Country Music with a monumental mistake gave birth to what we now know as distortion, the very sound that fills every rock band
Engineer Glen Snoddy turned a blown transformer into distortion. The original “mistake” can be found on country singer Marty Robbins’ “Don’t Worry.” Snoddy sold his new invention to Gibson Guitar in 1962 and the “Maestro Fuzz Tone,” the first ever guitar effects box, was born. Later this same tone would be used on a song called “Satisfaction” by a little band called The Rolling Stones.
Paul McCartney was the one along with the rolling Stones, to include the Fuzz Bass, or fuzz distorsion., In the song Think For Yourself. The Stones found gold with Statisfaction.
Although The Beatles experimented with an early marketed version of this device, the Gibson Maestro Fuzztone, as early as 1963 (the same box used by The Rolling Stones on “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”), the device used on “Think For Yourself” was called “The Tone Bender,” a unit created by Gary Hurst who personally gave it to the group sometime in 1965. Although engineer Ken Townsend explains in the book “The Beatles Recording Sessions” that they used an EMI-made distortion unit at times, it was not used by The Beatles until later. Of course, distortion played a much bigger role with The Beatles in the not-too-distant future (see “Revolution”).
Although sounding like a lead guitar part played on the lower strings, Paul actually played a virtual repeat of the bass part he played on the rhythm track for the second time using his newly acquired Rickenbacker bass.
A faulty connection in a mixing board gave birth to fuzz, which is a term of art. Although it came to define the sound of rock guitar, fuzz appeared first in neither guitar nor rock, but in the bass solo of country singer Marty Robbins on “Don’t Worry.” The band and producers debated whether to keep the weird sound or record another take. It stayed, and the song entered the Top 40 in February of 1961 and remained for 12 weeks. In an otherwise sweet and mostly acoustic tune, those incongruous 19 seconds of buzzing presaged decades of distorted guitar to come. (TheAtlantic.com)
“Early Hendrix, that was a germanium Fuzz Face, right up to “Are You Experienced?,'” he says. “When he got to the Band of Gypsies, that was silicon.”
Guitar distortion is a triumph of the counterintuitive. Earlier in the 20th cenury, sonically adventurous folks like Luigi Russolo and John Cage spent years promoting the idea that noise in music was good, but it took Keef and a sharp-eared recording engineer to prove it.