The Tone Bender Timeline


Timeline and Event History - Page 2

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©2009 Kit Rae. Last update March 2014.

•1965 October - The MKI Tone Bender is advertised in Beat Instrumental in October 1965 and in the Expert Advice section of the October 1965 issue of Melody Maker mentions the Gary Hurst Tone Bender as a device to achieve a similar effect to the guitar sound on the Rolling Stones' Satisfaction. Note the name Sola Sounds Ltd is incorrectly printed as Solor Sound Ltd in the BI ad.

•1965 October - The patent for the Maestro Fuzz-Tone was granted to Gibson (design by Glenn Snoddy and Revis Hobbs) on Oct. 19, 1965, and becomes public knowledge (filed for on May 3, 1962). The patent is only for the USA, not international.

•1965 - Gary Hurst claims he brought the Beatles a couple of fuzz boxes, at the request of their road manager, and spent several hours with them at a theatre near Cambridge Circus (intersection of Shaftesbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road in central London) where they were rehearsing. Looking at the timeline, the fuzz boxes were likely the new MKI Tone Benders, but Gary claimed in 2010 that one was the two-transistor Tone Bender we now call the MK1.5. Note that Vox/JMI engineer and Vox Distortion Booster designer Dick Denney also claimed that he personally gave the Beatles a Vox Tonebender prototype in early 1965.

It is possible both Dick Denney and Gary Hurst could have each given fuzz boxes to the Beatles, since they were both around them from time to time in their work capacity. There is some verification to the claims. Paul McCartney reportedly did use a Tone Bender in November 1965, is pictured using a MKI in late 1965, and is pictured with one in April 1966. It cannot be determined which model TB it is from the 1966 photo, but it is either a Vox or Sola Sound TB, in the MK1.5/MKII style case.

In trying to track down exactly where and when the Gary Hurst account occurred, I checked the website, which lists everything the Beatles did on practically every day of the year, but I did not find any rehearsal dates in London in 1965. It appears the Beatles were either touring, performing, recording at Abbey Road, or attending other events constantly. Most of the Beatles rehearsal time seems to have actually been in the recording studio. One would assume they did rehearse outside of the studio, and this part of London was the theatre district, with numerous places to rent as a rehearsal space.

•1965 - Pete Townshend uses the MKI Tone Bender on stage intermittently in 1965 and '66.

Jeff Beck with a MK I Tone Bender, 1965

•1965 - Jeff Beck uses a MKI Tone Bender with the Yardbirds on several occasions in 1965. Gary Hurst has stated Jeff was one of the early users of the wood boxed Tone Benders, and came into Macaris often. According to Gary, Jeff used to crush the wood boxes on stage, inspiring the sturdier, metal cased MKI version that came later. Jeff has mentioned a few times in interviews that he bought his first Strat in Macaris Musical Exchange.

Paul McCartney using a MKI Tone Bender during a pre-show rehearsal in 1965

•1965 November - Paul McCartney reportedly used a Tone Bender on Rubber Soul in 1965 for the song Think for Yourself. That song was recorded November 8th, 1965 (the Beatles Recording Sessions/Mark Lewishon). Some claim it was a MKI, others a Mk 1.5, and others a Vox Tone-Bender. There are no photos or documents to verify the model used in the studio, but Paul is pictured in a rehearsal photo in late 1965 with a MKI Tone Bender, likely the pedal used. Paul is also pictured with a Tone Bender a year later, in April 1966.


•1965 October-November - Vox Distortion Booster (V816), Treble Booster, and Bass Booster on market. Although lesser known, it was one of the first British fuzz pedals on the market, and its development actually seems to pre date the first Tone Bender, even though it became available a few months after the TB. In the Instrumental News section of the December '65 issue of Beat Instrumental, it states - "The new range of boosters from Jennings are now in the shops. The mike, treble and bass boosters have been in limited supply, and the distortion booster has only just come in to the shops because of a delay in production. Each of these input attachments costs 4 gns." Magazines typically were written and assembled several months before the actual news stand date, which means the actual date these were in stores was probably sometime around October-November, or earlier.

