1966 Rotosound Fuzz Box
1966 Rotosound Fuzz Box

Rotosound, well known for its guitar & bass strings, sold a variety of different fuzz boxes during the period spanning from approximately the mid-1960s, through to the early 1970s.

The earliest known surviving version of the Rotosound Fuzz Box was actually built by Sola Sound as the OEM in 1966, and was rebranded for Rotosound. It featured the same two-transistor Tone Bender circuit that Sola Sound was already using for their own unbranded ‘MK1.5’ Tone Benders. These early Rotosound-branded pedals were built in sandcast aluminium enclosures, and painted in a dark blue Hammerite finish. Sola Sound also offered a generic, unbranded, version of this blue ‘Fuzz Box’.

The range of Rotosound Fuzz Boxes that apparently followed the blue model was painted in gold Hammerite. Housed in a very similar enclosure to the earlier version, these gold models also featured electronic circuits that were built by Sola Sound.

Rotosound Fuzz Box, gold model

Examples of surviving gold Rotosound Fuzz Boxes have been found with both Sola Sound’s two-transistor ‘MK1.5’ Tone Bender circuit, as well as with the three-transistor Tone Bender Professional MKII circuit. The known surviving gold Rotosound pedals also date to 1966. (Photo credit: D. Main)

By approximately early 1968, Sola Sound were still producing the ‘Fuzz Box’ for Rotosound. Housed in an enclosure similar to the two known variants from 1966, the known pedals dating to 1968 were painted in a silver hammertone finish instead.

Rotosound Fuzz Box, silver model

At this point in Sola Sound’s ‘timeline’, they were building the Tone Bender Professional MKII circuit with a triplet of Mullard OC81D transistors, and this is exactly what the known surviving silver Fuzz Boxes from 1968 feature. (Photo credit: J. Charles)

Once the Professional MKII was eventually discontinued in 1968, Sola Sound would continue to supply pedals to Rotosound until the early 1970s. These later Rotosound pedals featured their Tone Bender MKIII circuit, which was ultimately Sola Sound’s fuzz circuit that replaced the MKII.

What all of this suggests is that the type of Tone Bender fuzz circuit (e.g. ‘MKI’, ‘MK1.5’ or MKII) that Sola Sound built into enclosures of each model (i.e. SupaFuzz, Fuzz Box, Fuzzbug, or even ‘Tone Bender’) don’t necessarily correlate in any meaningful way other than that those circuits are what Sola Sound happened to have been building at the time.

It appears that during the period in which Sola Sound was supplying Rotosound with gold-painted ‘Fuzz Boxes’, for example, they happened to have discontinued the ‘MK1.5’ circuit, and moved onto the MKII. A guitar player might have been disappointed to have bought a gold Rotosound Fuzz Box in mid-1966, when it would have most likely come with a two-transistor Tone Bender circuit, instead of in late 1966, when they could have expected to see the superior three-transistor circuit inside. Similarly, the Rotosound Fuzz Boxes housed in the late 1960s pressed-steel enclosures have been sighted with a variety of different circuits inside, conditional on what Sola Sound were building at that moment in the chronology of their fuzz pedals.

This same business model applied to the various pedals that Sola Sound were building for other companies during the 1960s and 1970s.

Circuit inside a Rotosound Fuzz Box
The internals of a blue Rotosound Fuzz Box, from 1966, reveal the pedal to be electronically identical to the Tone Bender ‘MK1.5’ being offered at the same time. These fuzz boxes were supplied to Rotosound by Sola Sound, in London.
Joe Macari, photographed with a pair of 'Fuzz Box' pedals, and an unknown group
Joe Macari was photographed apparently showing a pair of unbranded ‘Fuzz Box’ pedals to an unknown group. These pedals were presumably painted in blue, and likely featured the two-transistor ‘MK1.5’ circuit, but this is obviously unconfirmed. (Photo credit: Macari’s Musical Exchange/Sola Sound)
1966 unbranded Fuzz Box
This particular ‘Fuzz Box’ is identical to the blue Rotosound pedal pictured earlier. The reason why the Rotosound name hasn’t been printed onto the enclosure is likely that Sola Sound were also supplying the same model to other businesses. Anecdotal evidence behind this particular example reveals that it was originally sold at a music shop in Ireland.
Jennings Rotosound Fuzz

For a brief period, starting in November 1968, the Rotosound formed a partnership with the newly founded Jennings company1 and this resulted in some of the Jennings pedals being rebranded for Rotosound. This was probably a short-lived arrangement, and relatively few Rotosound-branded Jennings pedals were built, because there is only one exemplar that is known to have actually survived. The Rotosound Fuzz pictured above is identical to the more familiar Jennings Fuzz, apart from bearing a different brand name. (Photo credit: S. Castledine)

Other Rotosound-branded pedals were reported to have been built by Jennings at the time, including the wah-wah and the ‘Growler’ (fuzz & wah) models. No examples of either are yet known to have survived.

Mysterious version of the Rotosound Fuzz Box, manufacturer unknown

Pictured above is another Rotosound-branded fuzz box. The unit is housed in an enclosure that looks very similar in construction & dimensions to the John Hornby Skewes Zonk Machine but it is unknown at this time whether the two models are related at all. (Photo credit: G. Green)

The corrosion on the enclosure reveals that this Rotosound pedal is built from steel, unlike the Zonk Machines, which were aluminium. Text on the battery cover (below) reveals that the unit was built in Liverpool.

  1. Beat Instrumental, January 1969, p. 29

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