Glenn Snoddy, Nashville Engineer & Inventor of the Fuzz Pedal, Dies at 96

Glenn Snoddy
Elmer Williams/Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum/Getty Images

Glenn Snoddy (L) with Owen Bradley in Bradley Studio.

When he was recording Marty Robbins' "Don't Worry" and the transformer in the amplifier blew up, Snoddy helped create what would become known as "The Nashville Sound."

The name Glenn Snoddy might not be well known by the general music fan, but he helped to usher in one of the most exciting -- and financially viable -- eras of Country Music history. Snoddy, who passed away Monday at the age of 96, was one of Nashville's top engineers beginning in the 1940s.

Snoddy -- who began his career as a radio engineer and eventually worked his way up to "The Air Castle of the South," WSM AM 650 -- helped to establish Castle Studios as one of the first major recording spots in Music City and also spent time working at The Quonset Hut. It was there that he helped to oversee sessions from many of the legends of the format -- including Hank Williams (Snoddy engineered Williams' last recording session in 1952), Johnny Cash and Marty Robbins. It was with the latter that he would make a little nugget of recording history.

In 1960, Snoddy was at the Bradley Brothers-owned Quonset Hut working on a session with Robbins for Columbia Records. All of a sudden, he heard something a little different. About a minute and a half into the song, "Don't Worry," Grady Martin's guitar made somewhat of a distorted sound instead of the usual smooth style he was known for. 

"We thought there was something wrong, and something was wrong," Snoddy told the Murfreesboro Daily News Journal in the fall of 2016. "The transformer in the amplifier blew up."

It wasn't meant to be. It definitely wasn't planned. However, the sound -- different as it was -- was loved by Martin's fellow musicians. When the recording was sent to Columbia executives in New York City, they stood in agreement with the pickers. The distorted guitar remained on the record.

The Robbins record topped Billboard's Hot Country Songs chart in February 1961, setting the stage for Snoddy to find a way to re-create that sound, as it became very much sought after by Nashville producers. He constructed a guitar pedal that was housed in a structure that was similar to a box. All musicians would have to do was to push a button to distort the sound. The Gibson Company heard it, bought the rights to it and manufactured the Maestro Fuzz-Tone.

Just a few years later, that sound Snoddy helped to usher in for the first time became known all over the world when The Rolling Stones' Keith Richards used the invention on the iconic "I Can't Get No Satisfaction."

After the Bradleys sold the Quonset to Columbia, Snoddy stayed with the studio, continuing to leave his mark on the business -- now as a studio executive. During his time there, he hired a newcomer to town from Texas to be a janitor. His name was Kris Kristofferson.

In 1967, Snoddy acquired an old movie complex just outside of town and established Woodland Studios. Among the hits that would be born there included Charlie Daniels Band's "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" and The Oak Ridge Boys' "Elvira." Woodland was also the home of The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band's landmark 1972 set Will The Circle Be Unbroken. He sold the studio to AVI in 1980, but remained there for another decade. 

Visitation for Snoddy will be at Woodfin Memorial Chapel, 1488 Lascassas Pike in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, on Thursday from 6-8 p.m. and Friday at 1 p.m. The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Friday and burial will be at Evergreen Cemetery with military honors, as he was a U.S. Army veteran who served his country during World War II, earning three bronze stars.