clark still at Dallas Arbiter, helped save Vox - it was taken over by "Dallas Musical Industries".
In February Vox was saved, the deal led by Michael Birch of the Birch Group of Companies (Birch Electronics). Later in the year the Birch Group would merge with George Stow's Stolec Group to form "Birch-Stolec".
"Music Business Weekly", 14th February, 1970, front page.
Music trade journal, published February 1970.
Published March 1970.
By 7th of March 1970, Joseph Wright had been appointed Director - presumably Managing Director - of VSL. His tenure was fairly brief, the musical instrument business perhaps being too far distant from his natural element. In early February 1971 he was superceded by George Stow:
"Music Business Weekly", 7th March, 1970.
"Music Business Weekly", 28th February, 1970.
Corinthian Securities, George Stow and Stow Electronics
In Denney and Petersen's view ("The Vox Story", 1993), the failure of "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" could be traced back to the collapse of Royston Industries, the company that had taken a controlling interest in "Jennings Musical Industries" in 1962. For details on Royston, see this page on the Vox AC100 website. But as "Cash Box" noted (top of this page), the thing that seemed to bite hardest, was the "credit squeeze" - in other words the reluctance of banks to lend money. In an increasingly competitive market place, this, in 1970, was tough.
Below, the notice of Royston's liquidation given in "London Gazette":
Above, notice of the liquidation of Royston Industries in the "London Gazette", October 1969. The "Gazette" records that the process was still ongoing in 1971 (16th April) - meetings with further creditors. Final dissolution was signalled in Jan. 1973 (4th Jan.). This liquidation of 1969 was actually a second attempt. The first, set in motion in June 1968, seems only to have led to the selling off of a limited number of assets.
It has long been said that Vox was saved from financial oblivion by two executives - "moneymen" - from "Corinthian Securities".
The internet, by one of those strange quirks, is alive with references (in connection with Vox) to the "Corinthian Bank". Find a likely bank of that name if you can. The company was actually called "Corinthian Securities" - incorporated in 1966, and accused in court in 1970 of being a business of "moneylenders", which very possibly they were, rather than "bankers".
Quite when Corinthian came into the picture is unknown. Perhaps it was Michael Birch who secured their support. At any rate, "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" did not "collapse" as such in 1969/1970 - it was simply baled out and re-invented with the help initially of Birch. George Stow, who had the Schroeder Bank behind him, came in a few months later.
But not out the blue as some commentators have implied. Two of the companies in his growing Stolec Group - "Stow Electronics" and "Twickenham Transformers" - had been suppliers to VSEL since 1968. He evidently saw a future for Vox in 1970.
In order to capitalise, Stow put his existing businesses - "Stow Electronics", "Digitizer Techniques" and "Technical Encapsulations Limited" - into liquidation in March 1970 (recorded in the "London Gazette"). The "Stolec Group" became "Birch-Stolec", the new holding company for "Vox Sound Limited", shortly thereafter. For further details on Stow's involvement, see this page.
"Wireless World" magazine, August 1970. Birch-Stolec now in operation, its premises (factory) on the Ponswood Road Industrial Estate in Hastings / St Leonard's-on-Sea.
VOX SOUND LIMITED - the new company
The West Street Works at Erith became home to VSL until the spring of 1971 - see the notice placed in "Music Business Weekly" magazine lower down this page. The main drive of the company from February to June 1970 was honouring orders placed with "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" and drumming up new business.
Beat Instrumental, no. 87, July 1970. Notice on Vox from the "Guitar Guide". "The new company of Vox Sound Limited have reduced their range of guitars to three models."
In contrast to the impressive display put on by "Vox Sound Equipment Limited" at the British Musical Instruments Trade Fair, in August 1969 - picture immediately below:
VSEL display at the AMII Trade Fair, 17th-21st August 1969. The advert in the foreground is the one that appeared in Beat Instrumental magazine in the same month..
- the show put on in August 1970 by "Vox Sound Limited", its first, was apparently a dismal affair across the board. "Beat Instrumental", normally quick to find something to praise, more or less threw up its hands in defeat.
A sketch layout of the first floor displays at the "Associated Musical Instrument Industries" (AMII) Trade Fair, Russell Hotel, 16th-20th August, 1970, published in "Music Business Weekly" magazine, 15th August, 1970.
