‘Fuzz’ Guitar Tone Inventor Glenn Snoddy Dies
Glenn Snoddy, longtime Nashville studio engineer and inventor of “fuzz” guitar distortion, died Monday at his home in Murfreesboro, Tenn. He was 96 years old.
Snoddy was engineering a recording session for country star Marty Robbins in 1960 when he noticed guitarist Grady Martin’s usually clean sound was coming through distorted.
“We thought there was something wrong, and something was wrong,” Snoddy told the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal (via Billboard). “The transformer in the amplifier blew up.”
It turned out to be a fortunate accident, as the distortion in the Martin’s guitar solo on Robbins’ “Don’t Worry” became a sought-after effect for guitarists across all genres. Snoddy recreated the sound in a pedal musicians could use with any guitar or amplifier combination — simply press a button and a clean tone became dirty. The Gibson Company eventually bought the rights to Snoddy’s invention and manufactured it as the “Maestro Fuzz-Tone.”
The sound became a vital part of rock ‘n’ roll in 1965 when Keith Richards used the Maestro Fuzz-Tone on the Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” tying the sound to that signature riff. Not long after, the pedal became an essential effect in every rock guitarists’ arsenal.
Listen to the Rolling Stones’ ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’
Snoddy went on to establish Woodland Studios in Nashville, where the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band recorded its classic old-timers/longhairs collaboration Will the Circle Be Unbroken in 1972, and artists like Charlie Daniels Band and the Oak Ridge Boys made some of their biggest hits.
The sound he created lives on in the work of countless musicians, including Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, who paid tribute to the magic of distortion in the band’s song “Fuzzbox Voodoo,” on 1994’s Antenna.
Listen to ZZ Top’s ‘Fuzzbox Voodoo’