Thursday, April 18, 2024

Wait, who invented the Tone Machine ???

So last week I finally broke down and bought a copy of the classic 1997 book "The Stompbox" by Art Thompson, and came across an interview with Steve Ridinger (who you probably remember from our last post on the Liverpool Fuzz, as the founder of fOXX). 

The book is actually pretty great; showing tons of old dealer ads, pedals that are still quite rare today, and a whole bunch of interviews with legendary effects builders. And while most of the information is stuff I had heard before, the quote below from Steve Ridinger hit me like a nuclear bomb...

I was involved in the design of our first wah-wah, but we got help from some other people for the rest of our products. The Tone Machine was designed by a classmate of mine from Hollywood High School. His name was Rob, but I don't remember his last name. As far as I know that was the first fuzz unit with a switch-able octave effect. I didn't even know how to spell octave then-that's why it's written "octive" on these boxes.

Wait, did Steve Ridinger just say that someone he went to high school with was actually the one responsible for inventing fOXX's greatest pedal? And also that he can't remember the guy's last name?!!!

Well after reading this my curiosity kicked in to overdrive and I immediately found the Hollywood High School yearbook from 1969. I honed in on anyone named Robert, and also Ridinger himself just to make sure I was looking in the right place.

well, the internet came through as it always does. :)

Ok, step two was to find anyone named "Robert". But this was going to be a much more difficult task, as apparently in 1951 naming your baby "Robert" was stupidly popular (in fact, it was the 2nd most popular name of that year). 

So it looks like my work's cut out for me; now having to sift through each one and tracing their lives via Google, 50+ years later to see if there are any engineers among them and who the most likely candidate could be.

But I actually feel pretty good that soon enough we will find who the true inventor of the Tone Machine really was.

wish me luck, and stay tuned...

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