Perhaps the best news for "Vox Sound Limited" in its early days was the presence of Supremes and Foundation Bass amps on stage and in use at the Isle of Wight festival, 26th-31st August, 1970:
Joni Mitchell, Super Foundation Bass at left. Picture from Getty Images.
Although details from photos taken during Rory Gallagher's set show "VSEL" stickers on the speakers, this can hardly have mattered.
Below, notice of the appointments of John Wyatt and Bob Andersen in "Melody Maker" magazine, 22nd August, 1970:
"Melody Maker", 22nd August, 1970.
In spring 1971, George Stow was made managing director, and production moved from Erith to the new "Birch-Stolec" factory in Hastings (St-Leonard's-on-Sea). A new showroom is opened in the west end - 9 Gees Court, near Selfridges department store.
"Music Business Weekly" magazine, 13th February, 1971.
Notices in "Beat Instrumental" magazine, however, gave the old works address until July 1971:
Beat Instrumental, July 1971. The preamble to a short section on Vox, the Defiant strangely said to be "new". Note the address - still Erith. But the move had already taken place.
Full page advert, Beat Instrumental, August 1971. The disco scene. Note the new office.
By late 1971 the new addresses had found their way into reviews and notices, reviewers and magazine editors presumably having updated their card indexes:
Beat Instrumental, no. 103, November 1971. Notes on the new "Vox Sound Limited" office and personnel. £100,000 of export orders was no small feat. The last line is intriguing: "On their stand at the Canadian show, Vox will be exhibiting their latest range of educational and PA equipment."
And it's intriguing to see a music shop opening up not too far from the factory. Clearly an opportunity to be grasped.
Beat Instrumental, September 1971.
58 Norman Road on Google Street (ie. photographed a couple of years ago), now a Gallery Shop.
The Birch-Stolec Factory
Above, images of the factory from the late VSL catalogue - assembling organs, Defiants, testing a SS100PA, Defiant side stands, and finished units in their covers.
The Birch-Stolec inspection stamp on the chassis of Supreme serial no. 2629, one of the last to have been produced at St Leonards.
Late summer 1972 - the office and showroom move from London to Hastings
Beat Instrumental magazine, September 1972. Note the new address of the office: 94-96 Beaconsfield Road, Hastings.
Beaconsfield Road as it was a couple of years ago when the Google Street camera car passed by. Numbers 94-96 are the taller of the three buildings in this small complex.
Beaconsfield Road was around a mile away from the Birch-Stolec factory in St Leonards - convenient certainly, but necessarily lacking the prestige of a central London address.
The last advert for Vox to appear in "Beat Instrumental" magazine was in December 1972 - a repeat of the disco ad above, but with the Beaconsfield Road address instead of Gees Court.
In 1973, trade journals record that "Birch-Stolec" had been taken over by "Cosmocord Limited". This was the end for the time being of "Vox Sound Limited", though no formal notice of the winding up either of "Birch-Stolec" or VSL appears in the "London Gazette".
For the first half of 1973 (ie. up to and including June), Beat Instrumental magazine gives the small notice below:
Vox is no more. There are no adverts, no mentions in the sections on musical equipment, no reports.
A vignette picture of Macari's Musical Exchange, 102 Charing Cross Road, in 1973 from a full-page ad. for Macari's in Beat Instr., June '73 - "Vox" still above the door, though nothing is said of the company in the ad's text.
Below, a notice in "Beat Instrumental" magazine, September 1973. George Stow, who had been a major force in the creation of "Vox Sound Limited" in January 1970, and who became its managing director in February 1971 - see above - set up Roxburgh Sound (also know as Roxburgh Electronics) in the summer of 1973. A good deal of surplus Vox stock went with him - there's an advert in "Melody Maker", July 1973, which notes some of the items available. August was evidently the grand opening, the page in "BI" evidently purely promotional. But the company did not last long. By March/April 1975 Stow was working for Reslo, with which he had done business since the late 1960s.
"Beat Instrumental" magazine, September, 1973.
Above, an advert for reconditioned Vox disco units, "Beat Instrumental" magazine, December 1973.
Some of the old stock was finished off in peculiar ways in Winchelsea, Hastings and elsewhere, which has often led to the cry "prototype!" whenever it turns up. Unfortunately not. Just late VSL bits and pieces turned into a saleable form.