By Amanda Eleftheriades
There is a new kid on the block making a stir on the rhythm and blues music scene and he lives right here in West Dunbartonshire.
And though Andy Smith does play in a band himself, it’s not his own music that is raising eyebrows but the beautiful guitar and harmonica amps which he makes by hand to bring other musicians work to life.
Working from his home in the hills above Old Kilpatrick Andy, aided by his equally talented wife Sarah, is creating quality hand-built, hand-wired all-tube amps which produce a very distinctive vintage sound that whisks the listener back in time to a dark, smoke-filled blues bar circa 1950s.
Covered in faux crocodile, gator and snakeskin they come in a range of colours including rose, burgundy and sea foam making a visual statement that stands out whether in a music studio or living room.
Andy only set up the business in 2016, three years after turning his back on his day job in England where he had worked in IT for 25 years and heading north to start a new life which would allow both him and Sarah to explore and enjoy their creativity.
A harmonica player in Used Blues R & B band himself, Andy stumbled into amp-building almost by accident. It started when he was looking for a new amplifier and had a choice between an expensive American import or cheap Chinese option which needed some tweaking to produce the sound he was after.
He realised he could make something better than the Chinese version, cheaper than the American one and without the heavy import costs.
The cabling side of the business he understood from his IT days but having never worked in electronics before taught himself by reading whatever he could get his hands on, then he built a harmonica amp for himself in 2014.
The same year a friend, who liked the sound and look of Andy’s harmonica amp, requested one for his guitar and soon after Honeyboy Amps was born.
Andy said: “The amps are popular with musicians looking for vintage guitar or harmonica tone, and they’re great for blues, rock’n’roll, swing and rockabilly – all the genres I grew up with.
“Our customers really appreciate the personal attention they receive when they order a custom amp, as we can show them all the custom finish combinations, and tailor component selection to meet their requirements.
“Since we started with two models, we’ve expanded the range to include speaker cabinets and we’re now developing bigger amps.”
The Honeyboy Amps quirky look is also a big selling point and Sarah, who runs her own craft business – Eclectica By Sarah, has sourced 14 different cover materials for Andy to use along with grille cloths, handles and even pilot lights which add an unique look to each amp he builds.
Andy added: “We try to buy from Scottish companies as much as possible. All of our wood comes via a timber yard in Paisely; we have our metal chassis boxes made by a steel factory in Hillington; we found a small-components supplier in Fife; and our web designers are in Glasgow.
And the Honeyboy Amps are receiving rave reviews from guitar and harmonica players alike.
Tommy Bentz, a Wisconsin-based guitar player and music shop owner, borrowed one of Andy’s amps when he played a blues festival in Glasgow and enjoyed it so much he borrowed it again when his band returned for their Scottish tour.
He described the amp as having: “thick vintage Fenderesque tones, but with a clarity and depth to go from gritty rhythmic bite to soaring creamy leads, with an organic feel and dynamic response that guitarist dream about.”
And he is keen to stock the Honeyboy amps in his music shop in the States.
Andy believes word of mouth and the quality of the sound produced by the amps is helping sales as musician and Honeyboy Amp fan Jerome Stewart explained: “I totally love it, every nuance of what you play comes through. Looks amazing, small, light, loud, breaks up, plays clean. Best amp I have ever played and I have been through a few!”
And he still finds time to enjoy the Glasgow blues music scene and play harmonica with the Used Blues band where his band members also put the Honeyboy amps to good use.
To find out more about Honeyboy Amps visit www.honeyboyamps.com or call 01389 499879.