Pete’s Gear: Edwards Light Beam Volume Pedal
In the studio, ca. 1999, with the Edwards pedal. The ’59 Bandmaster is visible in the background.
Pete Townshend used an Edwards Light Beam volume pedal in his Gretsch Chet Atkins/Fender Bandmaster rig to create the rich feedback-laden sound heard on virtually all studio recordings beginning with Who’s Next in 1971. The entire rig was a gift from Joe Walsh in 1970, and consisted of a 1959 Gretsch 6120 Chet Atkins “Hollow Body” guitar, a 1959 Fender Bandmaster 3x10 combo, a Whirlwind cable and the Edwards Light Beam volume pedal.
The Edwards pedal was built by Don Edwards, owner of a company called Guitar City in Denver, Colorado. The innovative pedal, targeted primarily at pedal steel guitar players, uses a photo cell — a simple light bulb — to electronically control the volume, providing a smooth, quiet operation, as opposed to a traditional rocker volume pedal, which uses a volume pot to control the volume.
Excerpt from September 1993 Guitar Player
Guitar players have always known. You get the right Strat. You get the right guitar cable. You plug it into the right old Fender amp and you get the sound. I’m just taking a safe route there. There are lots of other chains that produce great sounds.
I remember when I gave Joe Walsh an ARP 2600. He went, [mimics Joe Walsh] “Pete. I don’t know what to get you in return so I bought you a Gretsch Country Gentleman, like Neil Young uses. I know you don’t really get into them, but you should try this. And I bought you a Fender Bandmaster amplifier with three 10s so the ohmage is crazy, and an Edwards pedal steel volume pedal.” I linked it all up, went “Ya-a-ang” and it was there. When I get those three things out and put them in a chain, it’s a sound from paradise. If I try to fuck with it and say, “Wouldn’t it be interesting if I took the Gretsch and put it through a Zoom pedal,” it doesn’t work. It’s got to be just that combination of stuff.
- CG: You recorded some incredible music with that Gretsch.
PT: I’ve still got it. It got broken by accident. I trod on it. It still sounds wonderful. I’ve still got the amp and I often use it. I used it on the album. It’s the same chain, even the same guitar cable — an old Whirlwind.
Excerpt from Guitar Player, October 1989
- Do you have a favorite period in your career, where you feel you broke down what you regarded as guitaristic barriers?
I think the significant moments have actually had a lot to do with guitars, actual guitars. Like being given an orange Gretsch Country Gentleman [sic] and an Edwards [volume] pedal by Joe Walsh, and being told exactly how to set up the amp to produce that amazing Neil Young noise, and using that sound on “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and “Bargain.”