The Gibson Skylark is an awesome little 1×8 tube amp. Known as the GA-5T, there are a few varieties of this model floating around, but I will be focusing on the one I have had the pleasure to use, which was a 1957, all original Skylark, right down to the ungrounded, two-prong power cord. Yeah, I got a little jolt plugging in, but hey, that was a jolt of history.
These amps are hard to come by, mainly because they are sought after by collectors, and also because they don’t command that high of a price tag. The Skylark is a nice alternative to the more expensive boutique Gibson or Fender amps, and it will still give you that classic Tweed Champ clean sound without you having to take out a loan from the bank to get it.
The controls are minimal — just a volume knob, frequency knob (a fancy name for a tone knob), and a gorgeously subtle tremolo knob, with two identical instrument inputs. The tremolo was surprisingly versatile, ranging from a barely audible pulsation to a glorious, spinning rotary effect.
This amp was manufactured right around the time when the electric guitar was really starting to become popular, but was still in its infant stages as far as amplification and overall advancement from a technological standpoint. That said, the components are what really give this amp its warm, smooth flavor. The one that I played housed 5Y3, 6V6, and 6SJ7 tubes. This is a pretty standard grouping for the original Skylarks, but sometimes you might find one swapped out with a 12AX7 tube. Regardless, the timeless tone that resonates from the Jensen 8J11 eight-inch speaker takes you back to the old music halls of the 50’s, and you can almost see the electric guitar haters scoffing at you as you rip your rockabilly lines all over the big band stage, and leave them behind, as well you should. The devil’s music, you say? Sounds good to me.
There is something about old, vintage amps that has a soft spot in my heart, because it really transports you back to a different time, and refreshes your approach to your playing. I suspect one day I’ll become an avid collector of older gear, and I can assure you that the Gibson Skylark will be one of the first additions to my arsenal.
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