Brian May of Queen used the V816 circuit inside his Red Special guitar for a period of time in the early Queen: "I did have a distortion box in there, something called a Vox Distortion Booster. At one time I had it mounted inside the guitar because I thought I needed the extra fuzz and sustain, but this was before I had the AC30s. I had a variety of amps before. I think one of them was a Burns amp, but when I turned them up, they just distorted in a very unpleasant way." Queen bassist John Deacon also reportedly modified a one-transistor Vox Treble Booster for Brian May to use in front of his Vox AC-30 amp. Later Brian used a Rangemaster Treble Booster (various accounts say one or the other treble booster was used, or mix them)

The VDB was a small 2 transistor Silicon fuzz (though some early ones may have had Germanium transistors), in a thin rectangular shaped, chrome plated box that plugged straight into your amp. There was also a red coloured version. It had a built in plug and jack, and an on/off switch, similar to some American Electro-Harmonix plug-in pedals like the Muff Fuzz that would come a few years later. The chrome plated version used USA made transistors and capacitors on a perf board circuit. It was enclosed in a slightly different case than the red version, with slightly different graphics. The same chrome case was used for the Vox Bass Booster and treble-Bass Booster. There were three different versions of the VDB made later, with various enclosures and controls. There was a V830 Distortion Booster in stomp box form that came much later, but that is a different circuit. 

The 2 transistor circuit topology appears to be a common design prior to this, similar to a shunt feedback amplifier, and common Mullard and GE textbook amplifier circuits from the 1950s. A nearly identical topology exists within a phono/tape amplifier circuit shown in a 1961 General Electric transistor manual from the US. A similar amplifier circuit appeared around 1963 in the Vox T60 amplifier input stage, indicating Vox had been using this simple circuit for several years prior to the VDB and MK1.5. Dick Denney designed the VDB with Silicon NPN transistors. Silicon transistors were already widely used in the US and less expensive than in the UK, as Denney had found from his recent visit to Thomas Organ Lab in California, just a few months earlier. It is rumored that the chrome cased VDB's were actually made for Vox in the US by a builder contracted by Thomas Organ in California.

•1966 February  - The Vox Deluxe Distortion Booster on market. This was an updated deluxe version, this time plugging straight into the guitar, including a leather cable strap. The V8161 Deluxe Distortion Booster first appeared in a Vox price list from February 1966, and in the June 1966 Replacement Parts List. Factory schematics are dated June 1966 and April '67. This "T" plug version came in a chrome plated plug in enclosure like the first version, but with a volume control added, and the plug moved to the middle of the side, rather than the end. Exact same circuit later appears as the fuzz section of the Jen Double Sound Super Fuzz Wah, circa 1972.

•1966 February - The Tone Bender MK1.5 (so nicknamed by collector Dennis Johannsen, now adopted by the Tone Bender community) is documented to have been on the market around February 1966 to March 6th 1966 (related from an original owner's recollections, citing an event at the time purchased, which is documented to have occurred February-March 6th), purchased from a store bearing a Vox sign on Charing Cross Road. This would be the JMI/Vox shop. This MK1.5 is a two-transistor design, seemingly step backward from the three-transistor design of the MKI. However, the MK1.5 was a more stable and less expensive design than the MKI, which required some tweaking to make it sound right.

The enclosure is aluminum and appears to be sand cast, with a rougher surface and slightly different shape than the later MKII Tone Bender case, which appears to be cleanly die cast from a steel casting mold. It had no Sola Sound brand on the enclosure, nor any brand at all, even though Sola clearly manufactured it. There is a red painted or coated undercoating, with red on the inside of the case bottom plate as well. The hammerite coating was made in a gold colour, similar to the MKI colour, and silver. Some Sola Sound Tone Bender Professional MkII pedals exist with the Mk1.5 circuit, and same red undercoat as the 1.5, indicating the 1.5 did come before the MkII. There also appears to be an evolution of the circuit board between the MK1.5 version and MKII, as some MK1.5 circuits appear to have been modified after initial production to match the short circuit board version of the MKII. Some MkII Tone Benders circuits may have been made in MK1.5 cases.

