WATKINS
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WATKINS
Instruments previously built in England between circa 1961 and 1982. Trademark was changed to WEM (Watkins Electric Music) in the late 1960s, and then to Wilson in the 1970s.
Watkins (WEM) were known primarily for their amplifiers; however, many players in Great Britain started out on a Watkins Rapier guitar. Borrowing heavily on Leo Fender's Stratocaster design, the guitars were available in two-, three-, or four-pickup models. Guitars were designated by the model number: Rapier 22 (two pickups), Rapier 33 (three pickups), and Rapier 44 (four pickups). Models were available in a Bright Red or Black finish. A bass guitar counterpart was produced, and featured 2 pickups. These instruments started being produced around 1961.
Sid Watkins was responsible for the guitar making, as well as the cabinets for the various WEM amps and WEM CopiCats (an echo effect box distributed in the U.S. by Guild in the mid-1960s). The electronics were fitted to the amps by Sid's brother, Charlie. WEM supplied many festivals in the 1960s with their P.A. systems. Watkins produced one of the first guitar synths. The Fifth Man featured a number of effects plus a primitive drum box. The guitar was demonstrated on the British television programe Tomorrow's World.
At the end of the 1960s, some of the Watkins guitars were branded WEM The last change of name in the 1970s was Wilson (this was the maiden name of Sid's mother). Sid branched out into semi-acoustic guitars which became very popular. These models were favored by Roy Wood of Wizard (The Move). The guitar's popularity grew in Germany, and Sid would load up his V.W. camper to take them over himself.
As a footnote, Watkins made some guitars for Vox, when Vox apparently could not keep up with the demand for their instruments. As another matter of interest, G Plan (a British furniture company) also produced some guitars for the company.
Source: Keith Smart, Zemaitis Guitar Owners Club. Smart was an employee at Watkins/WEM during the 1970s. Additional model information courtesy Tony Bacon and Paul Day, The Guru's Guitar Guide.

From Blue Book Publications:


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