Let’s say you were in a big famous group called the Black Keys and you were playing at a place like, say, the Electric Factory and your vintage, 1968, 100-watt Marshall Plexi, Super Lead guitar amp went down on you just hours before the show. Chances are you would have end up at the door step of Philly’s most respected and revered amp builder John Martin. Over the years many bands both big and small found their way to John’s humble South Philadelphia workshop/home, from the Black Keys to L7 to local favorites like The Original Sins and the Lilys. Sadly this past May John died unexpectedly at age 58 from an aortic aneurysm. He left behind a legacy rivaled by very few both for his incredible work as well as his low-key and gentle personality.
For the last 20 yrs John repaired a good portion of the tube amps in Philadelphia and hundreds more for those in the know all along the East Coast. He also built and designed his own line of amps called Martone Amplification which were lovingly handmade and wired. These included everything from large 50-,100-watt stage heads to tiny little mini 1-watt amps that were perfect for playing in the close quarters of an inner city apartment and recording. In 1996 John teamed up with DiPinto Guitars and did repairs and sold his creations though the store. Once musicians started reading about them on the internet, these Martone amps were shipped all over the country. John supplemented his musical repairs doing electrical wiring for many local businesses and small home owners lucky enough to know him. If you’ve eaten at places like Honey’s or rented an apartment in Fishtown you may have unknowingly enjoyed a fresh new John Martin fusebox or rewiring job.
Always looking to share the love of his odd world with others, John would often offer to build a guitar amp into anything you could find him. Local musicians with a taste for the eccentric were constantly knocking at his door with old tube record players, 1950’s school personal address systems, space heaters … you name it. After a few hours on John’s bench, the old hunk of junk would be transformed into a smoking guitar tube amplifier with more tone and mojo than anything you could dream of. The price he often charged for such amazing work was usually exponentially less than any other repair shop (IF you could even find one willing to take on the job!). Many of his friends and customers would even try to pay more to which he would simply shrug no and say something to the effect of ” just buy me a beer or something next time we’re out.” Throughout the hours spent standing in front of his workbench he would be kept company by his jolly pug “Buster,” lazy cats lying on vintage 1970s tube amps or parts, and the occasional customer who would stop in to just hang out. Everyone was welcomed and as a result John was well loved by the people that knew him not just for his amp making abilities or electrical magic but also because he was genuinely an unassuming, humble, and kind person who would go out of his way to help anyone.
His friends and customers who owned his amps will pay tribute to him on Sunday night at 6:30pm at Johnny Brenda’s. The stage will be piled high with John’s creations and a selection of local bands will give him a rocking send-off. Come by and revel in the tones, the sights, the smells of the hand-wired electronic, tube creations of one of Philadelphia’s unsung heroes — John Martin.
The Solder Suckers
Dave Steel Blues Band
The Harrison Webb Blues Thing
The Beloved Infidels
Overdrive Date Master
Martone All-star Jam
Frankford and Girard
Phila PA 19125
Sunday, August 24th
Doors at 6:30pm
Bands at 7pm
Vimana: Jesse Jovanovich (Hi Soft), Alan Pavlica (Mountain King effects)
The Solder Suckers: Chris “Crash” Beato (the Beato’s, Ennui Malaise), Chris DiPinto (La Resistance, Wastoid)
The Martians (Chris DiPinto, Kevin Labree (Valsalva), Chris Hajinian (Crave Giant)
Dave Steel Blues Band (Dave Steel, Kevin Mullevy, Steve Adler, Dom Dispaldo)
The Harrison Webb Blues Thing
The Beloved Infidels (Jackie Doyle, Jim Fisher, Phil Fizur)
Overdrive Date Master (John’s previous band w/Wayne Hamilton, David Talento, and Binky the WunderMonkey)
Martone All-star Jam (everyone)