In 2008 Dennis Johannsen explained the 1.5 nickname in a UK Stomboxes (D*A*M) forum posting: "The only reason I named that pedal Mk I.5 was because when I found mine it did not say Mk II on the case even though it looked like one and it seemed to sit timewise inbetween the Mk I and the Mk II. I got my Mk I.5 before I found my Mk I so I automaticly assumed that the Mk I was a two transistor pedal. I was very surprised when I finally got the chance to talk to Gary Hurst to learn that the Mk I had three transistors."

Gary Hurst claims to be the designer of this two-transistor Tone Bender, although there are no advertisements showing this version and naming him as designer that I know of, and there are contradictions to that claim and many doubters. Digging back to 2003 it is possible to find where Gary did state he designed a 2-transistor version long before the doubts arose, but going back to just a few years before that, he flaty stated there never was one. In 2008 collector Dennis Johannsen related on the UK Stomboxes (D*A*M) forum Gary's statements from around 2000 - "I have asked Gary Hurst about this and he claims that there never were two transistor circuit on a ToneBender as long as he was with Macaris. He claims that the Tonebender always had three transistors from the start, beginning with the wooden case ones, and that he never designed a two transistor circuit." Dennis elaborated in a 2010 post: "I was very surprised when I finally got the chance to talk to Gary Hurst (after I tracked him down in Italy about 10 years ago [2000]) to learn that the Mk I had three transistors. His exact words were "The Tonebender always had three transistors". When I confronted him with pics of my two transistor Mk 1.5 he claimed that he did not know about such a pedal. And again when I interviewed him last year (2009) he again claimed that he could not remember a two transistor Tonebender but added that anything could have happened since they tried alot of different things in that period."

In the 2003 interview for Guitarre magazine, Gary talks about the chronology of different Tone Benders, beginning with the wood cased version, the MKI metal case version, on to the aluminum injection version, then makes this reference to the 2-transistor version: "We tried the circuit with two transistors when we worked out the wah-fuzz because it cost less and also because it did not need all that drive." That is the earliest reference to the MK1.5 circuit I have found from Gary, long before the resurgence in Tone Bender popularity, and before all of the criticism started about Gary having nothing to do with this version. Why, since Gary flatly stated there never was a 2-transistor Tone Bender just a few years earlier, did he reverse this shortly thereafter? It could simply be becasue Dennis alerted him to the fact that there was a 2-transistor version.

In Gary’s four page “Tone Bender Fuzz Unit Story as told by Gary Hurst” from around 2005, he lists all the versions except this one, adding to the confusion. His only mention of a 2 transistor TB at all in that story is in reference to the Italian Vox TB – “they started building a terrible copy in Italy at one of their subsidiary companies. This model changed from a three transistor circuit to a 2 transistor circuit to lower the cost”. Note that Gary has also called the Vox Tone Bender and Arbiter Fuzz Face, 'cheap 2 transistor copies' of his MKII Tone Bender, but this simple MK1.5 circuit is essentially identical to those two circuits.

Why does it matter to some where this design originated? The 2-transistor topology of the MK1.5 is similar to the Dick Denney designed Vox Distortion Booster circuit, nearly identical to the Italian made Vox Tone Bender circuit, and the Arbiter Fuzz Face circuit. If you look at the Tone Bender MKII circuit design, it was simply an upgraded version of the MK1.5 circuit, with an additional transistor stage added as an input amplifier. When these contradictions appeared, some, including me, questioned if the MK1.5 design may have had its origin with Vox, as Denney has claimed to be the designer of the Italian Vox Tone Benders. There is much debate about this (see the Italian Vox Tone Bender entry), but these 2-transistor circuits are so simple, and variations of them had appeared in transistor manuals for many years prior to this, they were essentially generic amplifier designs. Us fuzz fanatics like to know 'who came first' and have every little detail gone over with a fine tooth comb however, so details like this often become obsessive to the point of being silly.

