1964 | Vox V251 Guitar-Organ: Overview


The Vox is a very early electric guitar with electronic organ components. It uses the basics of a fretboard scanner with each guitar fret separated into six segments, creating independent contact switches for each string. The organ notes are keyed when a string touches a specific segment. Guitar and Organ sounds can be played at the same time.

Who Used it? 

John Lennon and Paul McCartney of the Beatles were presented with an early prototype of the Vox V251 during their Christmas shows in 1964. It's inventor, Dick Denney, hoped that with the Beatles use of his invention he would revolutionise music. While Lennon kept his V251 prototype, he ultimately did not take to this unusual instrument and eventually it ended up in the possession of the Beatles roadie Mal Evans.

How it works

The Phantom V251 Guitar Organ was one of the most complicated and innovative products designed by Denney. The Guitar Organ added a miniaturized version of the solid-state organ circuitry (oscillators) from their Continental Organ to their Phantom guitar model. This allowed the V251 to be played either as a guitar, an organ, or in compination as two instruments in one.

A selector switch chose between sounds. On one setting, by holding down strings to a fret, the equivalent sound of an organ can be heard. Another setting gave the conventional guitar sound heard throught the pick-ups. An electronic pick was also provided that, when connected, triggered only the note on the string contacted by it allowing arpeggio 'organ' chord playing.

Its steel neck housed dozens of smal guage wires which connected to its first 14 frets. The Guitar Organ initially attracted attention for it's progressive technology although the instrument itself was heavy and cumbersome and rarely worked correctly.


 The Verdict

The Vox V251 was a piece Dick Denney innovative genius. However, the extremely complicated production process and unreliable performance hindered its commercial success. Although it was not endorsed by any significant musicians, it is still a sought after collectors piece and a great piece of guitar history.


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