1964 VOX V251 Phantom Guitar Organ

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In December 1964, during the Beatles Christmas shows at the Hammersmith Odeon, Dick Denney presented John Lennon and Paul McCartney with a prototype of his company’s latest invention, the VOX Phantom V251 Guitar Organ. Jennings expected the V251 to revolutionize music and hoped to secure the Beatles endorsement.
British musical instrument manufacturer, Jennings Musical Instruments (JMI), created a number of innovative musical instruments during the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. They marketed their instruments under the iconic VOX brand.
At the end of World War II, Thomas Walter Jennings founded the Jennings Organ Company in Dartford, Kent, U.K. Jennings' first successful product was the Univox, an early self-powered electronic keyboard similar to the Clavioline. In 1956, Jennings was shown a prototype guitar amplifier made by Dick Denney, a big band guitarist and an old colleague from WWII. The company, renamed Jennings Musical Industries (JMI), launched their 15-watt AC15 amplifier in 1958 under the VOX brand name. Soon, other models would follow and VOX amps would come to define the sound of the British invasion.
In 1962, Beatles manager, Brian Epstein, secured an endorsement deal with Jennings for the group to use VOX gear exclusively in their backline. Soon, the band started using a combination of VOX AC15 and AC30 amps. Throughout their live performance career, and the majority of studio recordings, VOX would supply a variety of different amps and equipment to the group. With their continual need for more volume and headroom, the Beatles pushed VOX engineers to expand the boundaries of their designs. The era of innovation was in full swing.
The Phantom V251 Guitar Organ was one of the most complicated and innovative products designed by Denney. The Guitar Organ added a miniaturized version of the solid-state organ circuitry (oscillators) from their Continental Organ to their Phantom guitar model. This allowed the V251 to be played as either a guitar, an organ, or in combination as two instruments in one.
A selector switch chose between sounds. On one setting, by holding down strings to a fret, the equivalent sounds of an organ can be heard. Another setting gave the conventional guitar sound heard through the pick-ups. A third selection allowed a combination of both to be heard. An electronic pick was also provided that, when connected, triggered only the note on the string contacted by it allowing arpeggio “organ” chord playing.
The V251 was connected to a remote power supply, required to provide the necessary voltages to operate the organ circuitry, via a multi-pin connector cable. The supply box was connected to a standard amplifier. Dozens of small-gauge wires, connected to the first 14 frets, ran through its steel neck. Although the Guitar Organ initially attracted attention for it’s progressive technology, the instrument itself was heavy and cumbersome and rarely worked correctly. 
While Lennon kept the Beatles “prototype” V251, he ultimately did not take to this unusual instrument and consequently VOX was unable secure the band’s endorsement. Eventually, their V251 ended up in the possession of their roadie, Mal Evans, whose widow eventually auctioned it off. 
Unsurprisingly, the small run of V251’s eventually produced for the general market from 1965 to 1967 did not sell well and the model was discontinued.
The VOX Phantom V251 Guitar Organ presented in our collection is fully functional and is just like the early one given to The Beatles back in 1964.
Various adverts for the Vox Phantom V251 Guitar Organ. Note that one of the ads show Dick Denney playing this incredible instrument. The push buttons are for open string organ note playing and for tuning.

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