Around the 2009-2010 time period correct schematics of actual MK1 and MKII Tone Benders were available on various websites and forums, as well as the MK1.5, and its place in the timeline. From comments made in interviews, it seems Gary and the people who then owned the JMI brand (the Harrisons/Music Ground) and were making their own Tone Bender replicas, had read about the MK1.5 controversy over his previous statements. When promoting the JMI Tone Benders in interviews and videos Gary returned to including the MK1.5.

In 2009 Gary stated: "When I was building the first ones (MKI) they changed from box to box. I could only put them in what I could find on the day I was buying the components. I changed the circuit when we went with the cast housings, because it had been a bit unstable before then and every box had to be tuned-up to get it right." In 2009 he stated he could not remember a 2-transistor version, but then in a 2010 interview he stated his reasoning for the 2-transistor version was that he was looking for a more stable circuit than the three-transistor MKI. Gary also claimed in 2010 that he gave the Beatles a two-transistor Tone Bender in early 1965. In a 2012 interview Gary was listing the evolution of the circuit and stated: "Well it wasn't actually the Mark II Tone Bender, it was the Mark I Tone Bender. The Mark I Tone Bender was the three transistor one. When I moved on into the cast design, in the gray cast type pedal, and it was two transistors. That lasted for a short time, then everybody wanted longer and longer sustain, so I built another transistor on the front end, and I called it the Mark II Tone Bender, the Professional Mark II." A few times when Gary has claimed he was involved in the MK1.5 design, he used the term "we", so possibly others at Macaris/Sola Sound may have been involved in the design, or he is just referring to the company as a whole. “Then we moved on to the Mark I, well, they call it the mark 1 and ½, but we never called it the Mark 1 and 1 ½. It was basically a new design circuit with two transistors. Then it was moved on to the three transistor version which was called the Professional Mk II”.

My take on the contradictions is that it is not possible to now remember a minor detail like this from over 30 years in the past, especially from the '60's! Perhaps it was based on a Dick Denney Vox circuit layout, but perhaps not. Perhaps Gary designed it. Perhaps not.

•1966 March - The Yardbirds perform on Ready Steady Go. Jeff Beck uses a MKI Tone Bender.


•1966 - Guitarist Mick Ronson uses the MKI Tone Bender circa 1966 with The Rats, and it becomes his main fuzz box. He later uses it in David Bowie's band The Hype and the Spiders from Mars band. Here is a quote by Mick from a 1973 Melody Maker article: "I use a Cry Baby wah-wah pedal and an American Tonebender which used to belong to Pete Townsend. He sold it to someone else about seven years ago and I bought it for L5. It is the only one of its kind I have ever seen." Presumably Mick thought the MKI was American pedal since it resembled the wedge shaped American Maestro Fuzz-tone, but what he was actually photographed using on stage was a Gary Hurst/Sola Sound MKI Tone Bender.

•1966 - The Arbiter Electronics manufacturing/distribution company was formed in 1966 by Ivor Arbiter.

•1966 late - Rangemaster Fuzzbug on market. Made by Sola Sound for the Dallas Rangemaster line (pre Dallas-Arbiter), sold in Macaris at same time as MK1.5 Tone bender, and using the same circuit.



•1966 April - Paul McCartney is pictured with a Tone Bender sitting on top of his Bassman amp head in the April 1966 rehearsals for the Paperback Writer/Revolver sessions. It is in the same style enclosure used for the MkI.5, MKII and the Sola made Vox MkII Tone Benders. Since there is no evidence the Sola MkII was on the market prior to November, and the pedal pictured has chicken head knobs, this is likely a two-transistor MK1.5. Gary Hurst claimed in 2010 that he gave the Beatles a two-transistor Tone Bender, and Vox Engineer Dick Denney also claims he gave the Beatles a prototype Vox Tone Bender, which was also a two-transistor circuit similar to the MK1.5. The pedal pictured could be either one. John Lennon was also pictured with a fuzz box during these sessions, the Wem Pep Box Rush.

•1966 June - Jimmy Page joins the Yardbirds playing bass. He would later share guitar duties with Jeff Beck for live gigs.

