Bass gear has evolved tremendously since the middle of the twentieth century – thanks to a relatively small group of innovators, experimenters, designers, engineers and builders that have dedicated their lives to the advancement of the art and science of the gear we play.

With a singular determination of purpose coupled with life-long dedication to the pursuit of the advancement of bass gear technology, plus tangible contributions to the evolution of the art and science of bass gear design and production, Bass Gear Icons have proven themselves to be valued members of the bass gear community.

As bassists, we owe the Bass Gear Icons a sincere debt of gratitude for expanding the instrument’s range of expression and enhancing our enjoyment of the music we play.

As a representative of the bass community, Bass Gear Magazine is honored to formally acknowledge the contributions and achievements of these individuals.  

— Terry Buddingh

Peavey Electronics Corporation was founded by Hartley Peavey in 1965, which also happens to be the year that Bob Dylan rocked the Newport Music Festival by performing with amplified vocals and instruments. Coincidence? Perhaps; perhaps not. More than fifty years later, Hartley still holds the reigns at the Meridian, Mississippi-based company. As impressive as his tenure may be, the scope and market penetration of Peavey brand products is no less amazing.
How does a company like Peavey remain so good, and so relevant for so long? Let’s chat with Hartley a bit and find out!

TB – Over the years, I have done many gigs on Peavey gear, and it’s been so good to me. Many bass players have had the same experience. It’s really great stuff, and I’m so glad that you’ve been putting out good, quality gear that actual working musicians can afford to buy and use.

HP – Well, you know, we’ve always tried to do that. My dad was a saxophone player in a swing band back in the ‘30s, and he did that for four years. He came back to the little Mississippi town where he was born, and he started a music store with $50 and a second-hand piano. That was in 1938. He met my mother, they got married in ’39, I came along in ’41, and I was literally raised in the music business. My teenage years were spanning the latter part of the ‘50s, and I spent years trying to be a guitar player. I never was very good. I got to play in a little dormitory band. I got kicked out of that because I was marginal. Being the eternal optimist, I got in another one, and got kicked out of that one. The same thing happened again a third time.

After that third time, I had to have a serious conversation with myself. I looked in the mirror and said, “Well, it looks like you’re not going to be a rock star. What’re you gonna do?” I did a little personal inventory and said, “You know, I may not be the greatest guitar player, but I’m pretty good at building things.” I love music, and I love musicians. All of the musicians I’d ever met up until that time said, “I wish somebody would build good gear at a fair price.” And that sounded like a good deal to me, so I started working on it. And in 1964, I got my first patent, which was on a “telescoping speaker enclosure.” I sent it to Fender, never got a response. I sent it to Gibson, never got a response. So I decided that when I got out of school, I was going to try and build amplifiers. So, I did, and started my company officially on June 1st of 1965, which is a little over 51 years ago.

TB – Wow.
HP – Everyone knows about rock-and-roll. Rock-and-roll started not in New York, or Chicago, or LA. It started along the banks of the Mississippi River. Of course, being from Mississippi, I kinda was right in the middle of all that. I got caught up in it. I had the chance to see Bo Diddley play, and Chuck Berry play. A lot of the early pioneers of rock and roll. I was there. So that’s when I started trying to play. I was never very good at playing. Rock and roll, by the early ‘60s, ’61 or so, Motown hadn’t really come on yet. And the English Invasion didn’t start until about ’63 or ’64. But another interesting thing happened during that time. While the music was exploding, with the so-called British Invasion, with the Rolling Stones and the Beatles, etc, it was also the “golden age of the conglomerate.” All the conglomerates rushed into the music and sound business. Everybody knows about CBS buying Fender.
TB – Right.

hartley PeaveyHP – But they don’t know that the Marshall distributor at that time was a division of Gulf & Western up in New York. Gulf & Western was in the music business. Ling Timco Vault (LTV) make airplanes for the Navy. They bought Altec Lansing. And Beatrice Foods – you know, “Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee”? – they bought Harmon/JBL. Bet you didn’t know that one. The interesting thing is that in a very short period of time, the prices of all those products just went up amazingly – sometimes, double – in a period of two or three years. And that was the “environment” when I first entered the business. My dad always told me, “Son, if you make a fair and reasonable profit, you will always have customers.” Instead of shooting for a 200 or 300 per cent gross margin, like some of my competitors did then (and, by the way, some still do), I went more for a retail thing. My products kinda were lower-priced, just like what most musicians SAID that they WANTED.

