In the mid Sixties, the British Invasion bands transformed music—how it sounds and how it’s recorded. They did that with a healthy amount of talent, as well as some pretty terrific guitars and amps.
They also did it with pedals. Or make that “a few” pedals. Because let’s face it: there was no need for pedal boards during the British Invasion—heavy tone-processing artillery hadn’t made the scene yet. Those who wanted to mess with their sound had but a few pedal options available to them at their local music stores.
Not surprisingly, many of them made good use of what few stomp boxes they could get. Any survey of mid-Sixties hits will reveal the use of a fuzz or distortion box on more than a few songs. Jeff Beck used a Sola Sound Tone Bender MkI to get his sitar-like sustain on the Yardbirds’ mid-1965 hit single “Heart Full of Soul.” Keith Richards plugged into a Gibson Maestro Fuzz-Tone for the Rolling Stones’ 1965 track “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.” Even the Beatles got into the game, with Paul McCartney using a Tone Bender on his bass for the track “Think for Yourself” from 1965’s Rubber Soul. For that matter, John Lennon can be seen plugging his Epiphone Casino into a WEM Pepbox Rush in the picture shown at left.
By the time psychedelic rock began to appear in 1966, effects boxes were beginning to proliferate. By the end of the decade, there was no stopping the onslaught.
So here’s to the British Invasion, the craze that helped to further the demand for stomp boxes. Here are 13 of the early pedal pioneers and the years in which they first appeared.