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Grand Funk Amp Guru Dave West Dies

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Grand Funk Railroad photo by Michael Ochs Archives and Getty Images
Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Dave West, the founder of West Amplifiers, who designed guitar amps for Grand Funk Railroad and other Michigan rockers including Bob Seger and Alice Cooper, passed away on 10 November at the age of 71.

Opening West Laboratories in 1965, he became greatly in demand with rock bands in the Michigan area in the late 1960s, and was closely associated with Grand Funk’s powerhouse rock sound thanks to the 200-watt Fillmore amps that he created, built and maintained.

West’s amplifiers were used both on stage by GFR and on their first four albums. “Not only did they sound great, but they looked great,” the band’s drummer Don Brewer told the Lansing State Journal. West, born in Flint, lived in the Lansing area for many years.

The Beatles - Now And Then
The Beatles - Now And Then
The Beatles - Now And Then

Rob Grange, who built cabinets for West’s amplifiers, added: “He was like a mad scientist in the shop. He’d get these Fender amps and rip them all apart see how they were made and beat them up. He should have been a multi-millionaire. He was way ahead of his time.” Bass player West toured with Ted Nugent throughout the 1970s after being hired while he was working for West.

As well as the Fillmore amp, West also made the 100-watt Grande and 50-watt Avalon amps. His son, Aaron, told the Journal that his father’s amplifiers became “the sound of the Grande Ballroom,” referring to the erstwhile venue in Detroit that hosted many memorable rock shows, including the live debut of MC5 as well as concerts by Cream, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin and many others, before its closure in 1972.

“I want to build the finest guitar amplifiers in the world,” West once said, “and get them to the people who will enjoy them.”

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  1. rich lawson

    December 8, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Thanks for posting. I had written to him a while back inquiring if he wanted a copy of a West Amp catalog from 1971; featured a poster of Grand Funk Power !!!!!!! Did not hear from him so I figured out something was up with his health.

  2. Tom Daniels

    December 9, 2015 at 5:34 am

    Grand Funk is and always will be my greatest band that inspired me to play the way I play. RIP Dave. I wish I could have afforded a West amp.

  3. Lonewolf

    June 27, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    I knew Dave from his Lansing years when he had a shop on Michigan Avenue and had changed the name to M.A.T. Music, or Milo Audio Technologies. He was making speaker cabinet back then that had blueprints similar or had been used with the Bob Seger sound system. I bought 2 – 1 x 12″ cabs from him that were massive and would throw sound (literally) a mile away. They came equipped with Electro-Voice EVM 12S speakers (most EVMs at the time were 12L’s..). I always enjoyed talking to Dave and I am now saddened to hear of him passing. Definitely one of the greatest amplifier minds of our day…

  4. Don Stouffer

    August 10, 2016 at 9:44 pm

    Dave was poised to release his new amps when his health failed him. The prototypes were taken from his home and all the new chassis left laying in the basement unassembled next to shelves of old amps of the past. Truly a sad ending to some new handmade amps.

  5. Dan Conway

    February 18, 2017 at 5:59 pm

    I and my friends will remember Dave as one of those really smart techy-audio type guys who really loved inventing, and creating great audio for musicians. I first remember going to his factory or shop in Flint and hanging out. There was quite a bit of buzz around what Dave was creating in those days. Later, Dave moved over toward Lansing Michigan. I remember buying a Fender P-Bass that had some damage after a fire occurred in MAT Music in Lansing. We always called that bass the Fire Bass. Come to think of it, I’m wearing a 4″ wide all leather strap I bought with the bass that I still use and love until now. I wish I had kept the Fire Bass though! My brother Mike and I bought a Milo PA system from Dave as well for our band, and I remember Dave would call me occasionally to bring the crossovers back to him to tweek and improve when he had developed something better! I actually brought them to Dave’s house on the way to Lansing to drop off for him to work on. Dave was a great guy and I’ll miss him. May God bless him now and may he rest in peace.

  6. John Lorencen

    June 8, 2017 at 6:24 pm

    Met Dave West in Lansing, MI at MAT Music on Michigan Ave. His whole second floor working area had speakers in some stage of assembly. Both of the bands I was in back in those days used his speakers. He built one awesome PA system for our band. To this day, I’ve still got two of his guitar speaker cabinets and two of his tiny monitors.

    He will/is missed in the music industry. He made a big “sound” while he was here. Hope to see him in again one day.

  7. Brian

    August 18, 2018 at 7:18 pm

    Dave will be missed. I talked my Dad into buying a grande I found at fast Eddie’s in ypsilanti in 95. Dad knew Dave from home room at southwestern. Dad played drums, only 6’9″ drummer ever to come out of Flint. Ed French died 26 May 2028. I guess he’s up there taking to Dave now. Grande is still in the garage, I swear it’s got to be just about the loudest amp I’ve ever played thru.

  8. Brian

    August 18, 2018 at 7:22 pm

    Supposed to read May 26 2018 not 2028.

  9. Kable

    June 18, 2019 at 5:02 pm

    Lonewolf, if you bought those MILO PA cabs back in the 70’s while in a local band named “Rox”, then I was your vocalist- the guy who sang through them. And oh what a distinct pleasure that was! What awesome sound; power and clarity! Cherished memories of those times- and of Dave, who to my memory was truly a kind and decent human being, not to mention surprisingly humble. But heavy!? Oh were those MILOs heavy!! Lol

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