Ironically, a lot of people believe that old saying that “the more you pay, the more you get.” The caveat there, is, that is true, if and only if all the other factors are the same. For musicians to assume that all manufacturers of musical products – be it amps, guitars, or whatever – to assume that all those manufacturers have the same “modus operendi,” the same corporate and debt structure, is absurd! It’s like saying all bass players are the same. If I was in LA, I could go down the street and contract out circuit boards or contract out metal work, or this or that. But in Mississippi, we couldn’t do that. So, we became very “vertically integrated.” We made our own circuit boards. We made our own chassis. We silk-screened our own name plates. We did everything. In manufacturing, that’s called “vertical integration,” in that you put it together from the ground up. Hell, we even make our own loudspeakers!

I couldn’t get the so-called “premium” speaker people to understand. I was blowing out JBLs like crazy. They gave me a very condescending response. I begged them to do certain things to increase reliability and they told me that “my customers didn’t understand how to use their precision transducers.” I said, “Well that may be true, but when your speaker blows out in one of my cabinets they don’t blame JBL, they blame me.” And that went nowhere, so in utter frustration, in 1976, we started our own speaker program. Most people don’t know this, but loudspeakers are and always have been the weakest link in any sound system.

TB – Sure.
HP – To prove that, if you turn the gain all the way up on a mixer or an amplifier, the first thing that blows is the loudspeaker, right?
TB – Right.
HP – So, therefore, the loudspeaker IS the “weakest link”! Even the best cone-type loudspeakers are incredibly inefficient; like 4%. If you stick in 100 watts, and you convert 4% of that to sound, the rest of it is heat! Back when we started getting into 100, 200-watt amplifiers, blowing speakers became a huge, huge problem. The solution was one of our first patents. We came up with a clever solution to detect when an amplifier was going to go into clipping, and engage a soft, relatively slow, compressor to keep from “square-waving” the speaker. When you put square waves into a speaker, for the greatest portion of the time domain, you’re talking DC – direct current – that goes into the voice coil of the speaker. That’s what destroys speakers – especially, high-frequency speakers – but woofers, too. We were the first company to put in anything like that in their instrument amplifiers.
TB – What was that called?
HP – DDT: “Distortion Detection Technique.”
TB – I was wondering if that was DDT, or if DDT was a later development of this technology.

HP – What most musicians don’t understand is, let’s say you have a 100-watt amplifier that’s rated more or less “clean.” Depending on the “rigidity” of the power supply, it can actually put out (if you drive it into square wave) as much as two-and-a-half times that! So this is how a 100-watt amplifier can easily blow out a speaker rated at 150 or 200 watts. Even today, most people don’t understand this. Peavey’s approach has always been to do it a better way. A different way.

I even made drums at one time. They were the best drums anybody’s ever made. Amazingly, all drums are made exactly the way they were made 100 years ago! The only things that changed, is that instead of calf’s skin, they’re now some sort of plastic. But other than that, the construction is identical to 100 years ago. We made a better drum, but they looked different, and drummers – I found out (much to my chagrin) – they’re even more rigid than a lot of guitar players. I’ve had some of the best drummers in the world play them, like Kenny Aronoff. I’m sure you know who that is.

TB – Absolutely.

HP – Kenny came down here and played our drums, and he said, “Man, that’s the best-sounding kit I’ve ever played through.” I told him we’d love to have him as an endorsee, and he said, “I can’t do it.” I said, “Why not?” He said, “Because the kit doesn’t look the way I think it ought to look.” What do you say to that? Fortunately, bass players are a little more willing to try something new and something a little different.

TB – I have noticed that, too. Definitely.

HP – The fact is, music has gone in so many different directions. Back when I first started, nobody ever thought about slapping a bass. It was, like, play with your thumb, or maybe play with a pick. One of the things that I’ve always tried to do is listen to the player. We came out with a 5 or 6-band EQ, we have done all kinds of things, and still are. We do tube amps. I quit building tube amps when they stopped making decent tubes. In retrospect, that probably was a mistake, but when there’s a problem with a tube amp (whether it’s a guitar amp or a bass amp) it’s probably about 95% or 98% chance of being a problem with a tube. None are made in the USA anymore, but most of the import tubes are much better, now. But tubes are inherently problematic, unfortunately. Solid state is not!

