Published: 06:00, 23 November 2020
| Updated: 09:53, 26 November 2020
There are many tales of the origins of rock 'n' roll in Britain but a lesser known one starts a few doors down from a fish and chip shop in Kent.
And no it is not the time Rolling Stones' rocker Mick Jagger was pictured tucking into a fresh bag ahead of a gig.
It is, in fact, the story of how one small music company from Dartford took on the world from an old warehouse, creating an ear-busting invention that would go on to define the sound of the swinging Sixties.
Dartford Road's Vox factory was the birthplace of the world-famous Vox AC30 amplifier, which helped power the British Beat Boom, and is long associated with legendary music acts The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
As rock 'n' roll was imported to UK shores from America in the 1960s, demand for electric guitars coincided with a need for amplifiers to ensure bands performing to thousands of screaming, adoring fans could be heard.
This led to the creation of the AC15 amp, invented by sound engineer Richard 'Dick' Denney.
Born in Belvedere in 1921, Dick worked as an engineer at Vickers’ munitions factory in Crayford during the Second World War.
During this time he would strike up a friendship with music entrepreneur Tom Jennings, who ran Jennings Musical Industries in Dartford, a business specialising in the manufacture of electric organs, guitars and bass guitars.
Working together they produced the Vox AC15 amp in 1956, so called because it ran off AC electricity and generated 15 watts of power.
On the back of its success, Dick was approached by Bruce Welch and Hank Marvin, of The Shadows, to generate a more powerful 30 watts device capable of reaching larger audiences.
However, Mr Jennings had his reservations and it was only when paperwork – revealing Dick had continued to work in secret on the project – led to a row, they agreed on a trial run.
The result, the Vox AC30, would change the landscape of music forever.
Before long the amp was adopted up and down the country and Vox counted legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix among its long list of illustrious clients.
Some musicians claim it to be the best ever made, including Queen guitarist Brian May who told a BBC documentary it was a "gift from God".
Its popularity rose to new heights when Mr Jennings struck a deal with Brian Epstein, manager of The Beatles, that meant the band would only ever play Vox equipment during his tenure.
But to truly reach the top and earn yourself a musical footnote in rock and roll history they say you have to "crack America".
And Vox did just that. In the 1960s, Mr Denney toured the world demonstrating Vox equipment, sometimes even landing himself appearances on cable TV beamed to thousands of homes.
Speaking in 2013, his granddaughter Emily Turner said: “He toured the world demonstrating Vox equipment. Word got round and Hank Marvin had a Vox and then The Beatles.
“He set up equipment for live performances, including the first live appearance of The Beatles on Sunday Night at the London Palladium in 1963.
“My mother went with him to the venue and the desperate teenage mob made carrying the equipment through the stage entrance difficult."
She would go on to describe how they had to use water cannons to disperse crowds of girls attempting to hammer down the dressing room doors.
Her grandfather Dick coolly told her mum to stay in the stalls until the sound checks were complete, where she found herself sat next to a young Des O’Connor and Ringo Starr.
Meanwhile back in Dartford it was not unusual for the stars themselves to frequent the factory on any given day.
Rolling Stones' Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, being local boys, visited often to try out the latest equipment and would interact with the engineers and technicans hard at work.
They went one step further and even showcased the guitars Vox were producing alongside the amps at the time.
Despite the publicity, Vox found it hard to keep up with demand amid pressure from rivals Fender and Marshall and eventually JMI was sold to the Royston Group in 1964.
Today, the company – which counts Foo Fighters, Queen and The Killers as fans – is owned by Japanese group Korg which moved production outside the UK in 2002. Dick, who died on June 6, 2001, sold his shares in 1967.
A Facebook page has been set up for people to share their photos and stories of Dick Denney and the Vox AC30.
In 2017, a blue plaque was placed on the wall of JMI's former offices in 119 Dartford Road, between Hair Flair and ADS Business Centre.
Members of Mr Denney’s family joined about 20 former employees of the Vox factory and others for the unveiling.
It reads: “From these premises, music entrepreneur Tom Jennings and sound engineer Dick Denney produced the first Vox Amplifier, changing the sound of popular music forever.”