EVH, Frampton and Jose-Modded Amps

October 28, 2010 | By | 6 Replies More
Zakk Wylde holding EVH's 'grail' Marshall (Zakk Wylde photo).

Zakk Wylde holding EVH's 'grail' Marshall (Zakk Wylde photo).

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.”

Category: Beatles, Dave Freidman, Edward Van Halen, Marshall, Peter Frampton, Suhr

Comments (6)

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  1. Gee Halen says:

    James Hetfield is on Jose's list as well.

  2. Craig says:

    BILLY BLADES holds the Jose torch as well. HE KNOWS THESE CIRCUITS WELL!

    I had him modify my Marshalls and they actually sound better than my oroginal Jose modded amplifier from the 80’s..

    Some will speak against Billy because he doesnt charge what the guys here in L.A. charge but he is dynamite to deal with and his mods as well as Custom builds are the real deal

  3. Jim Lenahan says:

    I lived in Hollywood from about 1980 to about 1993. I am a guitarist and a musical electronics tech. I used to work for Soldano as an amp builder, and later, in the mid 1990’s I left L.A. and worked in R&D for Ampeg. When I worked at Soldano, I saw Marshall amps come in for repair and to be modded all the time. I kept a notebook of every mod that I saw. In L.A. at that time Marshalls were everywhere and so were mod guys. I also did amp work on the side and my bands rehearsed at S.I.R., so I have seen the insides of some pretty famous amps. What struck me about the Jose mods were how simple they were. I used to talk to Jose every once in awhile and he was a nice guy. A lot of mods that people claimed to have been Jose mods were not done by Jose, according to Jose himself. I also know H. Alexander Dumble very well. He isn’t known for mods, but I saw a few that were obviously his work. Every big-time mod guy had signature things that they did, Paul Rivera did things a certain way, Dumble did his in a unique way, etc. Jose’s stuff was very straight-forward and very elementary. I find it very interesting that when Soldano was in Hollywood and I was working there, John Suhr used to call Mike Soldano on the phone all the time and ask him questions about amplifiers and electronics. Now, Suhr is this big famous guy. LOL.

  4. Scott Webber says:

    I met Jose in 1990 when he was working out of his garage and had him mod a ’73 Superlead for me. He was totally cool and we hung out several times while he worked on it and he told me loads of stories about EVH and other huge artists he’d worked with. At that time he had about 20 or 30 heads stacked along one wall in his garage with a who’s who of guitar players names on the tags. The amp he modded for me sounds unfreakinbelievable and I eventually bought a couple of others that he modded from DLR in ’94. His mods are IMHO the best sounding of any I’ve ever heard and I’ve heard a few.

  5. Terry says:

    I know for fact that Vai borrowed Arredondo and Lee Jackson modded amplifiers from Steve Stevens for the Passion and Warfare album. It’s in the Passion and Warfare guitar book notes. The majority of that album was done on those amplifiers, while Blue Powder was recorder with the Carvin X-100b.

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