In the 1960s, electric-guitar players were looking for something more than the twangy country sounds of the Fender Telecaster, the tremelo effects produced by a Bigsy whammy bar on a Gibson Flying V, or the reverb that was built into many amplifiers. They wanted to be able to boost their volume, distort or delay sounds, and filter their notes and chords to replicate everything from background choruses to jet airplanes.

One of the first commercially available stompboxes was the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz Tone, a distortion pedal that debuted in the United States in 1962 but became the sound everyone had to have in 1965 when the Rolling Stones released a 45 of “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Countless kids disturbed the peace of countless neighborhoods trying to replicate Keith Richards’ in-your-face riff. As it turns out, his choice of stompbox, and even his guitar, was not as important as his five-string, open-G tuning.

Another British-American sonic collaboration occurred in 1966 when Seattle-born Jimi Hendrix, living in London at the time, got his hands on an effects box called the Octavia (Hendrix routinely referred to it as his Octavio, so both spellings can be found). As its name might suggest, the Octavia added a second octave to the notes the musician was playing, which Hendrix took full advantage of on his debut album in tunes such as “Purple Haze” and “Fire.”

In fact, when it comes to stompboxes and pedals, Hendrix is in a class by himself. For distortion, he played through another 1966 device, the Arbiter Fuzz Face, and he was all over a wah-wah pedal called the Vox CryBaby when it was introduced in 1967. Toward the end of his brief career, beginning in 1969, Hendrix also used the Univox Uni-Vibe, whose effects can be heard on his live “Band of Gypsys” album, which was recorded during the last hours of the 1960s at the Fillmore East. Hendrix also used his Octavio during that legendary performance.

Another guitar wizard famous for his virtuosity and love of effects was Jeff Beck, who favored the 1967 Vox Tone Bender over the Stones’ Maestro Fuzz-Tone. In the early 1970s, Beck also played through a Colorsound Overdriver, which was designed to roughen the edges—a lot—of clean notes.

Other stompboxes from the early ’70s include the Musitronics Mu-Tron III, which is probably very familiar to fans of Stevie Wonder’s song “Higher Ground”—Wonder plugged his clavinet into the pedal. By the end of the decade, the Mu-Tron III was a mainstay for funk bands, but musicians as diverse as jazz guitarist Larry Coryell and the Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia also used it.

As metal gained prominence, so did distortion. Ozzy Osbourne’s short-lived lead guitarist, Randy Rhoads, used an MXR Distortion + on classics like “Crazy Train,” which made that box one of the best-selling effects pedals of its time. Rhoads also played through a Maestro Echoplex, which was so vital to Eddie Van Halen’s sound later in the decade that he played through two of the machines...

Van Halen elevated the sounds that could be created through stompboxes to high art, building what he called a “brown sound.” In addition to his pair of Maestro Echoplexes, Van Halen used an orange MXR Phase 90 from 1973, which made his notes and chords swirl and sweep throughout the sports arenas where the band typically played. By the 1980s, he had added an MXR Flanger to give his lightning-fast leads a rich, lush undertone.

More recently, guitarists like Kurt Cobain of Nirvana have been associated with devices like the Tech 21 SansAmp, which apes the sounds of numerous amplifiers and allows a musician to play clean, distorted, and just about everything in between. While some like such can-opener devices, others are traditionalists, although that’s not really the right word for a guitar god like Buckethead, whose setup includes an Ibanez RG550 20th RFR, ISP Decimator, Krank Krankshaft, Boss BF-2 Flanger, and BBE Sonic Maximizer, to name but a few of the pedals at his feet.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Vintage Guitars Info

Vintage Guitars Info

This great reference site features detailed sections for vintage guitar makers including Gibson, Fender, Martin, Gr… [read review or visit site]

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Vintage Guitar and Bass

Want to see all the old brochures and ads for your favorite vintage axe? Check out this great site, which showcases… [read review or visit site]



Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

Incredibly Rare Sought After Vintage 1959 1960 Fenton Weill Reverb Amp Boxed!!Guitar Pedal Board Rig - Love Pedal Electro Harmonix Wampler Tc Electronic BuddaMoog Moogerfooger Mf-104m Analog Delay Owned By Lou ReedStrymon El Capistan Dtape EchoStrymon El Capistan D Tape Echo Vintage Rare 1976 Ibanez Standard Modell 58 Wau Fuzz Distortion Wahwah Wfp1 Top Strymon Big Sky ReverberatorMoog Moogerfooger Mf-104z Analog Delay Owned By Lou ReedMoog Moogerfooger Mf-101 Lowpass Filter Owned By Lou ReedStrymon Blue Sky Reverb PedalCatalinbread Echorec Delay PedalMoog Music Moogerfooger Mf-104z Delay Guitar Effect PedalAnalogman Sunlion (legendary Pedal)Moog Moogerfooger Mf-103 12-stage PhaserPaul Cochrane Timmy Surf Green Overdrive Effects Pedal ~free Shipping In U.s.!~Pedaltrain Hard Case/guitar Pedal Board & Lot Of Boss Effects PedalsLine 6 Pod Hd500x Guitar Multi Effects Proccessor Electro Harmonix --- Bad Stone --- Vintage Phaser Pedal, Needs RepairCatalinbread Royal Albert Hall (rah)-page Style OverdriveEarthquaker Devices Palisades Preamp Driver Guitar Overdrive/distortion PedalWampler Triple WreckElectro-harmonix Stereo Polychorus Flanger Guitar Effect Pedal -not WorkingStrymon Mobius Modulation Pedal - No ReserveFulltone Clyde Deluxe Wah Guitar Effect Pedal Vintage Maestro Echoplex Echo Chamber Solid State Ep3Zvex Fuzz Factory Guitar Effect Pedal DistortionVoodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 PlusXotic Effects Sp Compressor Pedal - UsedElectro Harmonix Big Muff Pi Russian Great Sound Pie SovtekBoss Vintage Distortion Guitar Effect Pedal Heavy Metal Hm-2 Made In JapanOriginal Moogerfooger Classic Mf-104 Analog DelayAnalogman Sunface Ti/uk Fuzz PedalDunlop Mxr M87 Bass Compressor Guitar Effect Pedal .99 Auction Nr!Boss Sg-1 Slow Gear Effects Pedal Made In Japan 1979 Excellent Pedal Electro-harmonix Superego Synth/freeze Sustain Pedal !no Reserve!Tc Electronic Nova System Multi-effects Guitar Effect PedalVoodoo Lab Pedal Power Dc Power SupplyElectro-harmonix Hog Effect Pedal W/ Foot Controller And Expression PedalEarthquaker Devices Dispatch MasterSonic Research Turbo Tuner St-200 Strobe Tuner Stomp BoxMoog Moogerfooger Mf-102 Ring Modulator Owned By Lou ReedEarthquaker Devices Disaster Transport Delay Guitar Effects PedalTc Electronics Ditto Looper True Bypass Guitar Pedal €Tc Electronic Nova System And G-switch And Stereo CableLine 6 Pod Xt Live Pro Multi-effects Guitar1 Effect Pedal €Digitech Gnx4 Guitar Workstation Multi-effects Pedal Pd-7583 Line 6 Fbv Shortboard Mkii Guitar Foot Switch Pedal BoardBoss Rc-300 Loop Station Looper Guitar Effect PedalVintage Ace Tone Fm-2 Fuzz Master Effects Pedal 1960's WorksFulltone Usa Bass-drive Effect Pedal Wampler Paisley DriveRoland Fc-300 Midi-controller Guitar Foot Pedal Multi EffectWampler Euphoria Overdrive --mint Condition--Line 6 Pod Hd300 Multi-effects Guitar Pedal Very Nice ConditionTc Electronic Flashback X4 Delay And Looper Guitar Stompbox Pedal - MintPigtronix Echolution Chorus Guitar Effect Pedal In Box - Store Display ModelElectro Harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb Fx Pedal Line 6 Pod Xt Live Multi-effects Guitar Effect Pedal With Line 6 Case/adapterVoodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus Power SupplyElectro-harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb Guitar Effect Pedal