King Tubby’s salvaged speaker box
Sonos Presents HOMETOWN HIFI
by Seb Carayol
Until April 24, Wax Poetics is partnering with Sonos Studio in Los Angeles to present HOMETOWN HIFI, an art show about the roots of Jamaican sound system culture, featuring works by Beth Lesser, Limonious, and Pekka Vuorinen, as well as artifacts and films. In today’s mini interview, vintage sound system restorer Jeremy Collingwood unveils what it took to salvage a speaker from one of the most legendary sound systems of all times: King Tubby’s Hometown Hi-Fi’s—used by the master from 1958 to the early ’70s. Said speaker, along with elements from the Wasp and Sir Harry’s, are visible at the show.
What was the story of the King Tubby original speaker you restored?
Jeremy Collingwood: I believe it was found in someone’s outside storage/shed by a record hunter who was selling on eBay. I had a friend who sat on it in 1977 when it was lying about in King Tubby’s yard. By then, he had already built his bigger set, with the large “Tubbys” logo on them, as seen in Dennis Morris’s pics. I was told Tubby had it laid out on its side as a bench for people to sit on.
Where did you get it?
Well, believe it or not, the box came up on eBay! I won the auction on eBay that finished at three in the morning!
Was it just rotting away?
The photo shows what it looked like
Had you already started buying and restoring legendary sound system boxes?
Yes, I started about fifteen years ago. At the time, the Experience Music Museum—setting up in Seattle—was in Jamaica buying up stuff for their 2001 exhibition. I was offered a box from the V Rocket sound system that they wanted to buy. I thought it shouldn’t go to Canada, so bought it. It grew from there!
When you found Tubby’s Hometown Hi-Fi set, you had already restored the V Rocket?
By this time, I had got the V Rocket up and working. I also had bought and restored the Tip-A-Tone sound system. Of course, that’s not just boxes, but the original valve amps, decks, and horns.
Did you go to Jamaica to see any boxes in person before buying them?
I had already bought the two mid boxes from Sir Harry’s Sound a few years before from my regular vinyl dealer who rang me from Jamaica to say what he had found. The KT bass bin went so well with them.
So, no bad surprises?
Well, none on that end, but Customs find it appropriate to drill holes all over the side panels, looking for drugs… I was pretty mad.
Is there a Holy Grail of sorts, a set that you dream to stumble upon some day?
I’ve been trying to find an original mixer that works and that I could use, but without luck, as they were generally home-build and didn’t work very well. I currently have a U.K.-built 1970s “Links” mixer being rebuilt, but that’s about it.
“Hometown HiFi,” curated by Wax Poetics contributor Seb Carayol: Sonos Studio (145 N. La Brea, Los Angeles) until April 24. Hours: 12–6 PM, Wed.–Sun.
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