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Mesa Boogie Mark I

Any kid who perused the pages of Guitar Player magazine in the late 1970s as intently as I did would have noticed the enticing ads featuring Carlos Santana dressed in a dapper all-white outfit playing a Gibson Les Paul, standing behind a small, blonde amp that looked like something your granddad might have played jazz through in the rec room at the old folks home. The implicit juxtaposition of Santana’s wailing tone and that rather kitsch looking little box was more than enough to draw me in—right alongside plenty of others—and prod me into further exploring this enigmatically named “Boogie” amplifier.

Make and model Mesa Boogie - Mark (I)
Power (Watt) 100 W
Type Combo
Channels 2
Footswitchable channels Yes
Power lamps 4 x 6L6
Preamp lamps 4 x 12AX7, 1 x 12AT7
Rectifier Solid
Effect loop No
Effects Yes
Reverb Yes
Impedance 4/8/16


Other Specifications:

  • Available as head or 1×12 Combo
  • 2 channels ( High gain:Input 1, clean Input 2)
  • Later Mark I models with reverb & graphic EQ
  • Footswitch Gain Boost/EQ.
  • Gain Boost Vol. 1
  • Pull Bright Vol. 2
  • Slave out
  • Pre Amp / amp Junction Out

The very first Mark I was made in 1969, when Smith, as a joke, modified Barry Meltons Fender Princeton amplifier. He removed the standard 10 inch speaker and modified the chassis to fit the larger transformers that were needed by the 4-10 tweed Fender Bassman, the circuit that he had added into the 12 watt Princeton. Finally, mounting a 12 inch JBL D-120, a popular speaker of the time, Smith had created what would be the first Boogie.

Randall Smith took the hot-rodded Princeton into the front store. Coincidentally, Carlos Santana was present and played through the amp. Impressed, Santana told Smith, Man, that little amp really boogies!, thus providing the current name for the amplifier and the company.

The first Boogies are referred to as Mark Is, though they were not given this name until the Mark II was released. They were 60 or 100 watt combo amps with a 12-inch speaker, primarily Altec-Lansing 417-8H Series II. The Mark I had two channels: The Input 2 channel, voiced like the Fender Bassman, and the high gain Input 1 channel, which produced the overdriven Boogie lead sound used most notably by Carlos Santana on Abraxas, and by The Rolling Stones Keith Richards and Ron Wood, who used the amps live and in the studio from 1977 until 1993.

This amp in its original form is very collectable. Reverb was optional, and not present on many early Boogies. Later, Mark I models were available with reverb and/or graphic EQ.

Early models have slave out and reverb labeled on the back with Dymo stick; they do not have any pull lead capabilities on the volume controls. Later models had Pull Bright and Pull Boost on the volume controls. The front panel controls were Volume 1, Volume 2, Treble, Middle, Bass, and Master. These early models are fairly inconsistent, since many of them were custom models, made-to-order for various buyers.

Mesa/Boogie has stated the original and the reissue have a looser lead sound because the first two preamp stages occurs before the tone controls. In the later Mark II and III models, there is only one gain stage before the tone controls. This signal chain is an issue of some dispute among Boogie owners.

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