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Pete’s Gear: Tone Bender fuzz box

Pete Townshend used a 1965 Sola Sound Tone Bender (mkI) fuzz pedal on stage — occasionally (there many photos from this era showing Pete with no effects pedal) — in 1965 and 1966.

The Sola Sound Tone Bender, first designed by electronics engineer Gary Stewart Hurst in 1965, was the first British-made fuzz pedal, and was based on the Gibson-built Maestro Fuzz-Tone. Besides Pete, other users include Jeff Beck of the Yardbirds, the Beatles and Mick Ronson.

The Tone Bender featured two controls: Level and Attack, and a footswitch. The circuit contained a single Mullard OC75 and two Texas Instruments 2G381 devices, true bypass switching, and used a 9-volt power supply. (See Tone Bender history for full spec.)

Pete would next go on to use the Marshall Supa Fuzz, which was in fact manufactured by Sola Sound for Marshall and was based on the Tone Bender MkII.

Whereabouts

According to Keith Cheesman, who worked with Mick Ronson in a band called the Rats and once owned Mick’s Sola Sound MK1 Fuzz, was told by Mick that his Sola Sound MK1 Fuzz had been previously owned by Pete. Mick acquired the pedal sometime around 1966 or 1967, and eventually used it as part of his signature Ziggy Stardust sound in his work with David Bowie.

Keith Cheesman:

As far as I am aware Mick was the last person to own this Mk1. What happened was this, Mick lived in London for a period somewhere in the period 1965 to 1967 and I believe he obtained the Mk1 during this time but I cannot remember from where he obtained it. Mick moved back to Hull and joined The Rats and used the MK1 extensively and Mick mentioned on many occasions that it had previously been owned by Pete Townshend. When Mick left Hull to join David Bowie’s band he left his Sola Sound pedal and his Jen Wah pedal with me as he did not think he would require them again in his new role. A while later he decided he would like them back and so I reluctantly sold them back to him for the princely sum of £10.

Mick then went on to use the MK1 throughout his work with Bowie and with the Jen Wha Wha it became his trademark sound. I don’t know what happened to the Mk1 after that.

So it is possible that this Sola Sound in the Pete Townshend picture is the very same one Mick Ronson used for his trademark Ziggy Stardust sound some 10 years after Pete Townshend used it.

Photo Gallery

In July 1966, with Tone Bender MkI fuzz pedal visible at bottom right. Cabinets are two Marshall 8x12 cabinets (being impaled by a Fender Telecaster fitted with a non-Fender rosewood neck). Amps are two Marshall JTM45 100 Tremolo (1959T JTM100 Tremolo Super Lead) amplifier heads.

In July 1966, with Tone Bender MkI fuzz pedal visible at bottom right. Cabinets are two Marshall 8x12 cabinets (being impaled by a Fender Telecaster fitted with a non-Fender rosewood neck). Amps are two Marshall JTM45 100 Tremolo (1959T JTM100 Tremolo Super Lead) amplifier heads.

Closeup of fuzz pedal from previous photo.

Closeup of fuzz pedal from previous photo.

Resources and Information

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Keith Cheesman for information about the whereabouts.

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