TB – Do you have a preference for solid state or tubes for a bass amp design?

HP – It’s not for me to say. One of our endorsees, Michael Anthony, won’t play anything but a tube amp. He’s played our solid state stuff, and says “Yeah, that’s nice, but I want a tube amp.” So, we’re building a big ole tube amp for him.

TB – That amp sounds great, by the way. I’ve heard it at the NAMM Show. I like my tube amps, and I like my solid state, too. I can appreciate both sides of the equation. I do think tube amps offer something unique and different, and compelling, and if that’s your thing, then it’s nice to have some tube amps around.

HP – The only thing about tube amps that I don’t like are the tubes. It’s like lighting a candle. It’s literally burning itself out while you’re using it. With our bigger amps, we’ve always put fans on them. In fact, in Michael’s amp, there’s two fans. We did something that’s very unique with Michael’s amplifier. One of the big problems with tube amps is they have two big old heavy transformers. There’s not much that you can do about the output transformer, which is needed to match a tube – which is basically a high-voltage, low-current device – to a loudspeaker – which is in essence, a high-current, low-voltage device. The only way I know to do that, effectively, is with a transformer; a matching transformer (also called an output transformer). What we did in Michael’s amp, instead of building a 90-lb monolith like, say, an SVT, we put in a switching power supply, and instead of 90 pounds, it’s like 35 pounds, which is one hell of a difference.
TB – I’m sure that Michael Anthony chose your rig because of the way that it sounds and performs, but for the guy who doesn’t have roadies, at the end of the day, when you have to actually lug that rig out of there, that weight difference is really appreciated.
HP – I have to tell you, I could have put a good old-fashion, big, heavy transformer in there a helluva lot cheaper than building that switch-mode power supply. Because when you’ve got tubes, you need a huge power supply for the high-voltage, and then you have to build an even higher current rating for the heaters. For every one of the tubes, the heater (the filament) is an amp and a half, and we’ve got eight output tubes. Do the math.
TB – Do you do that all with one power supply, or are there two separate power supplies?
HP – It’s one power supply with two sections, there’s a high-voltage section and a low-voltage section. When you first turn on a tube amp, the heaters have a very, very low resistance. It’s almost like putting a dead short across the power supply. What we did (because we had eight output tubes), we had to sequentially turn them on (in pairs). Otherwise, it will blow the line fuse. A lot of companies don’t have the technology to design that kind of power supply. Since we do build power amplifiers – switch-mode power amplifiers – we do. That’s why we did it.
TB – I am kind of surprised that other than the Michael Anthony Signature Amp and I think your VB-3, I haven’t seen other companies use a switch-mode power supply on tube amps. It seems like a good idea.

HP – Because most companies are into copying what somebody else did. A lot of our friendly competitors – in fact, some of our biggest competitors – most of their new products are reintroductions of their old products. Well, what does that that tell you about their current stuff when their new thing is a “reintroduction” of their old thing?

I have people all the time call me and tell me, “Peavey, you know, I have one of your amps I bought back in ’73. Do you want to buy it back?” And I say, “Not only do I not want to buy it back, I don’t want to see it, because what I am doing now is literally light years ahead of what I was doing then.” Peavey is a family owned operation. We don’t have outside stockholders. We don’t have big bank loans. We have our own facilities, and Peavey is a different kind of company, and we always have been! As a matter of fact, I never in a million years ever thought that I’d end up being the “old man of the amplifier business.” When I look around, there’s nobody even close. I’ve been at it, now, going on 52 years. Jim Marshall was the only guy that started before I did. He started in ’63; I started in ’65. Thankfully, I’m still here, still at it, still innovating. I’m a “change merchant.” I like to do things differently. I like to do things better! Peavey does a lot of things that people have no idea we do. We have a division called Media Matrix. Huge airports – the Hong Kong airport, the Beijing airport, the Phoenix Sky Harbor, Atlanta airport – that’s our sound system. Every sound you hear comes through our Media Matrix sound system. I’ll bet you don’t even know we do that. Did you know that?

TB – I did not know that. You mentioned that you were a family owned business. Do you have kids who are stepping up and taking over the family business? Any succession plan?

HP – No, neither one of my sons show much interest in the business. My step-son is helping me run the company. Eventually, when I retire (hopefully, it won’t be too much longer), he’ll be in charge.

