Hey Little Dude

The Ovation "Little Dude" was a failure of a marketing name for more than one reason - The first of which was the fact it wasn't so little. I recall mine weighing a small ton. Of course it didn't help that one of the handles had come off and the thing was covered in slippery black leather and was extremely awkward to carry. Of course I shouldn't be too unkind. It was made in the era of poor PA systems so a guy needed a huge amp just to be heard in any sort of decent sized club.

Still, what were they thinking when they came up with the name? Granted this ad is from 1970 so perhaps they thought hippies would find the name comforting. Frankly I can see it causing more problems than not. Imagine you're playing a gig and the guitarist from the opening band comes up.

"Dude, I dig your amp. What is it?"

"You mean this Little Dude?"


Awkward silence reigns until the first guitarist asks again. "But like what kind of amp is it?"

"I told you. It's a Little Dude."

"Yeah, funny man. Look, if you don't wanna tell me it's fine. Just because you're the headliner doesn't mean you can screw me around okay? I was just asking a "f*ckin friendly question!"

You'll lose more potential friends with these amps, but get a great reputation about being secretive with your gear.

But back to my personal story. I got this amp in early to mid 80s the same time I got the Raven SG pictured on the right. They both came from a pawn shop that was operated by two men nearing their 70s who were the biggest characters I ever met - and probably the biggest rip-off artists.
They told me this was a tube amp - which it wasn't, but to demonstrate the tone, one guy plugged in the guitar cranked it up and started wailing away on some Clapton licks. The sight of this old geezer tearing it up on a hundred watt amp at nearly full volume with sound pressure levels high enough to shake the windows made me want to buy it. I think I paid about $200 for it, which in 1980s dollars was probably more than it was worth, as they go for about the same price now. Ovation only made these for 2 years before abandoning them. Perhaps the name put people off.

That amp never sounded quite as good as it did in the pawnshop. First of all, I could never turn it up to it's "sweet-spot" in my parent's house or my first small apartment. Early transistor amps like this one are likely what gave solid state a bad rap in the guitar amp department. Most of the time I played it, it was cold and lifeless sounding. Of course, I could barely play back then so it could have been me.

Still, the thing looked cool. The black leather covering was neat. It often did in a pinch as an extra chair or table when needed. And it had it's own reverb tank so if you bumped into it, it made a massive crashing sound.

Unfortunately, I went through a phase between university and my first few years of work where I moved 13 times in 10 years. I also lived in several 3 and 4 floor walk-ups. After schlepping this thing through a couple of moves I left it at a friends house for a few years, where it got loaned out to another friend then slowly vanished along with the SG guitar.

1 comment:

  1. There may have been two "Little Dude" amps. I've never seen this one, but along about 1968 my buddy and I went amp shopping. Ovation offered 3 "Dude" models: the Little Dude (1-10", 1 horn tweeter), the Big Dude (2-10", 2 horn tweeters) and the Mother Dude - a huge (24"?) horn mounted on top of an oversized footlocker, with labels warning you not to stand within 25' of the amp! We decided the Mother was too much for club dates, which we were playing, but he bought a Little Dude and I bought a Big Dude - largely based on the cars we were driving. The Big Dude wouldn't fit into his GTO, but it would in my Plymouth Satellite - if you put the spare tire in the back seat and took off one caster from the speaker cabinet. Both Big and Little Dudes used the same control unit (on top of the speaker cabinet) and had the power amp mounted inside, on the bottom. Heavy? You bet. Loud? Yup. We were playing an outside gig one night, and I arrived early. After setting up, I decided to see what "11" sounded like. My friend said he heard me the minute he turned into the drive to the pavillion, and that was over a half mile away! Needless to say, it was more then enough for the Saturday might bar gigs that paid for it. I loved the sound of both Dudes, and only regret that I never had the chance to try out a Mother. (The city where we bought these amps bought 2 Mothers - for outside concerts in large city parks, they were all that was needed.) Ahh, the good old days before miking the amp became the norm - everyone was master of his own destiny (or at least had control over volume and tone).