Greensill Guitar and Public Address Amplifiers


The late 1950's and early 1960's was an important era for popular music. When American Rock 'N' Roll artists arrived here they were an instant success with a large teenage audience. The music was readily available on record, and record sales soared. Similarly many people purchased guitars and a new market was now available for electric guitars, which sold in large numbers. For the first time musicians and amateurs alike started buying public address and guitar amplifiers. American models were much sought after, but these tended to be very expensive and so were hard to come by. A home grown industry soon developed with many manufacturers producing both guitars and amplifiers. Some of the most successful British manufacturers were Watkins, Selmar, Hofner, Burns and last but not least VOX. As the 1960's progressed there was a demand for larger amplifiers as groups preferred a louder sound and wanted to cater for larger audiences and venues. The West Midlands played a small part in this thanks to Rennie Greensill who ran a small cottage industry designing and building valve amplifiers.

Jim Groucutt's Greensill amplifier and loudspeakers.

Rennie was an electronics engineer who used to work for turntable, and later power supply manufacturer, B.S.R. After leaving B.S.R. he became self-employed and undertook a variety of work ranging from the repair of car engines to repairing amplifiers and public address equipment at his house in Ivyhouse Lane, Coseley. He was always very critical of the construction of the commercially produced amplifiers that he repaired, and decided to produce superior amplifiers of his own design.


Rennie produced a series of amplifiers including 15 watt, 30 watt and 50 watt models, and would also build amplifiers to individual customer's specifications, up to 200 watts. Each amplifier was hand-built to a very high standard and would perform extremely well. The amplifiers would easily deliver their rated output power and were very solidly built. This was an important consideration as the amplifiers were continually transported from venue to venue. All of the internal wiring was very neatly done and well anchored, and the cabinets were made from good quality plywood, and covered with durable vinyl. Rennie usually used Goodmans loudspeakers and even included sandbag ballast in some of his larger bass units. These were so heavy that it took four people to carry them and they were very hard on van springs.

Rennie's amplifiers acquired a reputation for quality and reliability, and were used by many of the leading local performers of the 1960's and 1970's. Tommy Burton had a Greensill amplifier which met with an unfortunate accident. One evening after a concert it was accidentally dropped and fell down a flight of steps. The control panel was on the top of the amplifier and all of the controls were sheared off. It was returned to Rennie for repair, and when switched-on, it still worked, which shows how solidly it was built.
Another view of Jim's Greensill amplifier and loudspeakers.

Another famous customer was the Birmingham group, the Rockin' Berries.  They used a system that was pioneered by Rennie and has since become very popular. It consisted of an amplifier that was placed in the centre of the stage and used by everyone, and a loudspeaker on either side of the stage. Each loudspeaker cabinet used two 15inch Goodmans units and so could easily handle high levels of sound.

By the late 1970's transistor amplifiers were becoming extremely popular and were superseding valve models. Rennie never liked them and never produced a transistor amplifier of his own. He was a very humorous and friendly man, and only too happy to talk and joke while building an amplifier. He was very happy doing what he did and wasn't at all interested in producing amplifiers in large numbers, commercially. Sadly Rennie is no longer with us, he died some years ago.

I must thank Jim Groucutt, without whose help this section would not have been possible.

Jim Groucutt (centre) was a member of the Bilston based group,  Johnny Shane and the Cadillacs. Jim knew Rennie and used a Greensill amplifier for sometime.



Return to the list of manufacturers