Friday, April 5, 2024

Liverpool Fuzz Tone (fOXX)

In November of 1968 a new fuzz box was introduced to the world through the pages of Billboard magazine. The pop publication ran a little blurb proclaiming a new fuzz-tone that "shatters sound" and can "last more than 1,000 hours without a battery change".

Known as the Liverpool Fuzz Tone, from Ridinger Associates, it was a fairly unique circuit for the time that utilized 3 germanium transistors and ran off of 9v. Primitive and raw, it was a hidden gem of American 60's fuzz. 

One month later the Liverpool Fuzz was given a similar treatment in the UK publication Beat Instrumental. Although lacking in classic American hyperbole, this small write-up served as the European introduction to one of the most prolific builders of the 1970s.

And finally, a few months later we would get to actually see the Liverpool Fuzz highlighted in a photo ad, seemingly associated with New England distributor Harris-Fandel, showing a small table-top unit with a hardwired output cable and an on/off switch. 

And while the late 60s were flooded with unoriginal copies and clones, the Liverpool Fuzz Tone immediately stood out, and still holds a very significance place in the history of guitar effects...

So what's the deal with this thing and why is it so important?

Well for those unaware, this is the first effect built and released by Ridinger Associates, or better known as Steve Ridinger of Danelectro fame, Arion Effects, and most importantly fOXX!

The story is that he originally built the first Liverpool Fuzzes in 1966 when he was just 14 yrs old. The lore goes on to say that as a young teenager he didn't have the money to buy a fuzz pedal, nor did he have access to any fuzz schematics, so he came up with a fuzz/drive circuit of his own. These early units were all hand-wired using perfboard. Around 1968 he did a deal with a US distributor and also outsourced the manufacturing to a third party who paired it down to a small black enclosure and incorporated a printed circuit board for a cheaper/faster build. 

Ridinger estimates between 500-1,000 were produced in this time (1966-1969). And while that seems like a large number compared to some other pedals we have discussed, the nondescript nature of the blank black enclosure combined with no labeling of any kind, has made it near impossible to track one of these down. And at this point I have only seen 2 in my 20+ years of collecting. 

Following the Liverpool Fuzz, Ridinger created and released the Fox Wa Pedal, which would be the first time he would use the "Fox" name, and ultimately lead to him starting the fOXX brand just a year later.

In the world of vintage guitar pedal collectors these two effects mean a lot. Without Steve Ridinger deciding to dip his toes into building, marketing and distributing stompboxes at such an early age, we may never have heard of fOXX or the best fuzz of all-time, the Tone Machine!

And it all started in 1966 with a little hand-built effect called the Liverpool Fuzz Tone.

As always if you happen to have one of these or any additional info, please feel free to hit me up via Email or Instagram

thanks for reading!

Monday, March 18, 2024

Crawdaddy Magazine Vol. IV No. 14 (1970)

I'm hoping you can help!

A few months back I posted an article about one of the earliest Big Muff ads I have ever found. It came out of Crawdaddy Magazine, from either March or April of 1970, and features a nice quarter-page photo ad from Electro Harmonix. 

And while I have been able to acquire most of the Crawdaddy issues from that year, I am missing one. Volume 4, Issue 14 from October 1970.

Originally the main story was an interview with Ray Davies of the Kinks. But right as they were about to send it off to the presses, Jimi Hendrix tragically died. And so the cover was changed and a small tribute was added.

Crawdaddy vol. IV no. 14 1970 Hendrix

Interestingly I am looking for this issue not so much because of the Hendrix tribute, but because it contains a couple of ads that I'm desperately trying to track down.

If you happen to have a copy of Crawdaddy vol. IV no. 14 please contact me via Email or Instagram

Thanks for your help!

Saturday, March 16, 2024

NO Demos. 📽️

Well I went and did it, I started a YouTube channel that's essentially a video version of the blog.

And I wanted it to be just that, deep dives into obscure old pedals. But instead of my poor writing skills, you'll get my much poorer verbal communication skills. 😂

The show is called "NO Demos" and the first two episodes are live now! 

>>> Here's a link to the channel. <<<

So I hope you like em, and thanks so much for watching. 🙏

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Vintage Guitar Pedal Print Media


For about as long as I have been collecting pedals, I've also been collecting pedal related media; catalogs, ads, books, brochures, warranty cards, magazines, etc.

They were always just cool to look at and experience a small taste of what it was like when these were originally being released.

But it wasn't until this past year when I started writing again that I realized how much I actually relied on this old media to help tell the stories of when and where many of these pedals came from.

The further you go back, the harder it is to determine exact dates with any of this stuff. And even some of the most important fx of all time, like the Big Muff, still have their true release dates shrouded in mystery. 

Which is exactly why I began to properly catalog all the media I have lying around; by date, publication, brand, and model. The stories of these pedals have been told and retold thousands of times over the years, and many of them are inaccurate at best, but oftentimes the most repeated pedal lore is a complete fabrication. So having an accurate database of images that show the Big Muff was available to buy in April of 1970, for instance, helps a lot in narrowing down what is true vs. what is not.

I assume that if you're reading this that you have a similar interest in the history of guitar effects pedals. And while there aren't too many of us out here digging for that history and making it freely available on the internet, we wouldn't be able to tell these stories accurately without this forgotten media.

So my ask for you all, is if you have any physical or digital copies of catalogs, trade journals, order forms, brochures, magazine articles, ads, warranty cards, etc., and would like to contribute to this site (and eventually a fully public database), please contact me via Email or Instagram.

