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All Fuzzed Up

How Marty Robbins Accidentally Pioneered Guitar Fuzz Effects

Grady Martin, a rockabilly and county legend and A-list session musician, was the secret weapon behind Robbins’ “El Paso,” Loretta Lynn’s “Coal Miner’s Daughter” and other all-time great recordings.

On “Don’t Worry,” he played six-string bass. A relatively tame song sounds way different when Martin’s solo begins about the 1:25 mark. He’d run his instrument through a faulty mixing console. As a result, it sounded like he’d stirred up a nest of metallic hornets.

Apparently, Martin didn’t care for the effect. Producer Don Law disagreed, leaving the unusual wrinkle in the final cut. The decision didn’t hinder the song’s success. In addition to becoming Robbins’ seventh number one country hit, it ranked as high as third on the pop chart.

Whatever hesitations Martin may have had about guitar fuzz must not have lasted. He built a whole song around the effect, fittingly titled “The Fuzz,” and recorded it with his band the Slewfoot Five. It was released the same year as “Don’t Worry.”

Session engineer Glen Snoddy also took advantage of the situation. He hung onto the faulty mixing channel and made it available to other artists. By 1962, Snoddy helped sell the idea for a fuzz pedal to the Gibson Guitar Corporation.

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  • ghostsniper January 14, 2020, 6:35 AM

    From my fav:
    There was forty feet between them when they stopped to make their play
    And the swiftness of the ranger is still talked about today
    Texas Red had not cleared leather fore a bullet fairly ripped
    And the ranger’s aim was deadly with the big iron on his hip
    Big iron on his hip

    Played easily into the cliched 1950’s TV cowboy westerns that were coming out of the woodwork.
    Yeah, they were silly, and even though I have not a single country western bone in my body at least one of the 3 dvd players in our living room has a western series ready to go. Currently player 1 has “Have Gun, Will Travel” and player 2 has “Gunsmoke” season 15. Probably the most cliched character of the bunch was Jess Harper of “Laramie” fame who’s gun belt rode so low and jeans so tight that they almost rendered him an invalid. Oh yeah, player 3 currently has “Peter Gunn” cause we likes some noir now and zen.

  • Blondi Utronki January 14, 2020, 6:43 AM

    Marty Robbins had great vocal range and was always so on pitch. Listen to “Marty after Midnight”. He did an album of standards from which, so I’ve read, that gave Willie Nelson the idea to do “Stardust”.

  • Terry January 14, 2020, 8:15 AM

    Marty Robbins-

    One of my all time favorite music artists.

  • DAN January 14, 2020, 1:30 PM

    agree with GS big iron indeed. think i read somewhere that martys grandad was a ranger. at least we all knew the bad guys from the good guys back then much better than now with all the SHADES OF GRAY,miss the balladers of old johnny horten,burl ives,etc.

  • DAN January 14, 2020, 1:42 PM

    by the by thanks for the ear worm GS