Selmer is a household name among brass and woodwind musicians, but for a brief period, the organisation’s branch in the UK offered equipment to electric guitarists too. The Buzz Tone was presented at the British Musical Instrument Industries Trade Fair in August of 1966, but was already being pictured and advertised in the press at the time.1
Prior to the surge in demand for fuzz boxes in 1965, Selmer were already offering Gibson’s Maestro Fuzz-Tone to the British market,2 and so it comes as little surprise that the pedal of their own was both visually and electronically inspired by its American counterpart.
The Selmer Buzz Tone featured a circuit built on an eyelet board, with a hard-wired input cable, and was housed in a heavy, steel enclosure.
It’s unclear what sort of supply voltage Selmer intended for the Buzz Tone to run off. The factory schematic recommends 3 volts, an early advertisement states 1.5 volts, and my own original unit came fitted with an extremely rusty battery clamp shaped for a PP4 (9 volt) battery.
A number of original examples of the Buzz Tone have since resurfaced in Germany and in Switzerland, so it’s possible (but unconfirmed) that Selmer might have offered their fuzz box to British, as well as to international markets. Selmer’s relationship with the Höfner company in Germany lends weight to this theory, particularly, given that Höfner would go on to release their own version of the Buzz Tone in 1967.
The bottom cover can be rather difficult to remove, when replacing batteries in the Selmer Buzz Tone. That, along with the precarious manner in which the two halves of the enclosure are connected together, by the wiring of the circuit, offers a possible explanation for why so few examples of the Buzz Tone have survived.
Pink Floyd famously used Selmer amplifiers early on in their career, and there’s a long-standing claim that Syd Barrett used the Buzz Tone during his brief period with the group. Unfortunately there’s no evidence to substantiate this yet.
Barrett was, however, photographed on two occasions using a British-built Sola Sound Tone Bender (as opposed to an Italian-built Vox Tone Bender, as some publications incorrectly state), and he also revealed in an interview to have used a “home-made” fuzzbox.3