TB – What prompted you to go from building guitar amps to building bass amps?

HP – Well, because my customers asked me for them. Back then, there were basically two bass amps. You could either buy a Fender Bassman, which was 40 watts and two 12’s, or an Ampeg B-15N, with 25 watts and a 15. I decided that I could do it better than that, so I listened to what my customers asked me for. A lot of these so-called gurus want to tell the artists what they should have, but I look at it from “the other end of the telescope.” They tell me what they want and it’s my job to come up with it!

TB – When you came up with the Dyna Bass, what were some of the more interesting challenges or hurdles you had to overcome to get that to work the way you wanted it to?

HP – The biggest problem with a single-unit bass amp, which my first Dyna Bass was, is overcoming all the rattles and buzzes you get on a bass amp. In the old days, when you were building a tube amp, you took down the tube manual and built the circuit the way the manual said, and 99 times out of 100, it worked just fine. But then transistors came along – and my first commercial amplifiers under the Peavey brand were solid state. So everybody – myself, Fender, Ampeg, everybody – looked in the transistor manual and built the amps just like the transistor manual said, and they often blew up. An amazing percentage of them blew up; everybody’s, including mine. I later hired the head of audio applications at RCA, a guy named Jack Sondermeyer. When he came in the door, the first thing he said was “We’re going to redesign all your power amps.” And I said, “Jack, I’ve been working on them for seven years, and I have them where they’re finally reliable. Besides that, they were designed in strict accordance with the RCA semiconductor manual.” He said, “That’s the problem. It’s all B.S.” I said, “How do you know?” He said, “Because I helped write it!”

Sure enough, we redesigned all of our power amplifiers and Peavey’s reliability has been legendary ever since. A lot of the so-called boutique tube amps out there are copies of amps that came out in the ‘50s. Some of those amps were decent, but the transformers were not particularly good – either the power or the output transformer – and if you read those catalogs from back then, they were bragging about freedom from distortion, when in fact, the opposite is true. The only way they sound good is when they do distort! They didn’t understand “gain structure.” Ideally, the power amp should overload first, then the driver, then the pre-driver, then the preamp should be the LAST thing to overload. But a lot of them didn’t know that, so they distorted all over the place, because they didn’t understand so-called proper gain structure. Interestingly enough, most of the amplifiers that are thought to sound good from that period were not designed by engineers. Did you know that?

TB – I did not.

HP – Well, be advised. That is the case. The landscape of the amplifier business is littered with the bones of companies that tried to design a “proper” guitar or bass amplifier.

TB – Well, if they’re trying to build it off of the transistor manual, which is garbage out of the gate, that might explain why.

HP – Well, the same is true with tube amps. Not all tube amps sound good. There have been companies that bought an off-the-shelf hi-fi amplifier and stuck a preamp in front of it, and that was their bass amp. That’s the way Sunn got started. They bought Dynakits. You could buy a Dynakit 60 watt power amp for $100, put it together, put a single 12AX7 in front of it, put two JBL speakers in a cabinet, and sell it for $1,000 to $1,200. That’s what they did, but that wasn’t very innovative, I don’t think. Peavey’s never done that. We’ve always looked at the bass market just like the guitar market. We were the first people to have a reliable, reasonably priced real 200-watt (not B.S. 200 watts), that was our 400 series. That stuff … the reliability is legendary. We have seen some of them that have been used in clubs for so long, that instead of silver anodized chassis, there’s so much nicotine and cigarette smoke gone into it, it’s the color of iced tea. I tell people, if those amps are used – at least turned on and left on, so that the filter capacitors keep their electrolyte formed – they’ll last virtually forever. Because when I build an amplifier, I don’t ever want to see it again, if you understand what I’m saying.

TB – Absolutely.

HP – So I overbuild it. You see, experience doesn’t always teach you what to do, but if you’ve got enough of it, and you pay attention, it will sure teach you what not to do. I see some of my competitors doing things and making mistakes that I did 30-40 years ago. I walk around the NAMM Show and they’ll say, “Well, what do you think?” And I’ll say, “Looks good.” And I’m thinking at the same time, “I can’t believe they’re doing that.”

One of the things that has kept my interest for all these years is that every single day, I get to learn something. Every day; something good, something bad. And after you do that 10, 15, 40, even 50 years, one day you look around and go, “Wow. You know, I certainly don’t know everything, but I’ve learned a few tricks.”