Jimmy Page on bass (left) and Jeff Beck playing lead guitar in the Yardbirds, June 1966

•1966 June - Jeff Beck is photographed during rehearsal with a Tone Bender in the MKII style case, positioned in front of a Vox amp, for the Provins Rock Festival, France, on June 27th, 1966. Jimmy Page is still paying bass in the Yardbirds at this point.

•1966 (mid to late ’66) - Sola Sound Tone Bender Professional MKII  in production. An old Musical Exchange/Sola Sound statement scanned by Anthony Macari indicates the MKII was shipping in November 1966, but it was likely on the market at the same times as the Vox version listed below. The enclosure was very similar to the Mk1.5 sand cast box, but this was a slightly different and cleaner surfaced die cast box for the MKII.

The new three-transistor MKII circuit was based on the two-transistor MK1.5 design, but Gary added a new input amplifier, making a more stable design that was easier to manufacture, and retaining the extended sustain. The same circuit was also used to upgrade the Rangemaster Fuzzbug made by Sola Sound. Some Professional MKII's were sold with the VOX brand. New art was silk screened over the old art to cover the Sola Sound text with a black bar, and add the word VOX to the left of MKII.

•1966 (mid to late ’66) - Vox Tone Bender Professional MkII (V828) on the market. A re branded Sola Sound Tone Bender Professional MkII made for Vox. Gary Hurst explained this in 2009: "What actually happened was that Larry was very friendly with the Vox people and they wanted one, so we built them a Vox version. The very first ones were the same as ours". Those very first ones were simply the Sola Sound Professional MKII's with new art silk screened over the old art to cover the SOLA SOUND (LONDON) LTD text with a black bar, added the word VOX to the left of MKII, and changed the knobs. Otherwise, they were identical to the Sola MKII.

It could have been available as early as April 1966 (based on April pot dates, but likely many months after those dates), and has also been said to have been on market in late 1966 when the Sola Sound version was advertised. It is listed in the Thomas/Vox 1966 price list. It is also listed in accessories section of a Vox 1967 catalog, and the factory schematic for the Vox Tone Bender is dated May 1967. Some documentation (according to Dennis Johannsen) indicates Vox bought two production runs of 100 pedals each from Macaris. The first 100 have are identical to the Sola Sound MKII Tone bender, but the word VOX was added to the screen printing, and a black bar was printed over SOLA SOUND, indicating the Vox version was made after the original 1966 Sola Sound MKII Tone Benders had already been in production, with extra screen printing added to cover the Sola logo. The second 100 have a different silk screen, with a line box around the graphics, and more prominent VOX logo.

Jimmy Page playing lead guitar in place of Jeff Beck in a Yardbirds gig in California, August 1966

•1966 August - Jimmy Page is photographed with the Yardbirds using what appears to be a Maestro Fuzz-Tone on August 23rd 1966 on Catalina Island, California. Jimmy is playing Jeff Beck's Les Paul, so this was likely one of the many shows that Jeff did not show up for. Since Jimmy was not a fan of the Maestro Fuzz-tone, and he owned a Mayer fuzz box that he thought was superior back in England, the Maestro shown here may belong to Beck, or it may have just have been part on the rented gear for the gig. The Yardbirds could not afford to bring all of their gear on these tour dates, so amplifiers, and possibly other gear, were rented for each venue. It is odd that Page is using Beck's guitar, but not the Tone Bender shown behind Beck from a few months earlier in France. Perhaps Jeff did not bring it to America with him.

1967 Marshall Supa Fuzz ad, showing the 1966 enclosure, the first of many different cast aluminum enclosure styles that would be used. This particular version was the first, with the knobs closer together than later enclosures.

•1966 late - Marshall Supa Fuzz on market. Made by Sola Sound in London. Designed for Marshall by Gary Hurst (according to Gary) while he was still working in the Macaris/Vox shop, and based on his Tone Bender MKI circuit with a modified tone circuit to give the Marshall version a different sound. The knobs were closer together on the first version. Only a few of these early versions have ever surfaced, so they were likely only made for a short time, and some may be prototypes or from a short test run. The circuit was similar to the MKI Tone Bender circuit, with three OC75 germanium transistors. The fuzz was internally fixed at maximum. In place of the fuzz knob was a tone control labeled "filter". In later production the circuit inside was changed to a modified Tone Bender MkII circuit with an extra limiting resistor and the regular fuzz control, however the fuzz control knob remained labeled as filter.

