Funny how we take things for granted, things that are common place, unnoticeable until something brings it to our attention. Example: THE FUZZ BOX. Most folks don’t know what a FUZZ BOX is let alone its significance to rock music. The Stomp Box, aka FUZZ, was in the news with the death of a 96 year old, GLENN SNODDY. Mr. Snoddy was a Nashville recording engineer who stumbled upon a unique sound when recording MARTY ROBBINS’ “Don’t Worry” in 1961. According to various reports, the console used to record the bass tracks malfunctioned causing a “rumbling” fuzz sound. Against the producer’s request for a retake the recording was issued as is, and history begins.

Mr. Snoddy went about developing a device which could recreate the unique sound on demand.The FUZZ BOX is actually a(stomp) foot controlled preamp device which changes the tone of the guitar sound from “clean to dirty”. Listen to Keith Richards’ buzzing guitar riffs during, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” or select songs by CREAM, JIMI HENDRIX and basically every garage band during the late 60’s and you will hear the FUZZ tone.

 

THE WAH WAH PEDAL:  A mid range boost switch developed by DICK DENNEY at VOX UK was the prototype for THE WAH WAH PEDAL . An American guitarist DELTON KASHER aka DEL CASHER took that device to another level. Previously, at age 21 CASHER “invented” a tape delay system. In subsequent years he was working as a performer with his band THE THREE SUNS, also as a featured guitarist on THE LAWRENCE WELK SHOW, as a guest performer on THE GENE AUTRY SHOW and could be found jamming with the legendary MOTHERS OF INVENTION in Los Angeles. Pretty impressive credentials.

CASHER took the VOX UK mid range booster and further developed it using transistors making it a variable switch so that the mid range boost could be controlled. He further experimented using a VOX organ pedal as the controller. First envisioned for usage by horns,when it didn’t catch on  CASHER used one for his guitar. Soon he was receiving recording dates as the first seat guitarist all due to him having the WAH- WAH sound. Others guitarist paid it no never mind, it was a hard sell. CASHER called his buddy FRANK ZAPPA who took one to NEW YORK when THE MOTHERS were at their GARRICK residency. JIMI HENDRIX experienced it there and requested one (VOODOO CHILE- SLIGHT RETURN) for himself. BINGO.

John W. Troutman, curator of American music at the Smithsonian Institution’s division of culture and the arts stated “Over the last 50 years, only a handful of innovations have truly revolutionized the sound of the electric guitar, The wah-wah is one of them. It radically transformed the instrument’s voice in a slew of genres, and Del Casher stood at the pedal’s ground zero. 

THE WHAMMY BAR aka the fluctuating volume and pitch control arm is a guitar attachment which enables the player to temporarily change the pitch of the strings. Without going into the science behind the device or its invention as there are many different types I’ll focus on the sound by naming artists which will bring its unique sound to the forefront: CHET ATKINS, DUANE EDDY, THE VENTURES, DICK DALE, JIMI HENDRIX, JEFF BECK,FRANK ZAPPA, EDDIE VanHALEN, and of course STEVIE RAY VAUGHN.

LES PAUL:THE KING OF THEM ALL: It was always a great pleasure to head over to THE IRIDIUM for “Monday Nights featuring THE LES PAUL TRIO”. To see the maestro himself in the flesh with his surgically positioned right arm playing one of the legendary guitars that he designed and is named in his honor. But, the LES PAUL solid body guitar is NOT the only thing he invented and without his inspired forward thinking our recorded/ performing music would not be as it is today.

So here’s to LESTER POLSFUSS aka LES PAUL.

As a youngster in WISCONSIN Les played guitar and harmonica. Deciding he wanted to play both simultaneously young RED as he was called, took a coat hanger and fashioned a harmonica holder. BOB DYLAN and NEIL YOUNG as well as other singer- songwriters, guitar- harmonica folks can be seen using it still today.

Next up, LES experimented with multi-track recording (1946) and with AMPEX Corporation (1956) developed an “eight-track recorder” allowing sound on sound recording sessions.  To that he added tape delays and phasing techniques.

THE GUITAR:

Young LES was told by a member of the audience that his acoustic guitar could not be heard so…coil and magnets later and LES invents the guitar pick-up. To that he continues to experiment with the sound of his guitar and tones produced by it. Finally, THE LOG is developed, a 4×4 with strings which creates a “different” sound then the hollow body guitars do. AND that becomes the first “solid body” guitar.

See you next time….Chapter16-BIGGER THAN JESUS …Comments? jazzbus@gmail.com