TB – Do you play bass, as well as guitar?

HP – I never played bass. I built a few, but I never played. I’ve heard a number of really good guitar players, and in retrospect, maybe I never really played that, either. I was a “robotic” player. What I would do is, I would take a 45, slow it down to 33 RPM, and very laboriously learn the licks. Back then, maybe now still, to a certain degree you were judged by how much you “sounded like the record.” A few songs I played, I sounded just like the record, so people actually thought I was good. But if they say, “Okay, let’s jam,” I’d say, “Sorry; no can do.”

TB – My first “bass amp” was actually a beat-up Backstage 50 I bought off a friend with lawn-mowing money, but what I really wanted was a TNT 150. Many lawns later, I eventually bought a TNT 150, and that amp served me very well for years. So many bass players got their start on a TNT combo; these amps have been a mainstay in the world of bass amplification for decades. Did you realize what a hit you had on your hands when you introduced the first TNT bass combo?

HP – No. You know, it’s always a “crap shoot.” You never know. You see, back then, there were maybe five or six bass amp companies. Today, there’s probably 200 bass amp companies. Do they have anything new and different? In most cases, no. But they’re there. And musicians – guitar players more than bass players – they want to believe in magic. That there really is some guy that winds his pickups by the light of the moon, soaks ‘em in swamp water, and that gives them soul. When I tell players that there’s no such thing as magic, it’s almost like telling a kid that there’s no Santa Claus. They want to believe in magic. If you know about what you’re doing, if you understand what’s going on, it’s NOT magic. Magic is what we don’t understand, and can’t explain. If you and I were standing out in the parking lot, and a 747 flew over at 500 feet, we would say, “Damn, that thing is noisy.” But if we were standing out in the same pasture 100 years ago, and that 747 flew over, we’d say, “Oh, magic!” I’m not saying that there’s not skill, there’s not expertise, but the fact of the matter is there is no magic!

TB – What sonic characteristics do you shoot for with regard to your amplification products?

HP – Unlike many brands, Peavey does not have a “signature sound.” If I’m building an amp for heavy metal, then that’s what I build it for. If I’m building an amp for blues and classic rock and country, that’s what I do. We even build a special steel guitar amplifier, which none of the other major companies do. Steel guitar is one of the hardest instruments there is to amplify. You’ve got pedals on there that can lay that big ole bass string down like a limp noodle, and they’ve got thumb picks and picks on their fingers, and some of them have as many as ten strings, and they’re playing ‘em all at once. That is one helluva job to amplify that. But we’ve learned a lot doing that, and a lot of that, frankly, spills over into bass. Bass used be just “thump, thump, thump,” but now, it’s slap and pop and all kinda stuff. We do our own loudspeakers for our premium stuff, which by the way, have field replaceable cone assemblies. Did you know that?

TB – I did know that, because I’ve done the basket replacement several times over the years, and it’s easy.

HP – Have you ever tried to re-cone a conventional speaker?

TB – I have sent them off to have people do it.

HP – Well, let me tell you, I used to be a re-cone center, and reconing is a huge pain in the ass. Speakers are not riveted together, or welded together. They’re glued together. If you have to replace the cone, you have to scrape all that stuff out of there and make sure you don’t get the trash in the gap, etc. You put the voice coil in there, you put all this stuff in there, and it works about 60% of the time. If it doesn’t work, you have to do it all over again. We actually have to build our speakers much more precisely than our competition, because if you’ve got a Black Widow that you bought 15-20 years ago, and you’ve got a new cone assembly, you have to be able to bolt the new one on there and it has to work. Our competitors don’t do it, because it costs us $5.00 to $6.00 more per speaker (with the bigger speakers, actually even more than that) to do it. Why do the so-called “premium speakers” not offer this? We’re the only people. You know why? Because it costs more to do it that way. But that’s the way it should be done … the Peavey way!

TB – Once again, for the gigging musician who’s out there, and their rig goes down; to have to pull things out and ship their speaker across the country to get it re-coned, or to drop more money than they have to buy a whole new magnet and frame and everything else, it’s so awesome to be able to just get that basket assembly from Peavey and just do it yourself. Just drop it in there, and you’re good to go.