The enclosure mold style used was from an Olivetti adding machine that Gary Hurst spotted in Italy. Jeff beck has been seen using them from 1966-1968, both the closer knob version and the wider spaced knob version. Around 1968 the Supa Fuzz got a slightly different enclosure with rounded corners. Sola Sound of London made many of these for Marshall, offering several case colours. According to Gary Hurst, Sola occasionally used outside contractors to make up circuits. Around 1972-73 the enclosure was revised to include raised letters on the face, and Marshall took over production sometime after this. Marshall may have taken over production around '68-69, around the time the second enclosure came into use. The SF was mentioned in the February '67 issue of Beat Instrumental, advertised in the May '67 issue (the Olivtetti boxed version is pictured with the close together knobs), and shown in both the 1967 and 1968 Marshall catalogs.

Blowup Supa Fuzz

Jeff Beck smashing a guitar, Towshend style, with a 1966 Marshall Super Fuzz in front of his amplifier

•1966 September - The Yardbirds are filmed for a scene in the Michelangelo Antonioni film Blow Up. The Who and Steve Howe's band Tomorrow had declined invitations to appear, so the Yardbirds were the third choice. Jeff Beck was asked to smash his guitar into an amp like Pete Townshend, which he did. When Beck is stomping his foot on the guitar, a Marshall Supa Fuzz can be seen on the floor in front of his speaker cabinet.

Jimmy Page using a Tone Bender, late 1966 or early 1967

•1966 December or February 1967 - Jimmy Page plays guitar for the Brian Jones soundtrack to the film A Degree of Murder. Session photos show he used a Tone Bender in the MKII style case. Jimmy Page's website shows a September 5, 1966 date for his session, but dates he and Brian were both available in London seem only fit into a period in December '66 or before February 12th, '67. This appears to be the first photographic evidence of Jimmy using a Tone Bender, however there was one visible on the Yardbirds stage in Paris, June 1966, behind Jeff Beck.

•1966 October - Jeff Beck is fired, or quits the Yardbirds while on tour in Texas. Jimmy Page takes over as lead guitarist.

•1966 November -  An advertisement for the Tone Bender MKII Professional from 1966 promoting Gary Hurst as the designer. The ad states this version was only "previously custom built and supplied to Britain's top artists...but now available to you", explaining the "Professional" branding. Musical Exchange/Sola Sound addresses listed on ad: 22 Denmark St, London W.C.2. / 155 Burnt Oak Broadway, Edgware, Middlesex / 46b Ealing Road, Wembley, Middlesex. Note, as on the MKI Tone bender ads from 1965, there is no 100 Charing Cross Road address listed, indicating that address was still in business as the Vox shop at this time, not Macaris Musical Exchange.

•1966 November - A consortium is formed between JMI and Thomas Organ with the Italian guitar manufacturer EKO. Named Elettronica Musicale Europe (EME), the new company is to manufacture guitars and organs for the U.S. and other markets.

Jimmy Page Gold Tonebender

•1966 December - A Professional MKII Tone Bender was sent to Jimmy Page by Macaris Musical Exchange in December 1966, free of charge (recorded on an old Musical Exchange/Sola Sound statement discovered by Anthony Macari - thanks Ant!). This was most ikely the gold Tonebender he was seen using in 1967, shown above. Macaris had an arrangement with Page to supply him with any of their latest products that he may require in return for use of his name in their advertising.

Based on some rare surviving examples, various versions of the Tonebender circuit have been found inside the silver or gold colored Sola Sound cast metal enclosure. Those early Supa Fuzz circuits, the MK1.5, and the MKIIs were all being made around the same time in late 1965. So which version of the circuit was inside Jimmy's gold MK II Tonebender case? No one knows, but the gated 'bloom' of Pages Tone Bender seems more extreme on some of his Yardbirds tracks than a typical MK1.5 or MKII. I think it has the extremely rare early Supa Fuzz version of the circuit, which was a modified MKI circuit with the gain fixed at maximum and a filter control.

