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 on 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    

Strymon Flint Tremolo Reverb Effects Pedal Excellent!!!Strymon Timeline Multidimensional Delay Effects Delay Pedal, Excellent!!!!Vintage Electro-harmonix Deluxe Memory Man Echo Analog Delay LineBoss By Roland Sy-300 Guitar Synth Synthesizer Effects Pedal Digitech Trio+ Band Creator + Looper Guitar Effect Pedal Trioplus-v-04 Trio +Eventide H9 Max Harmonizer Multi Effects Pedal - H9max H9-max -excellent!!!Chase Bliss Audio Tonal Recall Analog Delay Guitar Effects Stompbox Pedal, Mint!Boss Rc-3 Loop Station Compact Phrase Recorder PedalJhs Morning Glory V4 Overdrive Electric Guitar Effect Pedal, Excellent!!!Strymon Reverberator Bigsky Reverb PedalNeunaber Immerse ReverberatorStrymon Lex Rotary PedalStrymon Mobius PedalElectro-harmonix Micro Pog Polyphonic Octave Generator PedalVoodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus Guitar Effect Pedal UsedStrymon El CapistanUsed Electro Harmonix Mel9 Tape Replay Machine Pedal - Mel 9Klon Ktr Professional Overdrive Pedal, Excellent!!!Malekko Barker B:assmaster Fuzz Electric Guitar Effects PedalEventide Space Black Hole Effect Pedal ReverbMu-tron Bi Phase Musitronics 1970's Original Pedal With FootswitchTumnus Wampler Overdrive V7-15 PedalZvex Effects Hand Painted Lo-fi Loop Junky Guitar Effects PedalOrigin Effects Cali76-cd Compact Deluxe Compressor Pedal, Excellent!Boss Ce-2 Analog Chorus Rare Vintage Black Label Guitar Pedal Mij Japan - PartsDigitech Rp500 Guitar Multi-effects Pedal & Usb Recording Interface CibEffectrode Sr-71 Blackbird Vacuum Tube Preamp PedalVintage! Maestro Fuzz Phazzer Pedal! (fuzz Phaser)Boss Blues Driver Bd-2 With Keeley Phat ModLine 6 Helix Rack Guitar Amp Modeler Processor Effects Axe Awesome! Roland Space Echo Model Re - 150 Analog Tape Delay Guitar Effect UnitStrymon Bluesky Blue Sky Reverberator W/boxBoss Rc-50 Multi-effects Guitar Effect PedalVintage Dod Analog Delay 680 Guitar Effect PedalLine 6 Pod Hd500x Guitar Multi-effects ProcessorEventide H9 Core Multi-effects Guitar Effect PedalElectro-harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb Pedal EhxL R Baggs Venue Full Isolation Di Instrument Preamp + Hard CaseStrymon Ola ChorusRoland Gr-55 Guitar Synthesizer (black) Effects Pedal With Gk-3 PickupElectro-harmonix Super Ego Looper Guitar Effect PedalIbanez Ts808 Vintage Tube Screamer ReissueDunlop Eric Johnson Signature Fuzz Face Fuzz Guitar Effect PedalBoss Rc-3 Loop Station Looper PedalTech 21 Boost Series Rvb-t-v2 Guitar Reverb PedalMoog - Bass Murf Moogerfooger Mf-105b**** Wow**** Digitech Trio+ Trio Plus Band Creater Looper PedalBoss Me-80 Multi-effects Guitar Processor Effect Pedal With Manual Me 80Ibanez Es2 Echo Shifter Analog Delay Guitar Effect PedalVintage 1975 Electronic Sounds Ufo Fuzz Man Mk1 (tonebender's Gary Hurst Design)Strymon Blue Sky ReverbWampler Pinnacle Deluxe Ver 2 Marshall Plexi 800 Brown Sound Boutique OverdriveMoog Mf-101 Moogerfooger Lowpass Filter, BlackDanelectro Dsr1 Spring King Effects PedalPedaltrain Classic Jr Pedal Board With Tour CaseStrymon Bluesky Reverberator PedalStrymon Lex Rotary Simulator Guitar Effects PedalVoodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus Guitar Effect Pedal ** Mint **Tech 21 Sansamp Character Series Vt Bass DeluxeMoog Moogerfooger Mf-101 Lowpass Filter