The History of the Fuzz, Part Three

1965. The year where African-American’s were given the right to vote in the USA, Gemini Space Program continued working towards getting man to the moon and of course, the year that the Sola Sound MK I Tonebender was released.

There it is in all it’s glory

The Tonebender was designed by Gary Stewart Hurst. The MK I was a three transistor circuit based on the Gibson Maestro Fuzz-tone that Hurst modified to produce more sustain. The first version of this Tone Bender is referred to as the Tone Bender MKI.  The story goes that guitar legend Vic Flick, the man responsible for the James Bond Theme, brought a Fuzz-tone (FZ-1) to Hurst and requested the sustain to be increased. The Tone Bender was one the first ever British made Fuzz box available to the public and sold for 14 guineas. It was housed in a folded steel chassis and finished in gold & black Hammerite paint with some of the very early units housed in a wooden and steel enclosure.

Tonebender MKII - smallest
Veroboard layout

The first few available Tone Benders were sold as Gary Hurst designed units and were not sold as Sola Sound pedals. These pedals had what appears to be dry letter transfers for the labelling which was hand applied, note how little labelling is actually left intact on the above example. Probably only a very small number were made before the pedal was labeled using a silk screened approach. These silk screened MKI’s did state the unit as a “Sola Sounds Ltd” pedal.

Schematic for the Tonebender

You can hear the sounds of Jeff Beck’s MK I on the Yardbirds track “Heartful of Soul”.

As well as that, Mick Ronson used the MKI Tone Bender in David Bowie’s Spiders from Mars band and it was also a Tonebender MK I that Paul McCartney used on his bass track for The Beatles 1965 “Think for Yourself”.

Next Monday we’ll take a look at 1966, and the countless fuzz pedals that were released over the course of 12 months, as well as some of pedals that still exist in some form today.