And The Beatles
As we learned earlier this week, the slammin’, woody heart of Peter Frampton’s current live rig is a ’70s 100w Marshall head modified by José Arredondo. Yes, the same José who modified Eddie Van Halen’s “grail” head and who knows what else.
That makes at least three famous players – EVH, Frampton and Mick Mars – covered here, and also Yngwie, apparently John Sykes and others – probably some that I’m forgetting (plus several non-famous guys) – who love what Jose did to their amps. Which pretty much puts to bed any rumors about Jose being a hack.
From stories here and there, seems that Jose may not have nailed it every time, but he certainly did some of the time – so well, in fact, that a bunch of amp modders and boutique builders have mods and amps based on “Jose mods.”
Frampton’s EVH Tone-Chasing
Here’s what Frampton said about how he got his Jose-modded head: “I had spoken with Eddie Van Halen about his sound, and he told me about José.
“José never ever gave me exactly the same thing that he did for Eddie, but whatever he did sure sounds good.”
What does this tell us? It tells us:
> Frampton liked Eddie’s tone enough to chase it, all the way up to calling Eddie and getting José to modify an amp.
> José knew what he was doing in an amp, enough that Eddie would recommend him not just in an interview but personally to Peter Frampton.
> Two guys (and many more) with good ears for tone love José’s mods.
The EVH ‘Jose Reversal’
Those of you well-versed in EVH interviews and lore may be asking why Eddie Van Halen would first mentioned José as the guy who helped him achieve his tone, then later say all he was just trying to help Jose out but Jose really didn’t do anything meaningful.
Bearing in mind that no one except maybe Ed knows for sure what went down, here’s some speculation: It seems like early on, Eddie was honest with everything he said in interviews. Makes sense: He was a young guy, still pretty innocent.
But then – after everybody under the sun was trying to rip off his tone, technique and striped guitars – he may have tried misdirection. And who can blame him. Whoever said “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” was full of crap. Or was a hack copycat.
The only conclusion I can come to here is that José did modify Eddie’s number one amp, he did make it sound great, and he did other similar mods that pleased other tone freaks.
Is John Suhr the New José?
One more thing. Frampton said about his José Marshall: “John Suhr cloned that amp for me and made a couple of copies that are also in my rig.”
Interestingly, John also has worked on Eddie Van Halen’s grail Marshall (read more here and here). So is he the new José – meaning king of the EVH-esque Marshall mods? Or is it maybe him, Dave Friedman (the current tech for the EVH grail head) and/or any other of several capable amp modders or builders?
Probably the latter, but if you’ve got any clear standouts in your mind, let’s hear it!
More: Jose Mods and The Beatles
Almost forgot this part: The December 2010 issue of Vintage Guitar magazine has an interview with a guy named JT Riboloff, who’s had an interesting career in the guitar biz. Anyhow, while almost all of the interview is about him designing and building guitars, the first question is about amps, specifically whether he did the mods on Peter Frampton’s Marshalls. Here’s the first part of JT’s answer:
“I did not design his circuit – Jose Armando [doh! VG, it’s Arredondo] did the design and mod to Peter’s favorite amps. Jose is also known for keeping The Beatles’ amps working, and for the amp Eddie Van Halen used on his band’s first album.”
Wow. I really wish some guitar mag had had the sense to interview Jose before he died. Who knows how much great tone he was responsible for helping create.
> Here’s a story that may or may not be true about Jose, EVH, DLR, Steve Vai and John Sykes, from here: “When DLR quit, Dave got Jose to do a whole bunch for Steve Vai. This led to a falling out between Eddie and Jose…. Apparently John Sykes bought those Marshalls from Steve Vai and uses them to this day.”