Watkins Electric Music

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Watkins Electric Music
Industrymusical instruments
FoundedLondon, England 1949
FounderCharlie Watkins
Productsguitar, bass and PA amplification

Watkins Electric Music (WEM) is a British company known for manufacturing PA systems, the Copicat tape echo unit, guitar amplifiers, and electric guitars.


The company was co-founded by musician Charlie Watkins and his brother Reg Watkins in 1949, initially as a record shop in Tooting Market, London. Two years later the brothers moved to a small shop in Balham and began selling accordions and guitars.

Watkins Electric Music was one of the first to manufacture and sell guitar amplifiers in England, introducing the Watkins Westminster in 1954, followed up by the V-fronted Dominator.[1]

In 1958, Watkins Electric Music introduced the Copicat, one of the first-ever portable tape echo units. The shop sold the entire first production run of 100 Copicats on the first day, including the very first Copicat sold to Johnny Kidd of Johnny Kidd & the Pirates, whose guitarist used it on the group's UK hit song "Shakin' All Over".[2] The Copicat would become one of the company's most successful products, with various different Copicat models released over more than 50 years.[3] By the end of the 1950s, selling amps, echo units, and a line of solid-body electric guitars designed by Reg, Watkins Electric Music was one of the top 3 companies of the U.K. music trade.[1]

A WEM 100 watt PA dating from 1969

In 1967-1968 The Who used the WEM (Watkins Electric Music) Audiomaster five-channel mixer and multiple WEM 100-watt transistor PA amplifiers chained together as their sound system.[4] In the concert movie Pink Floyd: Live at Pompeii (1972), the band is shown using WEM PA equipment as it performs in the ruins of an ancient amphitheatre in Pompeii, Italy. Jimi Hendrix and his Band of Gypsys also used WEM PA equipment at outdoor venues in the UK. WEM amplification can also be seen in footage of the Miles Davis Electric Band playing at the Isle of Wight festival in 1970, in Led Zeppelin's 1969 supershow in London, and in The Stones in the Park, one of the Hyde Park Free Concerts. The amps were also used by Jack Bruce of Cream (band). In the Netherlands, WEM made fame when the Dutch band ‘de hoantjes’decided to choose WEM as their PA system.

A scaled down version of the company still operates, focusing on accordions and a new handmade version of the Copicat tape echo units.


  1. ^ a b Peterson, David (January 2000). "The WEM Story". Guitar And Bass. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  2. ^ Cooper, Gary (February 2015). "Charlie Watkins: Audio Pioneer 1923-2014". Sound On Sound. SOS Publications Group. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  3. ^ "WEM Shadow Echo". catalinbread.com. 26 March 2021. Retrieved 31 January 2022.
  4. ^ The Who PA and foldback

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