The man who accidentally changed the sound of electric string instruments has passed away.

Glenn Snoddy was one of the best and busiest engineers in Country Music history. I’ll get to a list of some of his accomplishments in a moment, but first let’s deal with what he’s primarily know for.

He had received radio technology training in the Army during World War II. On returning, he eventually ended up working for WSM, and was a broadcast engineer on the Grand Ole Opry. In 1960 he went to work for Owen Bradley at his famous studio known as Bradley’s Barn. It was there, during a session for Marty Robbins, produced by Don Law, that a malfunction in the mixing board occurred. Suddenly studio ace Grady Martin’s 6 sting bass started to sound distorted and…well…. fuzzy. Martin hated it and insisted on a retake. Snoddy and Law disagreed and, if you listen carefully, you can here it on “Don’t Worry,” a song that became Robbins seventh number one hit.

Thinking he was on to something, he went to work, isolated the malfunctioning circuit, and built a box that an electric guitarist could plug into to get that sound, with a button on top that allowed the musician to turn the distortion on or off. Dubbed the fuzz box, it is what makes the sound of a rock guitar. If you’re not sure what I mean, think the introduction to the Rolling Stone’s “Satisfaction.” That’s what I’m talking about.

He sold his invention to Gibson in a deal that included royalties, which probably meant that he never really needed to work again. Luckily he did continue, and the world is a better place for it.

While working for Bradley he built the first stereo recording console in Nashville, and used it to record everyone from Flatt & Scruggs to Ray Price to the Beau Brummels. He also hired a young songwriter who needed a job to work as a custodian. That was Kris Kristofferson.

In 1967 he opened his own studio, Woodland Sound, in East Nashville.  There he recorded folks like Tammy Wynette, Neil Young and even the band Kansas. Remember them? “Dust in the Wind” right? Snoddy was the engineer.

Perhaps the most historically important session at Snoddy’s studio was The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s epic “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” recording. This brought together Country and Bluegrass legends like Roy Acuff, Mother Maybelle Carter, Jimmy Martin, Doc Watson, Vassar Clements, Norman Blake, and many more.

Let me conclude this post with the title song from that album, in memory of man who changed the tone of contemporary music forever.

The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band-Will the Circle Be Unbroken (album cover).jpg

 

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