Michael Lee Firkins: My First Distortion Box

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I got my first electric guitar and amplifier at Mid City Loan in Omaha, NE, in 1979. Mid City Loan was a huge pawn shop with rows of great guitars and amps. My dad took me there for my birthday after I somehow convinced my folks that I deserved either an electric guitar or a go-kart. I was given the choice of a Fender Bronco, or a Gibson SG. I chose The SG of course! AC/DC was a favorite of mine, as well as Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin, and the Gibson seemed like a better guitar at the time. I tried out a Fender Princeton Reverb and out the door I went. I immediately went home and set up in the driveway to blast all the neighbors. I wanted everyone to know "I Play Guitar"! Everything sounded great: "Sweet Home Alabama," "Green Grass and High Tides," "Free Bird," and "Stairway to Heaven."

Then one day a friend told me I needed a "preamp" for my guitar. Preamp? What's that? You know, a distortion box. He brought one over, and wow. Okay, distortion! So, good ol' Santa Claus brought me one on Christmas day. All of the sudden, my Princeton sounded like "Back in Black" and "You Shook Me All Night Long." I still remember playing those tunes and saying, "It really sounds like the record"! It was a yellow DOD Preamp 250. All was distorted, until one day—it just stopped working.

I took the MAT bus downtown to Mid City Music, which was right next door to Mid City Loan. I showed the man at the counter my Preamp and told him, "It don't work no more." He said, "Did you try the Battery?" I said, "Battery?" He opened up the back and swapped out the battery. :0)

All was distorted in the world again until I was running across the street to catch the bus home when my DOD Preamp fell out of my coat pocket and a Cadillac full of dudes swerved and aimed to hit my pedal. Crunch! Knobs flying, the sound of metal bouncing. It was kinda shaped like a "U" now. But, when I got home, it still worked!