It all started in the summer of 1960, when Grady Martin was hired to work on a Marty Robbins recording session in Owen Bradley's Quonset Hut in Nashville, Tennessee. While recording the tune Don't Worry, a malfunctioning channel on the mixing board caused Martin's six string bass to be recorded with an insane amount of distortion, a sound that would come to be called fuzztone. Despite the jarring sound, the record was released as it was originally recorded, fuzztone and all, which turned out to be a successful gamble. The record reached the #1 position on the Billboard country charts on February 7, 1961 and made it to #3 on the pop charts. It seems hard to find a release date for the single, but it was already included on More Greatest Hits, released on January 1, 1961.1)
Glen T. Snoddy, the session engineer, saved the malfunctioning Langevin tube amp module and brought it out on request. Grady used the effect on several other records including one of his own, 'The Fuzz' by Grady Martin & The Slew Foot Five, which was reviewed in Billboard Magazine on January 30, 1961.2) There is discussion as to Grady really did play on 'Don't Worry,' because he is not credited in the session records, although another member of the in-house session band, Bob Moore, is credited for (upright!) bass. It does by no means exclude the presence of a lead guitarist who also played the bass-doubling tic-tac riffs which in some reports are attributed to an electric bass but seem most likely played by a Telecaster. Also, Grady Martin owned a vast array of instruments, even a double neck electric mandolin/telecaster and a Danelectro 6-string electric bass guitar.3)
There is a report on the session by Lou Bradley, who recounts speaking to Jimmie Lockhart, who claims to have been engineer on that session.
Jimmy Lockhart was an engineer, and he did Marty. Like a lot of other engineers, he came out of WSM. Those guys did live music all the time, so mixin' to them was a snap. He worked for Owen. But when Columbia bought the Quonset Hut, he didn't get hired into the group. Then he worked for Sam Phillips with Billy Sherrill.
I came up here one time from Florida around 1960, and he'd just done this session. He said, “Tell me what this is.” I said, “Sounds like a bass guitar but…” He said, “The preamp in the console distorted, and Grady Martin just played through it instead of fixin' it.” Everybody thinks it was in the studio. But it was the console. Everybody said it was a tube but Glen Snoddy said it was the transformer they used in the Langevin amps, shorted out from the high input level. “How did that occur?” Lockhart said, “Well, Grady was playin' electric with a mic, and then he was gonna play the tic-tac bass. So I wired him up direct and said, »“Don't hit it.” I needed to go pad it down in the control room, and just as I was about to pull down the control, he just ticked it.”
Grady's inadvertent 'tick' blew the transformer of the preamp. But they liked the sound of it, and used it on Grady's solo.
But then the distinctive fuzz vanished. “It would not do it anymore,” says Bradley. “And they tried everything to get it bac. It didn't heal,” says Bradley. “It just quit.”4)
Nevertheless, Grady Martin own use of the effect on a single that came out before 'Don't Worry' even reached the number one slot, certainly links him to the effect and is certainly either the same malfunctioning amp or a prototype Fuzz-tone, on which Glen Snoddy had probably been working. Soon enough, Snoddy saw the commercial potential for a device that would produce the fuzztone effect on command 5) - and off course, on stage. “Later when I found out what it was, I set about trying to develop that sound using transistors,” recalled Glenn Snoddy. “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.”6)
It might seem strange that Gibson be interested in such a gimmick, but it was the same Maurice H. Berlin who had turned down Les Paul and his 'log' in 1946.7) He drew up a design in co-operation with Revis V. Hobbs and filed the for patent in May 3, 1962 under the designation 'Tone modifier for electrically amplified electro-mechanically produced tones.' US Patent 3,213,18 was granted on October 19, 1965.
The patent date of May 3, 1962 is clearly later than that of the fuzz-tone trademark registration file, which states as date of first commercial use February 16, 1962. However, this date need not refer to the Maestro Fuzz-Tone FZ-1 footpedal, because Gibson also used Fuzz-Tone (name and circuit) on a number of bass guitars: Gibson EB-0F, Gibson EB-SF 1250 and notably, the Epiphone Newport EB-SF, because it, contrary to the Gibson fuzz basses, already mentioned and pictured in the Epiphone 1962 catalog.8) Sadly, no schematics for either of these basses is available from Gibson, but the circuit should match the FZ-1 as noted patent schematic. However, the presence of the Epiphone EB-SF in the 1962 catalog clearly shows that at least somebody considered the effect to be exclusively for bass. With the Grady Martin story above, there is more reason to believe that the first guitar stompbox was developed for bass guitar, but clearly something happened along the line to make them consider it as a effect for different “electrically amplified instruments,” as the patent says. Probably, the idea for the seperate box was some sort of afterthought, although it did something revolutionary in creating that you can take a sound with you in a box.
Gibson introduced the Fuzz-Tone pedal under their Maestro brand in 1962. The initial retail price was $40. They were optimistic about the prospects of selling a lot of Fuzz-Tone effects and produced over 5000 that first year. Gibson's dealers bought 5458 pedals in 1962, confirming Gibson's sales forecast. Unfortunately, the buying public wasn't as eager as they expected. Gibson only shipped 3 Fuzz-Tones to dealers in 1963 and none in 1964, suggesting dealers still had an ample supply of inventory in their music stores. This changed when in August 1965, the Stones released '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction' and it shot to the number one spot on the UK and US charts. By late 1965, the Gibson dealers sold all their remaining inventory of Fuzz-Tones and received another 3454 to sell by December 31st of that year.9)
|Designer||Glen T. Snoddy & Revis V. Hobbs|
|Units produced||+/- 5000 Serials|
|Serial numbers||< #5101|
|Connectors||input jack, output cable|
|Battery||2 AA batteries|
|Revisions||Maestro Fuzz-tone FZ-1A|
|Precursors||Gibson EB-0F ?|
Values as noted in the patent: