Guitar pedals are wonderful devices that enable musicians to create interesting and unique sounds in their music, and most of us use them without a second thought. It’s rare to find a guitarist without some sort of pedal in their arsenal; even those who play recreationally have at least one or two trusty pedals. They simply just exist, and always have. Right?
Wrong! Pedals have not always been around, and they have quite an interesting and unique history leading up to the modern pedals that many consider essential. Let’s explore the origin of guitar pedals!
In the early days of music history, guitarists had to modify the sound they produced by creative means. They would resort to many extreme measures: crank the volume way up on their amps to create an overdrive effect, play on amps with a blown tube to create fuzz effects, or even strap a speaker and microphone onto massive metal water tanks to achieve an echo effect! Could you imagine bringing that on to a stage? These early effects were impractical, but they got the job done.
Eventually, in 1946 a company known as Rowe Industries answered the prayers of guitarists everywhere and released the very first commercially available guitar effects device: the DeArmond Tremolo Control. This was used in Bo Diddley’s self-titled 1955 hit song “Bo Diddley”, and was brought to mainstream attention. It showed the world that creating stand-alone guitar effects was possible and that you didn’t need to break your amp to create amazing sounds.
The next pedal brought to the market was a distortion pedal in 1962: the Gibson Maestro Fuzz-Tone. This was the first true pedal with a button that was intended to be struck with the musician’s foot while playing. This pedal would go on to change music forever once it was made popular in the 1965 song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones. At that point, this pedal was in high demand and led to many other companies releasing their own full pedal variation. Pedals were becoming increasingly popular among musicians, and more people were trying to create new ones for the market.
In 1967, the very first wah pedal was released to the public; these look like the wah pedals of today. This pedal was released by Vox and took the world by storm. After this, many more pedal companies were formed and more varieties of pedals were released to the market, slowly giving musicians a larger variety to choose from over the years. The types of effects increased as more innovative engineers created new pedals and methods of creating them.
And the rest, shall we say, is history.