I have a Supro Brentwood amp that
I picked up at a guitar show over 20
years ago for a few hundred bucks. I
find myself using it often because it’s a
small, compact amplifier with tremolo
(my favorite effect). I was wondering
what it’s worth today and what ever
happened to Supro.
Robert in Virginia
I’ve always thought that these old Supros
were so cool. I think they were retro as soon
as they left the factory! The story behind
Supro is interesting, and as much as I dislike using the term, Supro was a “budget
brand” in its day. I’ll go over a little history
about Supro and your amp.
Supro began life in the mid-1930s as a
budget brand for National Dobro’s lowest-priced resonators. In the late 1930s, National
expanded the Supro trademark to wood-bodied lap steels, amplifiers, and Spanish
electric archtops. It was in 1942 when Victor
Smith, Al Frost, and Louis Dopyera bought
National—including Supro—and changed
the company name to Valco (a combination of their first name initials and “co” for
company). Soon after, Valco halted resonator
production in the early to mid-1940s due to
metal rationing during World War II, placing their focus on amplifiers and Spanish-and Hawaiian-style guitars.
Valco became a huge manufacturer and
supplier of guitars and amplifiers during the
1950s and 1960s, though very few actually carried the Valco name. The company’s
focus was on producing gear for other brand
names. Over the years, Valco produced
amps for Supro, Gretsch, Oahu, National,
and Airline. While each one of these brands
was used for a specific situation or retailer
(Airline was a brand made specifically for
Montgomery Ward for example), many
of these amplifiers were basically the same
model with only slightly different cosmetics
and a different badge. It wouldn’t be surprising to find the exact same amplifier with
five different brand names!
Even though Valco expanded rapidly
during the guitar boom of the 1960s, the
company merged with Kay in an attempt to
LEFT: A mid-’50s Supro Brentwood: Manufactured by Valco, this compact combo was marketed
as Supro’s top-of-the-line amp at the time. RIGHT: This collectible, tweed-wrapped Brentwood
includes a footswitchable tremolo with speed control, three input jacks, and a pair of 11" x 6"
because of their simple design, great guitar tones, and cool
styles that seem to have changed every few years.
stay afloat as the end of the decade neared.
Filing for bankruptcy in 1968, Valco went
out of business altogether in 1969. Between
1969 and 2004, Supro was essentially
mothballed, except for a time in the early
1980s when Archer’s Music bought the
Supro rights and made some guitars out of
new-old-stock parts. And in 2004, Bruce
Zinky of Zinky Electronics began producing guitars and amps under the Supro name
that are available today.
Your Supro Brentwood (Model 1650T)
was produced in the mid-1950s and according
to the 1955 Supro catalog, the Brentwood was
“Supro’s finest amplifier with powerful-range
tremolo.” Specifications of the Brentwood
include a pair of 11" x 6" oval speakers, two
channels (normal and high gain), footswitchable tremolo with speed control, three input
jacks, and a split-chassis design that “ensures
the quiet, super-power performance of the
7-tube, push-pull construction.” The covering
is tweed and leatherette with modern, two-tone black and white stripes.
Though Supro amps were originally
designed for use with accordions and
Hawaiian lap steels, the amps became
multi-purpose units as the guitar became
more popular and dominant in the 1950s.
Many guitarists love these Supro amps from
the early 1950s because of their simple
design, great guitar tones, and cool styles
that seem to have changed every few years.
In fact, it is reported that Jimmy Page
recorded most of his guitar parts on the
first two Led Zeppelin albums through a
ZACHARY R. FJESTAD is author
of Blue Book of Acoustic Guitars, Blue
Book of Electric Guitars, and Blue Book
of Guitar Amplifiers. For more information,
visit bluebookinc.com or email Zach at