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 Big SkyElectro-harmonix Pog2 Octave Guitar Effect Pedal Electro Harmonix Ehx B9 Organ Machine / Demo UnitElectro Harmonix Micro Pog, Near Mint With Analogman Trye Bypass ModIncredibly Rare Sought After Vintage 1959 1960 Fenton Weill Reverb Amp Boxed!!Strymon Blue Sky Reverberator / Reverb Guitar PedalMesa Boogie V-twin Tube Pre Amp Amplifier Guitar Overdrive Pedal For PartsMobius Strymon PedalZendrive Hermida Audio / Lovepedal - Boutique Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal*near Mint* Roland Gr55 W/ Gk3 And AccesoriesStrymon Big Sky Reverb PedalMint Digitech Rp1000 Guitar Multi Effects Pedal With Fs3x Looper Footswitch!!!!!Boss Rc-300 Loop Station Looper Guitar Effect PedalElectro Harmonix Big Muff Pi V3 Bc239 Vintage Guitar Distortion Fuzz PedalStrymon Timeline!!! Excellent!!!Line 6 Pod Hd500x Hd500 Guitar Multi Effects Processor Board Pedal--Avid Digidesign Eleven Rack Interface With Expansion Pack Pre-installed - Vintage Lot Foot Pedal Boss Yamaha Electra Did Behringer Cort Flanger Psm-5 EtcStrymon Lex Rotary PedalLine 6 Pod Hd 500 Paul Cochrane Custom "hammertone Timmy" Overdrive Guitar Effects Pedal Xotic Effects Sp Compressor Guitar PedalWorking Vintage 1980's Ibanez Guitar Effect Pedal Model Ue 300Electro-harmonix Micro PogBogner Fish Preamp -- ReissueTc Electronic Alter Ego Vintage Echo X4 New Condition Work Perfectly Take A LookVoodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus 9v-18v Guitar Pedal Power SupplyTc Electronic Flashback Delay Guitar Effect PedalBogner Ecstasy Blue Overdrive/distortion Boost Guitar Effect Pedal EcstacyAnalogman King Of Tone Overdrive Guitar Effect PedalEmpress Modified Superdelay - Superb Sounding DelayTc Electronic Ditto Looper PedalAkai Bass Pedal Deep ImpactNew Spaceman Effects Sputnik Distortion Pedal Black Edition Dealers Only VersionLine 6 M13 Stompbox Modeler Guitar Multi Effects Pedal Earthquaker Devices Dispatch Master Delay & Reverb Guitar Effects PedalBoss Gt-100 Amp Effects Modeler W/ Power Supply And Bonus Gig BagStrymon BlueskySuhr Riot Reloaded Distortion Pedal Perfect Condition No Reserve L@@k!!!!!!!!!!!Voodoo Labs Pedal Power 2 PlusDunlop Mxr Bass Compressor Bass Guitar Effect Pedal With Box All Great ConditionAnalogman Chorus Pedal - Guitar Effect, Dated 01/2001 #19, Great Tone, Rare!!Foxx Fuzz Wah - Rare Wmd Geiger Counter PedalTc Electronic G-system W/ Flight Case + (2) Expression PedalsTc Electronic Alter Ego DelayGibson Echoplex Digital Pro Rack Mount Looper Guitar EffectsSuhr Riot Distortion Overdrive - Great Pedal!Eventide Timefactor Delay Guitar Effects Pedal Time Factor Looper Loop Rare Original Moog Moogerfooger Mf-102 Ring Modulator Effects PedalMarshall All Tube Pre Amp 9000 Model 9001 Rack-mountTrailer Trash-proseries 28"x16" White Pedal Board W/hard Case + 3x Neutrik JacksDispatch Master # 1583 - Earthquaker Devices Delay Reverb PedalVoodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus Complete With Everything!! **mint Condition**Wampler Sovereign Distortion - Great Pedal!Zvex Custom Painted Lo-fi Loop Junky Guitar Effect Pedal Dunlop Mxr Carbon Copy Analog Delay M169 Delay Pedal **mint Condition**Scholz Rockman Sustainor 200 #17,883 - Mint Condition - No Reserve!!!Line 6 Pod Hd 500 Multi Effects Pedal Board For GuitarLine 6 Fbv Short Board Mkii Foot Controller Switch Brand New!