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.

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!