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“I amassed a collection of sounds, just because I wanted to know.I had a curiosity about why something sounded the way it did.“It showed the four of them standing on a stage complete with Rickenbacker guitars and Vox amps.” As he labored in the street rod shop by day, Sampson played in rock bands by night.His parents were as much relieved as supportive of the music.I did a lot of reverse engineering of those English amps. If you had a piece owned and documented by someone famous, it was worth more, but not much.A lot of them were in various stages of disrepair, which kept the prices down. I remember buying a bass rig off one of the guys from Badfinger. I wish I’d kept it.” Sampson’s band was his testing ground.He was still custom painting cars and worked a trade for the Vox amps by painting guitar bodies for Knute.One of the store’s more notable customers was Prince (back in the days when he had a name).
The venerable old Vox and sleek new Matchless amps exist side-by-side, one informing the other.
Sampson painted two of the guitars used in the movie Purple Rain and ended up doing a lot of deals, trading his painting services for guitars and amps.
He ranged further afield in his quest to locate British amps.
James Werner, noted for his Fender serial number lists, put Sampson together with a trader in England Sampson describes as “…sort of the British inverse of me.” Soon, Fenders were being shipped to England and Voxes, Marshalls, and Hiwatts were coming to Iowa.
“I was exposed to the British side of design and manufacturing,” says Sampson.