The History of the Fuzz Pedal, Part 2

Welcome back to the journey through the history of the fuzz pedal. We’ll pick up in 1962, the year where things started to happen…

Ah, 1962. The year that the Maestro Fuzz-Tone (FZ-1) was born. In the US, engineer Glen Snoddy, seeing fuzz tone becoming increasingly popular since it appeared in the bass solo (caused by a faulty tube preamp) on Marty Robbins song Don’t Worry, creates a transistor circuit to replicate the fuzz tone. Glen states (in the book Fuzz and Feedback by Tony Bacon) : “Later when I found out what it was, I set about trying to develop that sound using transistors. We fooled around with it and got the sound like we wanted. I drove up to Chicago and presented it to Mr. Berlin, the boss at the Gibson company, and he heard that it was something different. So they agreed to take it and put it out as a commercial product.”

  Maestro Fuzz tone

Gibson becomes the first to the market with a mass produced consumer fuzz circuit. The first production version was built into Gibson bass guitars, then later in a stand-alone floor pedal form (FZ-1). The design is credited to Snoddy and fellow Tennesseean Revis V. Hobbs, an engineer with the famous WSM Radio in Nashville. Many other fuzz pedals that would follow were knockoffs or modifications of this first transistorized fuzz circuit. The FZ-1 is generally accepted as the first production fuzz pedal ever made, and the pedal that would later spawn the British fuzz tone craze. Gibson expected the pedal to be very popular and made over 5000 units on the first run. It was a disappointingly poor seller, but sales would finally come later in 1965.

Schematic for the Maestro Fuzz Tone

The first chart-topping track recorded using a commercially available fuzz box was the Rolling Stones 1965 track “Satisfaction” using the Gibson Maestro fuzztone.

Despite the availability of the Maestro Fuzztone, Dave Davies of “The Kinks” achieved his fuzz sound using an old school blues method, a torn speaker cone. In Davies case he had purposely slashed his speaker cone with a razor blade. He ran his “modified” amp through a AC30 to record the 1964 track “You Really Got Me”.

Maestro MFZ-1 Fuzz 2
Veroboard layout for the Maestro Fuzz Tone

Next up on the journey through fuzz is the year 1965, so stay tuned (or whatever the online equivalent is…) for more fuzz based knowledge. Post number three will be up next Monday!