HP – Well, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. Even transformers. The way we mount our transformers on a big ole steel plate that’s 1/8” thick. Why is it? Because in the early days, when I bought off-the-shelf transformers, with just stamped sheet metal, if we were shipping one to the west coast, when it was going up the side of a mountain, and down the other side, if it fell off the top of a stack of merchandise, and fell to the floor, the transformer would rip loose and it would be a “mace” inside just crushing everything. That doesn’t happen with our product. Why? Because we’ve been there, done that. So we’ve made it better. There, again, experience is the “great teacher.” As human beings, the very best we can ever hope to do is to make a difference. And I like to think that in my own unique kinda way that I have made a difference.

TB – Well, I would think so. Absolutely.

HP – To me, it’s not about me. It’s about the customer. When my customers say, “Hey, I like this,” that’s the best thing they can tell me. I don’t want to hear that my products are good “for the money.” I just want to hear that they’re good. Yes, they’re good for the money. And I could charge a lot more, but I don’t. I’m not magic. I can’t build an amp for $200 that’ll compete with someone else’s amp that sells for $1,000, but give me 30 – 40% spread, and I’m there. I want to please the customer. But just like the customer is never satisfied, he’s never satisfied with his music, he wants to do better. I’m the same way! The perfect product will not be built by the hands of man, but I feel like we can get close. And if we don’t try, we end up doing reissues, like some of my bigger competitors. To me, that’s just spinning your wheels. If you want to be “better,” you have to be “different.” The way I explain it to people is like this. What if I was the best Elvis impersonator there is? I could sing just like Elvis. Would I be a star? Yes or no? “Well, I guess not…” There you go!

TB – Your basses (and guitars) are as iconic as your amplifiers. My “dream bass” as a teenager was the T-40, and these basses are still in demand. What made the T-40 so special?

HP – The T-40 was an interesting instrument, but what was more interesting was the way it was made. It was the very first guitar, ever, to be made on computer-controlled – numerically controlled – machines. Everybody said at the time that it couldn’t be done. Well, guess how everybody does it now? One of the foremost company founders – an incredibly well-known name; the guy who started his company – said in a Guitar Player interview (and I’m paraphrasing, here), “I know that you can’t make guitars with computers.” Well, the fact is, we weren’t making guitars with computers, we were making guitar parts with computers. But today, I feel very vindicated, because even some of the old-line manufacturers, like Martin, are using CNC machines. We did it in ’76, ’77, and ’78.

TB – Did those CNC machines exist in other applications, or did you kind of have to craft your own computer-controlled interface?

HP – In some instances, we made our own machines, but our first CNC, I bought from a company named Ekstrom Carlson.

TB – You know, I remember as a young kid, maybe 11 or 12, going into the guitar store, playing everything I could play, looking at everything I could look at – not really having any concept of what anything cost – and the bass that always had my eye was that Peavey T-40. And then one of my friends, who was older than me, he had a T-40 and he was like my idol, and that sealed the deal for me. I still think that’s a fantastic-sounding bass.

HP – Well, it was. In fact, the tone circuit for that was invented by a friend of mine named “Red” Rhodes. He drew that on the back of a napkin at a Denny’s out in California. He was my service center for the LA area. I never intended to get into the guitar and bass business, at all. I was content to do amplifiers. The fact is, in the early ‘70s when we were really getting in, my two biggest competitors were using their famous-name guitars as leverage with the dealers, and saying if you don’t have one of ours for every one of Peavey’s, we’re not going to sell you our famous basses or guitars. So I said, “Well, if they’re going to play that silly game, I’ll just make guitars.” I had been through their factories, one in Michigan and one in California, and I knew that wasn’t the way to do it. So we started a “blank page.” Back at that time, the thought process was that the bodies of basses and guitars needed to be heavy, because they thought that would give you more sustain. Whether that does or doesn’t, I’m really unsure about. Our T-60 guitar was made out of northern ash, which weighed more than southern ash, because the growth rings of northern ash were closer together. With the T-60, one guy on that one machine could do 250 bodies a day, on one 8-hour shift. That was unheard of. That was incredible back then. That’s why we could bring an American-made instrument to the market for $350, when our major competitors, the Strat and Les Paul, were $800 and $1,000, respectively. Everybody said I was crazy. Well, the first one to do things a different way is always thought to be crazy by (for lack of a better term) so-called “conventional wisdom.” Kinda being a crazy southern boy, I’ve never been constrained by conventional wisdom. I want to do it the best way. We changed forever the way guitars are made. The thing is, few people know we did it. There are companies out there advertising things we did in the ‘70s, and they’re talking like it’s something new.