•1966 - Buzz-Around by Baldwin-Burns Limited on market. Very rare three knob, three transistor fuzz similar to the Sola Sound Tone Bender MkII/Vox Tone Bender MKIII/Italian Elka Dizzy Tone circuit. Sold in the UK, but likely Baldwin/Burns Guitars had the manufacturing outsourced, possibly to another country. This was one of the first British fuzz pedals with a tone knob (labeled timbre, with treble on left, bass on right). According to the November 1966 issue of Beat Instrumental, this was a new version of the original two-knob Buzz-Around, which was likely made in 1965, before Baldwin bought Burns: "A new Baldwin-Burns fuzz box has been introduced. It is a fresh version of the existing Buzz-Around and incorporates a special sustain effect. It is available now at a cost of 10 guineas.". Robert Fripp states it was discontinued in 1968. Gary Hurst claims he did not design this, but he did supervise the Buzzaround reissue prototypes for Burns in 2009, which were built into the incorrect Elka Dizzy Tone shaped enclosures.

•1966 - Zonk Machine pedal by JHS (John Hornby Skewes) of Leeds England, a clone of the Tone Bender MK1 circuit. Possibly on the market as early as 1965.

•1966 - Rotosound Fuzz Box, an OEM label version made for Rotosound by Sola Sound of London. Identical to the Tone Bender Professional Mark II.

•1966 late - Arbiter Fuzz Face on market, from Ivor Arbiter's Arbiter Electronics manufacturing/distribution company. Arbiter owned three stores in London, one of which was called Sound City. The Fuzz Face, said to have been available in late 1966 (September-November according to one source), was Arbiter's entry into the fuzz box market. Jimi Hendrix was one early users, as was Leigh Stephens of Blue Cheer. Jimi made awesome sounds with his Fuzz Face using a Strat and a Marshall amp, and even though it was only one tool in his tone arsenal, he was heavily associated with it. Due to the association with Hendrix, the Fuzz Face became one of the most popular and legendary fuzz pedals in the history of fuzz. Hendrix was first seen using one in the second week of November 1966 in Munich, Germany. That places it on the market around a year after the Vox Distortion Booster and well after the 2-transistor Tone Bender. However, many people later came to believe that the Fuzz Face was actually the first commercial fuzz box on the market in the UK, which is not correct at all. It was essentially a knockoff of an existing product, housed in an odd, but oddly appealing enclosure.

The two-transistor circuit is nearly identical to the Mk1.5 Tone Bender and uses a similar circuit pathway to the Vox Distortion Booster. Component values are closer to the MK1.5, so it was likely copied from that circuit. One clue that the FF was copied from the MK1.5 Tone Bender was the fact that the instruction sheet for the FF states it is a "battery powered tone-bending unit". That could have been a reference to the Mark I, but it indicates Tone Bender was on someone's mind at Arbiter. Early black and gray units were branded "Arbiter England". In 1969(?) the branding changed to "Dallas•Arbiter•England" when Arbiter was sold to John E. Dallas & Sons. Around 1972 the transistors changed from Ge to Si (some sources state this happened around '69).

The earliest Sound City catalog this appeared in was 1967. The idea for the round enclosure shape came to Ivor Arbiter from looking at a microphone stand. The knobs for eyes, name label as the smiling mouth, and footswitch for a nose was an oddly appealing gimmick that worked magic on people. Some sources state that Sound City amplifiers and Arbiter effect pedals were made in the back of the Sound City building. Dave Reeves made Hiwatt amps branded and sold to Arbiter as Sound City amps for a short while, circa 1966, as well as branding them for the Macaris Sola Sound brand, so he may have also been involved in the building. There are other reports of Ivor outsourcing his house branded products, so it is unclear if the effect pedals were made in house or outsourced by Arbiter.

