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    

Strymon Flint Tremelo & ReverbStrymon Timeline Delay Pedal, Near Mint, W/ Original Box! Vintage Rare 1974 Electro Harmonix Big Muff Pi V2 Rams Head W/ 2n5133 Fuzz TopStrymon El Capistan Delay Echo Effect Pedal, With Favorite Switch, No ReserveStrymon FlintRepair/parts Vintage Roland Re 301 Echo Chorus Delay Space Echo Echoplex Nr Strymon Lex Rotary Pedal W/ Original Box & Power Adaptor + Tap Favorite Switch Klon Ktr - Overdrive Pedal ** Brand New ** ((( No Reserve!! ))) Ships Worldwide!Pedaltrain 2 W/voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus Tc Electronic Ditto LooperBoss Rc30 Loop Station Looper Twin Pedal Electric Guitar Fx Perfect ConditionVintage Jen Fuzz From The 60's, Similar To Vox Tonebender, Germanium TransistorsWampler Pedals Pinnacle Deluxe Distortion Guitar Effect PedalTc Electronic Flashback Delay Guitar Effect PedalKlon Centaur Overdrive PedalWampler Tweed '57 Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal Pd-8913Line 6 Pod Hd500 Guitar Effects PedalElectro-harmonix B9 Organ Machine Guitar Effects PedalCatalinbread Belle Epoch Tape Delay (echoplex Clone)Xotic Sp Compressor Nano-sized Guitar Comp Effect Pedal Strymon MobiusLine 6 Pod Hd500 Hd500x Guitar Effect PedalLine 6 Pod Hd500x -w/gator Bag + Over 6,000 Presets On Cd RomLovepedal Kalamazoo Guitar PedalVan Amps Analog Spring Reverb Pedal Reverbamate Black With Power Model Asr-1Wampler Ego Compressor Guitar Effects Pedal With Box Pd-8908Boss Digital Reverb/delay Rv-3 Guitar Effects PedalHermida Audio Zendrive Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal - Original LovepedalStrymon TimelineBoss Roland Re-20 Space Echo Electric Guitar Pedal Delay Effect Pedal Vintage NrBig Briar (moog) Moogerfooger Cp-251 Control Processor W/packaging + All InsertsBoss Rc-3 Loop Station Guitar Effect PedalNeunaber Stereo Pedal - Wet ReverbLine 6 Dl4 Delay Modeler Guitar Effects Pedal Pd-8857Tc Electronic Ditto Looper Guitar Pedal Maestro Echoplex Ep-3 Echo Guitar Effect PedalBoss Re-20 Space Echo Guitar Effect PedalAnalogman Mini Bi-comp Pedal, No Scratches Or Dents, Perfect Working Condition!!Roland Re-201 Space EchoFulltone Full-drive 3 20th Anniversary Limited Edition Dual Mode OverdriveBoss Compressor Guitar Effect Pedal Compression Sustainer Cs-2 Made In JapanVoodoo Lab Pedal Power Iso 5Strymon Bluesky ReverberatorElectro Harmonix B9 Organ MachineBlackout Effectors Twosome 2 Fuzz Distortion Overdrive Effect Pedal Fix'd MusketBoss Gt-8 Multi-effects Guitar Effect PedalKlon Ktr - Overdrive Pedal ** Brand New ** ((( No Reserve!! ))) Ships Worldwide!Eventide H9 Harmonizer Multi-effects Pedal Boss Gt100 Multi-effects/amp Modeler Floor PedalLine 6 Pod Hd500x Guitar PedalAnalog Man Mini Chorus W/mix KnobDigitech Hardwire Supernatural Ambient Verb Reverb PedalPtd Paul Trombetta Design Burning Sensation Fuzz Pedal Boss Digital Delay Pedal Dd-3Mxr Carbon Copy Analog Delay Dunlop Electric Guitar Effects Pedal M169 NrBoss Gt100 Multi-effects Guitar Effect PedalNice Vintage Original Gibson Maestro Fuzz Tone Effect Pedal Fz-1a Classic Tone!Wampler Euphoria Overdrive PedalVox Delay Lab Guitar Effect PedalStrymon Mobius