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Monthly Archives: August 2009
The first Fuzz box, the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz Tone, made its American debut in 1962. It was created in an attempt to have the guitar imitate brass and string instruments. Sales through 1964 were very slow. Everything changed in 1965 with the release of the song “Satisfaction”, the legendary riff being the work of the Fuzz Tone.
Sola Sound introduced the MK I Tone Bender in 1965. The 1966 MK II was used by many famous British guitarists. Built with germanium transistors, the tonebender had bold fuzz and maximum sustain. Sola Sound would eventually change their name and become Colorsound.
The FZ-1 was not easy to come by in England and the birth of British Rock was just starting. The British company Sola Sound, sometimes spelled Solasound, and others were founded in response to the Fuzz demand. The “Fuzz Era” had begun.
The first era of fuzz pedals were equipped with either two or three germanium transistors. These pedals produced great tone, but many of these transistors turned out to be manufactured inconsistently, affected by climate, and generally unreliable.
In the 70’s, most germanium transistors were replaced with silicon transistors. Silicon transistors were more compact and reliable. The silicon transistor yields a much higher gain and the sound is brighter. Of course, there is debate as to which transistor sounds better.
Fortunately, the consumer of today has the ability to listen to and choose the Fuzz effect that is right for him. The Fuzz pedals of today mimic the legends, but also provide additional features. Most offer the choice of germanium or silicon transistors.
MJM Guitar FX makes a great Tonebender clone called the Brit Bender. It’s an almost exact replica of the original circuit.
Here come the fuzz.
Today Fat Tone Guitars is featuring the Earthquaker Devices Dirt Transmitter. The Dirt Transmitter houses lots of sounds within it’s nondescript exterior. From crazy gated fuzz sounds that snap crackle and pop, to more smooth fuzz sounds, the Dirt Transmitter delivers.
And with a tone knob that cuts your bass, the DT will get your leads heard, even if you have a loud drummer like my old drummer in Leapin’ Lizards.
If you’ve never heard of a Theremin, it was the first electric instrument and according to Wikipedia: The theremin was originally the product of Russian government-sponsored research into proximity sensors. The instrument was invented by a young Russian physicist named Lev Sergeivich Termen (known in the West as Léon Theremin) in October 1920 after the outbreak of the Russian civil war. After positive reviews at Moscow electronics conferences, Theremin demonstrated the device to Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin. Lenin was so impressed with the device that he began taking lessons in playing it, commissioned six hundred of the instruments for distribution throughout the Soviet Union, and sent Theremin on a trip around the world to demonstrate the latest Soviet technology and the invention of electronic music. After a lengthy tour of Europe, during which time he demonstrated his invention to packed houses, Theremin found his way to the United States, where he patented his invention in 1928 (US1661058). Subsequently, Theremin granted commercial production rights to RCA.
What is unique about a Theremin is it is played without touching it. You stand in front of the Theremin and move your hands in the proximity of the two antennas. One antenna controls the volume and the other antenna controls the pitch. If you’ve heard Good Vibrations by The Beach Boys, you’ve heard a Theremin. And Jimmy Page made the Theremin famous in the freak out break in Dazed And Confused.
The house band in the afterlife must be in desperate need of new talent. In just over a week, the Grim Reaper has taken guitar genius Les Paul, Lit drummer Allen Shellenberger and Mink DeVille frontman Willy DeVille from us — and now comes the sad news that legendary Memphis producer, session man, recording artist and raconteur Jim Dickinson passed away this past Saturday at the age of 67, following triple-bypass heart surgery.
Born in Little Rock, AK in 1941, Dickinson grew up in Memphis and was entranced from an early age by the jazz, blues, gospel, country and R&B sounds he heard emanating from his parents’ radio. Though he never learned to read music, Dickinson was already a veteran of local garage bands by the time he graduated high school — his first notable recording credit was playing piano and singing lead on the Jesters’ 1966 single “Cadillac Man,” widely considered to be the last great Sun Records release — and he returned to Memphis after a stint at Baylor University to join a loose-knit group of local musicians known as the Dixie Flyers, who quickly became one of the most in-demand session aggregations in Memphis and Muscle Shoals.
As a session musician and producer, Dickinson worked with a jaw-dropping array of artists, including Aretha Franklin, the Rolling Stones (that’s him playing piano on “Wild Horses,”), Bob Dylan, Big Star, the Cramps, Ry Cooder, Dr. John, Sam and Dave, Furry Lewis, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the Replacements, Mudhoney, T-Model Ford, Los Lobos, the Flamin’ Groovies, Primal Scream, Spiritualized, Lucero and many, many more. Dickinson’s unerring musical instincts and knack for achieving soulful, no-frills sounds in the studio — it’s been said that he could get more music out of two notes than most players or producers could get out of 20 — were such that, by the late 1980s, just his name on a record was enough to lend it instant credibility. “If you’ve got Dickinson, you don’t need anybody else,” said Bob Dylan, who engaged Dickinson to tickle the ivories on his Grammy-winning 1997 album, Time Out of Mind.
Dickinson also released numerous records of his own through the years, recording under such monikers as James Luther Dickinson, Mud Boy & the Neutrons, and Snake Eyes. His sons, Luther and Cody Dickinson, inherited their father’s love of raw, down-home sounds, as evidenced by the records they’ve made as the North Mississippi Allstars.
Though he’d been in poor health for years, Dickinson continued to play and record up until this past May, when doctors discovered that he had some serious cardiac issues. But while he didn’t die a wealthy man — he spent the last part of his life living and working out of two trailers in Northern Mississippi, and a benefit was held August 8 at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis to help cover the costs of his care — the richness of Dickinson’s life and recorded legacy was incredibly substantial.
“I’ve tried to create things that have some shelf life,” Dickinson said in a 2007 interview. “Great records endure because they’re art. Art is supposed to last, and I’ve never tried to do anything else but make art.”
Or as his self-chosen epitaph reads, “I’m just dead, I’m not gone.”
The Earthquaker Devices Tusk Fuzz is our fuzz o’ the week. Earthquaker Devices is a cool little boutique pedal company out of Akron, OH that puts out some very affordable and GREAT SOUNDING effect pedals. The EQD lineup is toneful and gets it’s inspiration from many different sources, not just vintage fuzz faces or big muffs.
The Tusk Fuzz is based on opamps and clipping so in many ways the dirt from the Tusk Fuzz sounds like a distortion stomp box. No problem. It’s a great cutting fuzz pedal that is awesome for lead guitar and will give you that bite when competing with a full band.
Fat Tone Guitars has a nice little demo, recorded in-house using a K-Line S-Style Guitar through a Vox Hand-Wired amp.
My My Hey Hey how Neil Young can crank up a tweed amp and get a giant fuzzy tone. But he doesn’t really use a fuzz pedal per se. He uses a vintage Fender Tweed Deluxe that has been modded to get that crazy horse sound.
Durham Electronics is a small pedal manufacturer out of Austin, TX and their effects are hand-made and deliver some sweet sound. The Crazy Horse sports a “Volts” knob that can get you that old 9V battery sound that adds a little somethin somethin to your fuzz sound.
Great sounds from Durham Electronics.
This morning, Melissa and I spread out our current stock of guitar effect pedals on the Fat Tone Stage. We didn’t have a reason–I just wanted to see if we could cover the stage. Well, we did (cover the stage that is).
No Boss pedals were used in the taking of this photograph.
Can you identify all the pedal manufacturers represented in this picture?
Contact us if we are missing any essential pedals.