Legendary Nashville Engineer Glenn Snoddy Dead at 96
Longtime Nashville studio engineer and executive Glenn Snoddy, best known for pioneering the "fuzztone" guitar sound, is dead at the age of 96.
According to Billboard, Snoddy began his career as a radio engineer before working his way up to becoming one of the leading studio sound engineers in Nashville, working with artists including Hank Williams — whose final session he engineered — Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins, among many. He helped to establish Castle Studios as a major recording complex in Nashville, but it was while working at the Quonset Hut on a session with Robbins for Columbia Records in 1960 that he made one of the biggest breakthroughs of that era of popular music.
It was actually a happy accident, Snoddy recalled to the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal in 2016 (via Billboard). Partway into a take on Robbins' "Don't Worry," guitarist Grady Martin's instrument began to make an unusual buzzing, distorted sound.
"We thought there was something wrong, and something was wrong," Snoddy said. "The transformer in the amplifier blew up."
The other musicians on the session loved the new sound, and when Snoddy left it on the recording, so did Columbia Records executives when they heard the song. When "Don't Worry" reached No. 1 on Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart the following year, Snoddy ended up inventing a way to recreate that sound deliberately in response to demand from other players and producers, ultimately leading to him devising one of the earliest guitar pedals. His invention allowed guitarists to obtain that distorted sound by stepping on a pedal that was added to the signal chain before the amp, adding signal boost that recreated the fuzz tone.
The Gibson Company subsequently marketed Snoddy's pedal as the Maestro Fuzz-Tone, and when Keith Richards used it for the signature riff on the Rolling Stones' "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" in 1965, that tone became a standard part of both rock and country records.
Snoddy went on to become a studio executive, and he hired a young Kris Kristofferson as a janitor at the Quonset Hut when he first came to town seeking work as a songwriter. He later founded Woodland Studios in what is now the burgeoning East Nashville scene. A number of classic records were cut at that facility, including Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down to Georgia," the Oak Ridge Boys' "Elvira" and John Conlee's "Rose Colored Glasses."
Snoddy died on Monday (May 21) in Murfreesboro, Tenn., at the age of 96. Visitation will take place at Woodfin Memorial Chapel, 1488 Lascassas Pike, Murfreesboro, Tenn., on Thursday (May 24) from 6-8PM and Friday (May 25) at 1PM. His funeral service is set for 2PM Friday. Snoddy will be buried with military honors at Evergreen Cemetery, marking his service in the U.S. Army during WWII, during which he earned three bronze stars.
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