TB – Any chance of a re-issue?

HP – With regard to reintroducing product, unless we have a very good reason to do so, I don’t like to do it. I like to do something better, something new!

TB – If you were to consider a re-issue, though, the T-40 would be a cool one.

HP – The problem with the T-40, in my opinion, is that today, it kinda looks “clunky,” compared to modern instruments, like our Cirrus bass.

TB – Well, the reason I think that it would be cool is that it is so different from the Cirrus. Some guys want the older look.

HP – But when they put it on their shoulder, and it weighs a helluva lot…

TB – Yeah, if you could get it down under 11 pounds, that would be nice.

HP – Yeah, but I’d have to make it out of basswood. Look, there was no particular magic about the T-40. The pickups were different. In fact, we were the first company to put a guitar into production where you could change continuously from a single coil to a double coil with your tone pot. It wasn’t a tone pot. In fact, it was a “mode control.” If you had it wide open, you were single coil, as you rolled it back, you went to a double coil – or rather, a humbucker – and if you continue, it goes into high-frequency roll-off. We did that with no battery. We even patented it. You know how everybody else does it? They have a cap to ground. With all due respect, that’s not only archaic, it’s stupid!

TB – Across the board, from your instruments, to your amps, to your PA gear, Peavey has always offered performance beyond the price range. How have you managed to keep the price of your gear so affordable, while still offering a high degree of performance?

HP – My name is on the product! I give a damn! I care! A lot of people in this business today, their name isn’t on the product. Often the name on the product is somebody that’s been dead for twenty, thirty years, and the company ownership, they’re “caretakers.” They don’t come up with new stuff. In many cases, they can’t. But I’m still here, I’m still growing, I’m still learning. I’m still trying to change things for the better! Maybe I’m full of bull, but maybe that’s what people like me should be doing. Would you agree?

TB – Absolutely. Speaking of some of the new things, the MiniMega we have in for review right now is a really fantastic sounding bass amp.

HP – It’s phenomenal. Wait ‘till you see what I’ve got to show you at NAMM. It’ll blow your mind.

TB – I look forward to it.

HP – You know what most of these little miniature amplifiers are? If you look at them, they’re all using the same ICE power amp modules made by a company in Denmark. They put a preamp in front of an “off-the-shelf, store-bought module,” and, “Here’s our mini-amp!” You’ll notice, we do not do that. If you open my amp up, on the inside, it’s not an ICE module, or one of their competitors. Ours is totally different, and we think better!

TB – What is next for you, personally?

HP – Well, with regard to some of these “Young Turks” we have in here, they’re incredibly talented, incredibly smart, but they don’t yet have the experience. One of my jobs now is to keep them from making fatal mistakes. I’ve got to shut up and let them make some mistakes, or they won’t grow. I want to help them be the best that they can be. As I slowly segue out of this, I’m always going to keep my finger in it. But for 52 years, when it comes to me or the company, it’s always been the company. I’m not whining about it, or complaining about it, but if I don’t take some time to start on my bucket list, I’m going to be too damn old. Thank God, I’m still in good health. I still have my hair – most of it’s still red. I’m still having fun! People ask me, “Peavey, what exactly is it that you do at Peavey?” And my answer is pretty simple. Did you take high school chemistry?

TB – Yes, and at college.

HP – Are you familiar with the term, “catalyst?”

TB – Oh, absolutely.

HP – A catalyst is that which speeds up or enhances a reaction without itself being changed. I am the catalyst at Peavey. I like to speed up or enhance the reaction, but by the same token, I know who I am, I know what I am. I don’t think I’m “hot stuff.” I’m just a guy full of passion, doing his thing! And by the way, I won’t let anyone here call me “Mr. Peavey.” We are all on a first-name basis. We have over 500 telephones in the company, and you look in the directory, if you don’t know someone’s first name, you can’t find them. That’s the way it is at Peavey. That’s the way I think it ought to be. We are a “different kind of company,” always have been, and as long as I’m around, always will be!

TB – Thank you for your time. I know that you are a guitar player, but for us bass players, Peavey gear is as iconic as it gets, and you’ve done a ton for our industry. On behalf of bass players everywhere, I thank you.

HP – It’s not hard, if you listen. They will tell you what they want, if you just listen!