DigiTech Introduces the Whammy Pedal, 1991
In 1991, DigiTech created a huge stir with its introduction of the WH-1 Whammy—a radical, pedal-controlled digital pitch-shifter and harmonizer that landed with an impact that hadn’t been seen since the advent of the wah. Korn guitarists Head and Munky—as well as Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello—quickly sized-up the Whammy’s potential, making it a major element of their guitar sounds, and the most significant new guitar effect of the ’90s.
Jennifer Batten Rocks Super Bowl XXVII, 1993
The moronic notion that women can’t play lead guitar still rears its ugly head, but it should have been annihilated when former GP columnist Jennifer Batten stepped in front of 1.5 billion viewers during Michael Jackson’s performance at the 1993 Super Bowl halftime telecast on January 31, 1993. As Jackson made his grand entrance, 80 countries watched Batten play a wailing cadenza that made it official: When it comes to fretboard pyrotechnics, estrogen can be just as incendiary as testosterone. “It’s a macho industry,” reflected Batten, who was later hired by Jeff Beck. “It would have been more encouraging if I had a female role model, but there was none.” There is now.
Line 6 Introduces POD, 1998
While Line 6 wasn’t the first company to explore digital-modeling technology, it was the first to aggressively market the concept to the general public. The appearance of the Line 6 AxSys 212 amp in 1996 certainly didn’t make a lot of analog amp manufacturers happy with its “just like the originals” hype, but most followed suit with their own versions rather quickly, and digital modeling is now a universally accepted tone option. Then, Line 6 really blew the roof off with the introduction of POD in 1998. Suddenly, these little red “beans” seemed to be in every guitarist’s arsenal and in every studio’s trick bag. Great sounds, no mics, controllable volume (no blaring amps), and tweakability with total recall made for a new generation of recording guitarist.
The White Stripes Storm the Airwaves, 2001
With the release of White Blood Cells on July 3, 2001, the White Stripes single-handedly put searing, raw guitar back on the radio at a time when it was sorely lacking. And this wasn’t just run-of-the-mill, radio-friendly guitar rock—this stuff was primal, proving that a bass-less duo with a chick drummer could make more wonderful racket than most five-piece bands could ever dream of. Even hipper, Jack White’s guitar style—a mélange of Yardbirds-era Beck, Wayne Kramer, and Son House—gave auto tuning, cut-and-paste editing, and nearly every other vibe-sucking digital maneuver the middle finger.