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    

Rare Vintage 1982 Dynacord Vrs-23 Vertical Reverberation Echo Reverb System TopD*a*m Dam Ram Head Fuzz Pedal! , Ehx 1975 Big Muff Ram's Head Vintage Tone!!!Analogman Sunlion - Original Version/first Run - Low Serial #Strymon Mobius Midi Chorus/modulation Machine New In BoxStrymon El Capistan (ver 2)Analogman Red Dot Nkt275 Sunface Fuzz FaceVintage Maestro Ep-3 Echoplex Echo ChamberIbanez Tube Screamer Ts-808 Vintage 1980 Jrc 4558d Tube Screamer Pro Ts-808 Original 1980 ® Malaysian Chip Holy Grail Srv Great!Tc Electronic Flashback X4 Delay Pedal Strymon Lex Rotary PedalBoss Rc-50 Loop Station Multi Effects Guitar Loop Pedal Excellent Condition!Moog Mf-104z Moogerfooger Analog Delay Pedal, Mf104z - Mint W/ Moog Ac Adapter!Strymon Bigsky Reverb Pedal New In Unopened Box!T.c. Tc Electronic Nova System Guitar Effects PedalFulltone Tube Tape Echo Tte (mint With Case... Discontinued Item!)Electro-harmonix Ehx 1971 Vintage Big Muff 1st Version Triangle Knob, The One!! Analogman King Of Tone Overdrive Guitar Effect PedalXotic Effects Sp CompressorAnalogman Sun Face Nkt 275 Fuzz Guitar Effect PedalD*a*m Dam Ezekiel 25:17 Differential Audio Manifestionz Overdrive PreamplifierLine 6 Dl-4 Guitar Effect Pedal Delay, Reverb, LooperWampler Velvet Fuzz Guitar Effects PedalVoodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus Guitar Pedal Power Supply $1 NrStrymon El CapistanTc Electronic Ditto X2 Looper PedalFredric Effects Golden Eagle Klon Clone - Boutique Overdrive Pedal Mesa Boogie V-twin Tube Guitar Pre-amp Pedal Distortion Overdrive W/ PowerPaul Cochrane Timmy Overdrive Guitar Effect PedalKlon Centaur - Gold With Centaur Logo W/adapterCatalinbread EchorecPsg Pedaltrain 39" Gutiar Effects Pedal Board W Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus!!Full Drive 2 Mosfet Fulltone Distortion PedalMaestro Bass Brassmaster Brass Master Fuzz Octave Original And Clean Moog!Roland Sre-555 Chorus Echo Strymon Blue SkyFurman Spb-8c Pedalboard & Power Conditioner - Awesome Setup! - In Great ConditiBoss Rc-3 Loop Station Guitar Effect Pedal // No ReserveZvex Box Of Rock *wow*Roland Gr-55 Guitar Synthesizer With Gk-3 Pickup MidiEthos Overdrive Od Guitar Effects Pedal ~ Dumble Amplifier Amp Tone Simulator Wampler Triple WreckFredric Effects Klon Clone, Now With Zombies - Overdrive PedalStrymon Bluesky ReverberatorZvex Fuzz Factory - Hand Painted - Myrold 1999 - Z Vex DistortionVoodoo Lab Gcx Guitar Audio Switcher - Nr!Catalinbread Belle Epoch Ep3 Delay PedalJhs Pedals Double Barrel Dual Overdrive Effects PedalDr Scientist, The Elements - New / Mint - Guitar Effect Pedal, Distortion / FuzzRare Electro Harmonix Sovtek Big Muff Pi Green Box Made In Russia Fuzz Pedal EhxMaestro Echoplex Ep-3 Analog Vintage Echo Tape Delay Solid State Sound On SoundFredric Effects Super Unpleasant Companion Superfuzz Fy6 And Fy2 Boutique PedalLine6 Pod Hd500xLightly Used Digitech Vocalist Live 3 With Power Supply In Perfect Working OrderLot Of (12) Effects Pedals Dod Washburn Furman Ernie-ball Rapco Korg RatDr. Scientist The Elements Electro-harmonix Cathedral Stereo Reverb Effects Guitar Effect PedalVoodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus Used But Real Nice!!! Free Shipping!Tc Electronics Nd-1 Nova Delay Guitar Effects Pedal, Digital Delay!Behringer Pedals Lot Of 9