I keep Tone Machines completely sponsor/ad free and make no money from doing this. It's purely a passion project. And while I love tracking this stuff down myself, I feel as though I have hit the end of what is currently available online. So any new scans or photos could be the missing key that helps unlock the true history of guitar pedals.

Thanks for reading,

Monday, March 11, 2024

Claybridge (pre) Fuzzmaster!

Last month I received an email asking about a mysterious little fuzz box that had made its way into an Australian guitar shop. Neither the shop owner, Chris, nor the seller had any idea of what it could be or if it held any type of significance. And even though it looked like something somebody cooked up in a high school electronics class, it sounded great! 

And that was just enough motivation for Chris to buy it and enlist some local friends who could maybe help figure out what this thing was. Well after a couple months of digging, he was pointed in the direction of this article we wrote last year about the elusive Claybridge Fuzzmaster. And a few paragraphs in, it seemed as though they had cracked the case...

This is where I came in. 😁

On February 21st Chris' email landed at my inbox, and because of the time difference it arrived around 4am. Luckily for me, I had a terrible sleep that night and happened to glance over at my phone shortly afterwards. Seeing the notification, in a sleepy daze I opened it and began reading. 

After the first line of text I was hit with so much adrenaline that I jumped out of bed and immediately responded. I couldn't believe what I was seeing, and part of me thought that it had to be some kind of hoax (a very niche and oddly obscure hoax). 

I quickly went back to my original article and pulled two ads, one from May 4th of 1966 and the other from May 16th of 1966. Both advertised different versions of the Claybridge Sound Systems Fuzz Box; one was describing a pre-Fuzzmaster circuit while the other seemed to be describing the Fuzzmaster, but before it was given that name.

I wouldn't know until I looked inside, but with what I was seeing this mystery pedal could be either.

So we exchanged emails for a few days and more photos starting pouring in. And after getting the all-important gut shots, it really seemed like this was indeed a PRE-Fuzzmaster, Claybridge Sound Systems Fuzz Box!

Everything was matching up: the two controls, the 15ft lead (or output cable), the sticker on the side that read the earliest name of the company; it was all there.

I was still a bit skeptical because this truly has to be as close to a 1 of 1 as possible, in terms of it "currently existing in the world".

So I went back over my old articles and database of photos. And then, all of the sudden, two major details jumped out as being definitive proof of its validity:

A. The small white knobs used on this "prototype" were also found on a legitimate v1 Fuzzmaster, in addition to appearing on the original Fuzzmaster ads!

B. The same label-maker seemed to be used on the MKIV Fuzzmasters!

So a deal was made, and now it was time to wait.

Unfortunately, and for reasons I can't figure out, getting mail from Australia always takes 10X longer than any other country. I can get packages from Japan in 2-3 days usually, and most parts of Europe a week/week and a half at most. But who knows?

Well, it's March 11th and the wait is finally over, because it is here!!! And holy shit this is cool.

The very first thing I did was open it up and take a look inside. It was hard to tell from the emails exactly what was going on in there, so my anticipation was insanely high.

Well, Ralph Bridges must have known he had something really special here because the circuit is completely encapsulated in an opaque epoxy resin.

This is not unlike the infamous "brick" inside of an Ampeg Scrambler, and also not any less of a kick in the stomach for pedal nerds like myself. 

That initial disappointment aside, what is notable about the guts is that the enclosure seems entirely too small to hold a true Fuzzmaster circuit (which is essentially a 2 transistor fuzz that's smashing a treble booster). So even though this pedal matches most of the details described in the May 16th ad, I can't see how it would be possible to fit both the "improved" fuzz circuit and the "inbuilt treble boost" into such a tiny space.

The other thing to note are the components we can see, like the two resistors and that big yellow cap hiding below the wires. Including the pots, jack and switch, everything matches up pretty well with a 1966 release.

So, let's see how it sounds.


Well the first thing to note is that this generates an enormous volume boost. Even with the fuzz set to its lowest, this is loud as hell. I compared it to my original MKIV Fuzzmaster and my d*a*m Fuzz Supreme, which is a clone of an original green Fuzzmaster. And when it comes to pure volume it blows both away.

The actual tone is different too. 

Against my MKIV, this is much more aggressive. In addition to being louder, it's also gainier, fatter, and kicks out more midrange. The MKIV also gates in a really cool way, sort of in the vain of an FZ-1; but this other pedal sustains for days, not unlike a Big Muff or a Rat.

Compared to the d*a*m Fuzz Supreme, the overall tone is bit closer, but still pretty different. There is just something "organic" about this that's hard to describe. The closest thing maybe, would be how a real MKI Tone Bender would sound if it had a baby with a perfboard Muff; just raw, pure, and a bit unhinged. The d*a*m version is much more articulate and does a bit of that scooped-mids thing we associate with a Civil War Muff, while this pre-Fuzzmaster spews its thick crunchy midrange from every orifice.

No joke, and hyperbole aside, this is one of the best fuzz pedals I have ever heard.

While I have you here, I wanted to take a second and point out something that I noticed recently.

This is my MKIV Claybridge Fuzzmaster. As you can see it's gold. And I have always thought that Claybridge used gold, in addition to the silver hammerite paint. But then I really looked at it again, and this very spot made me rethink my original assessment.

Notice how the gold paint goes up over the metal plate? And how you can see silver peaking out underneath. Well, I'm an idiot, and this has almost certainly been repainted at some point.

I will throw myself a bit of grace as only 3 of these have surfaced over the years. Although the other 2 are definitely silver. :) So I apologize for any confusion my gold Fuzzmaster has caused.

Alright, thanks for reading.