Murfreesboro, TN (May 29, 2018)—Glenn Snoddy, recording engineer, studio owner and inventor of the Fuzz Tone, died of heart failure in Murfreesboro, TN on May 12; he was 96.
Born in 1922 in Shelbyville, TN, Snoddy worked with radio equipment during World War II; upon his return from the war, he parlayed that experience into a career as an engineer for various Tennessee radio stations, including WSM, engineering Grand Ole Opry broadcasts and more.
As his experience and reputation grew, Snoddy left radio to go into recording as an engineer for Nashville’s noted Quonset Hut studio in 1960, and it was there that perhaps his most notable achievement—the creation of the Fuzz Tone—took place.
In modern music, guitar distortion has long been a sound identified with youth, used to convey excitement, power, fury and more. Ironically, Snoddy was 39 when he recorded Marty Robbins’ 1961 single, “Don’t Worry,” thought to be the first song to include distortion on purpose. Guitarist Grady Martin was plugged into a faulty preamp, and the ragged sound wasn’t discovered until playback, but when Snoddy and producer Don Law heard the result, they loved how it affected the song and opted to keep it in rather run another take.
When the single hit the top-10 in the country charts, that distorted sound quickly became in-demand, and underlining its distinct sound, Martin returned to the studio a few months later to record an instrumental through the same preamp, released on Decca as “The Fuzz.”
Snoddy subsequently created the Fuzz Tone, an early guitar pedal, to provide that aggressive sound on demand. Gibson released it in 1962 as the Maestro FZ-1 Fuzz-Tone, and though initially a slow seller, the Fuzz Tone began flying out retailers’ doors three years later when Keith Richards used one on The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”
In the meantime, Snoddy kept recording artists like Patsy Cline and Johnny Cash, and later helped found the Nashville Chapter of the Recording Academy in the early 1970s. By that time, he’d gone out on his own, opening his own studio, Woodland Sound, in 1967. Over the years, the facility, housed in a former cinema, recorded artists like Neil Young, Tammy Wynette, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and others, with some of its most high-profile recordings including "The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by The Charlie Daniels Band; “Dust in the Wind” by Kansas; and “Elvira” by The Oak Ridge Boys.
Snoddy is survived by his children, Glenda, Diane and James; four grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.
For more on Glenn Snoddy, see his six-minute 2014 interview with the NAMM Oral History Program at https://www.namm.org/library/oral-history/glenn-snoddy