“The Fuzz”: Strictly B-Side

I’m guessing that Grady Martin‘s 1961 B-side “The Fuzz” influenced Les Paul to soup up his 1963 album trackHam ‘N Grits” with a little “fuzz bass”:

“The Fuzz”     Grady Martin     1961

The historical consensus is that Grady Martin himself accidentally invented “fuzz bass” during a 1960 recording session for Marty Robbins — Dave Hunter recounts the incident in Guitar Effects PedalsThe Practical Handbook:

“The Fuzz-Tone connection hints that we need to look further back, and across the pond, for even earlier examples of recorded guitar distortion.  Gibson, and hence their subsidiary brand, Maestro, was given the circuit that became the Fuzz-Tone by studio engineer, Glen Snoddy.  Snoddy, in turn, had devised the transistorized fuzz-generating design to replicate a sound he’d heard while recording Marty Robbins‘ 1960 hit “Don’t Worry,” when a tube preamp in one of the mixer channels had started to fail and yield a distored tone on Grady Martin’s bass solo.  Whoever decided to stick with the track, rather than re-record it through a properly functioning channel, was on to something:  the result was Nashville’s first recorded fuzz guitar (a short-scale Danelectro bass, in fact).  Courtesy of Maestro, Snotty’s fuzz circuit soon made the trendy new sound available to the world.”

Grady Martin 45-aaGrady Martin 45-bbListener Glen G. at WFMU’s Beware of the Blog (who asserts that Martin was playing a 6-string bass on “Don’t Worry”) has compiled a “spectacular country fuzz” listening list, and 1961’s “The Fuzz” is at the front of the pack, chronologically speaking.

“The Fuzz” would enjoy another shot at life when included in 3-disc early ’60s compilation, I Got a Woman:  Gems from the Decca Vaults USA 1960-1961 — a European release.

Decca Box Set 1960-61

1954: An Explosive Year for Music

We all know that 1954 was the year of Elvis Presley’s famous and influential Sun recordings, but 1954 was also highly noteworthy for the combined impact of these 3 particular tunes — all instrumentals:

1.  “Stratosphere Boogie” by Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant:  phenomenal, blazing twin guitar work – rock and roll by any other name (although some might call it “hillbilly jazz“).  Recorded September 2, 1954.  Bryant is using a “Stratosphere Twin” double-neck guitar with 6-string and 12-string necks.  The 12-string neck, curiously, is tuned in thirds, thus sounding like twin lead guitars playing lines in harmony.

Stratosphere Twin - Jimmy Bryant

“Stratosphere Boogie”     Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant     1954

2.  “Space Guitar” by JohnnyGuitarWatson:  unhinged guitar paired with playful production (and unpredictable reverb) – as Larry Nager so adroitly dubbed it, “punk blues.”  Recorded as ‘Young John Watson’ in Los Angeles on February 1, 1954 and released on Syd Nathan‘s Federal Records.

“Space Guitar”     Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson     1954

Space Guitar 453.  “Pork Chop Stomp” by Grady Martin and His WinginStrings – crisp production,       great chops (so to speak) and a little humor go a long way.  That’s Bud Isaacs on pedal steel, with Grady Martin and Hank Garland both playing lead on this spirited piece of western swing – recorded January 13, 1954.

“Pork Chop Stomp”     Grady Martin & His Wingin’ Strings     1954

Grady Martin doubleneck guitarApproximately 12 Years Later:

Johnny Echols of seminal Los Angeles folk-punk band, Love, would be seen playing one of those rare Stratosphere double-necks originally made famous by Jimmy Bryant:

Johnny-Echols-with-Stratosphere