Ivor Arvbiter

Ivor Arbiter

When Ivor Arbiter brought the Arbiter England Fuzz Face reissues out in 1999 it was stated that Denis Cornell was one of the original engineers and builders of the Fuzz Face in the marketing materials, giving credence in some people's minds to the idea that the Fuzz Face originated as a Vox design. "In an attempt to recapture the pre-Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face sound, Ivor Arbiter recently reissued his original mid-’60s Fuzz Face. From the mic-stand casting to the smile that reads “Arbiter/England” to the PNP Germanium transistors – Arbiter’s reissue is the closest-sounding/looking pedal to the real deal. After all, it’s made by the same company that started the Fuzz Face craze of the ’60s. Re-creating the pedal meant including Denis Cornell, one of the original engineers, and locating original components."

Fuzz face

The short lived Cornell Fuzz Face, and the reboxed 1st Fuzz version

Denis is somewhat legendary, having worked on designing and building Sound City amps in the 1960's (he co-designed their Mk III / IV amps along with senior development engineer, Brian Hucker) when he was an amp designer for Dallas Musical Instruments and Dallas Arbiter, carrying on work started by legendary Hiwatt designer Dave Reeves. He later worked with with Tom Jennings on the line of Vox amps after Dallas Arbiter bought Vox, reworking the Vox AC-30, among other products. He returned to Arbiter in the 1980's when it became CBS Arbiter, consulted for Fender, and later created his own design business, DC Developments, and Cornell amplification. After Ivor Arbiter died in 2005 Denis made and sold his own Fuzz Face replica, housed in the same style enclosure, branded Cornell:England. Jim Dunlop had bought the rights to the Fuzz Face name from the Arbiter estate by then, so Denis had to change to a different enclosure and change the name of his Fuzz Face to 1st Fuzz.

Jimi Hendrix was the poster boy for this fuzz pedal, making it hugely popular. He was first seen using one in the second week of November 1966 in Munich, Germany, where fans got into the sounds so much they pulled him off stage, breaking his guitar neck. This prompted Jimmy to smash the rest of the guitar on stage for the first time. Jimi first recorded with a Fuzz Face on November 24, 1966, for the Love Or Confusion sessions.


•1966-67 - Arbiter Treble & Bass Face on market. This was a treble-bass boost circuit from Arbiter. All enclosures are marked Arbiter England, indicating these were all made prior to the Dallas & Sons purchase (circa 1969). The first enclosure was the same as the 1966 wide brow Fuzz Face enclosure, though some have been seen in the later short brow enclosures.The T & B Face appears with the Fuzz Face in a 1967 ad and in the MK III 1968 Dallas Arbiter/Sound City catalog, but not in the MK IV or later catalogs.

•1966-67 - VOX ceases its retail store operations. Vox reportedly grants Macaris Musical Exchange exclusive rights to sell all Vox gear in London. 

Macaris Musical Exchange 102/100 Charing Cross Road shop

•1967 earlyMacaris Musical Exchange moves into the former Jennings Musical Industries/Vox store at 100 Charing Cross Road around 1967, probably early in the year .Vox supposedly had already moved out from 100 Charing when the Macaris took over. It appears there was a long transition period from the Vox shop into the Macaris Musical Exchange. Some accounts say the Macaris bought the Vox shop 100 Charing property from Tom Jennings in 1967 when Vox stopped all retail storefront business. The 1967 date is reinforced by the MK1 and MKII Tone Bender ads from 1965/1966, which do not include a 100 or 102 Charing Cross Road address for Macaris.

•1967 - Engineer Dick Denney leaves JMI/Vox to pursue a career as an independent designer and consultant.

•1967 March - The Yardbirds with Jimmy Page start session work on their fourth album, Little Games. Recording takes place from March through May at Olympic Studios and De Lane Lea Studios, London. John Paul Jones plays bass guitar on many of the songs. Some of Page's lead and solo tones on these recordings may have been created by amplifier distortion, but most of it has the unmistakable distortion tone of a Ton Bender MKII or the Marhsall Supa Fuzz version of the Tonebender, both of which the Yardbirds had been seen with up to this point. He would use this same 'Page fuzz' tone throughout 1967 and 1968.

•1967 March - The Yardbirds perform on the German television show Beat Beat Beat on March 15th. Jimmy Page's Tone Bender can be heard being used for the guitar solos.




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