What the Fuzz Did BFG Use?

November 16, 2011 | By | 20 Replies More

I’ve been obsessin’ over the 1980 Rockpalast footage of that little ol’ band from Texas. The boys were a lot more fiery back then, and the Rev. Willy G sounds AWESOME. yeah, some of it’s the style, the hands, all that, but some of it fo sho is that Lester paul through…what?

First give this a listen – it’s 8.5 minutes and worth every second. You can hear the Les Paul, you can hear “a” fuzz pedal (more on that later), not sure about the amp but it sounds loud….

A-how-how-how did he get that tone? First a few things my eyes and ears noticed:

> He’s playing the bridge pickup but it sounds a bit like the neck pickup. Why? The fuzz? The tone control?

> The fuzz doesn’t kill how great the guitar tone sounds. This is possible and definitely is well within the Kung Fu black belt tonal skills of Billy, but how is he doing it? Is it the fuzz, the amp settings or….?

> He has no visible pedals on the stage, and his guitar cord is snaking off to stage left – meaning it doesn’t seem to be plugged into one of the heads behind him.

Maybe you have the answers – if so, leave ’em below. Anyhow, we know he was using Pearly Gates, his legendary ’69 burst, with original PAFs.

We apparently don’t know what amp he was using. Some say a brownface Fender combo that he was seen using on the Old Gray Whistle Test vid below, same year – some say it was a different Fender combo or Marshalls or whatever, the bottom line being no one knows for sure.

We also apparently don’t know what the fuzz pedal was. Believe it or not, there was no shortage of fuzzbox options by 1980, including:

> Maestro (Gibson) Fuzz-Tone (Rolling Stones)
> Vox Tone Bender (Beatles)
> Mosrite FuzzRite, Fuzz Face, Big Muff (Hendrix)
> Rangemaster (many)

There are many other examples, so really it’s a shot in the dark about what pedal Billy had hooked up that night. Or pedals: His experiments in chaining fuzz pedals together were inspired, as he’s said, by watching Jimi do it.

Unless you have deets with actual references about what he was using at Rockpalast or in 1980, I’m kinda stumped. But here are a couple vids that are…interesting…culled from a crapload of YouTube vids where people used fuzzes with no attempt to sound musical!

To give you a taste….

This is the best one (can’t embed). This guy has taken the time to dial in his tone – all three parts: guitar, pedal, amp – and it sounds freakin’ great.

And then there’s this fuzzless vid – sweet!

And this one….


Here’s the Old Grey Whistle Test vid. Does this prove Billy used a brownface at Rockpalast? Not to me. The OGWT is a TV show. Doubtless the volume had to be lower and to my ears the tone is different.


Category: Billy Gibbons, Les Paul

Comments (20)

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  1. Danny R says:

    To me it sounds like it could be a 3 knob Tone Bender going into some a fender amp. The 3 knob TB seems to be less fuzzy than the 2 knob version and retain a lot more of the guitar’s natural tone.

  2. j9fd3s says:

    i agree that the OGWT sounds different, its gotta be a different amp. it seems like the amp looking things behind them are just road cases? and that the guitar chord does go off to the side.

    we do know that frank beard is really james hyneman, though

  3. Danny R says:

    yeah, Billy Gibbons is very deceptive on his setup. More so than even the great EVH at his best.

  4. henrique says:

    For me main basis of this tone sound like a jumped fender amp. The tone growls like a dimed fender-like amp.

    Could be modified or with Rat like pedal in front of it.
    I think the firsts RAT pedals started in 1978.

    Check this video:

  5. leftystrat says:

    I don’t believe a thing the guy says.
    That aside, I love his playing. He’s known to have his tech run his pedals.

    More interesting to me than his live rig is the ton-o-tones he gets in the studio, plus all of his layering. Very subtle and interesting. Many Strats, which I’ve never seen him play live.

    He doesn’t seem interested at all in reproducing the studio tones live. I’d prefer he did but am content to just enjoy the playing and live tone.

  6. macg1 says:

    Could it be that he is already using a B.K. Butler Tube Driver?

  7. admin says:

    Just in case anyone one runs across the Fuzz movie, Billy’s in it but — surprise — he doesn’t say anything useful. He is holdin up a fuzz pedal in it I’ve seen once before, just can’t remember where….

    • SPOOKTONE says:

      I KNOW MR BFG HE WAS MAINLY USING FOXX TONE MACHINE 70,S MODEL W.FUZZY PAINT!!!N HE LOVED DEARMOND SWUAREWAVE HE BOUGHT MINE!! N HE HAS FEW MY SPOOKTONE PEDALS, DIF IT…..I,M A TONE FREAK FROM WAY WAY BACK, I,M SURE WAS THE FOXX…THANKS…alotthe earlier aforementioned wouldnt sound ,like your describing,its in the fingers too n his signature use of a mexican peso as a pick!!!!! old trick he uses fro moving sidewalk days..he ws just in my freinds guit sop in portland oregon and he was goiven amy freinds personal spooktone 1 knob fuzz ,alot fuzzs w/ all the knobs cut out and gain dialed in w/silicon transitors!!!!!not germanium!!!good luck beleiving the truth…..he did use treble booster as well.he loves high high gain w/alot control on his part!!!!

  8. cronus says:

    I’ve seen his name mentioned with the Bixonic Expandora. Of course there are a ton of different versions.

    In the fuzz movie I think he’s holding a Analogman Sunface. I think hi gain Silicon? I am not sure

  9. cronus says:


    Just found the WHOLE movie here


  10. cronus says:

    Ya it’s a random movie that goes in a lot of directions.

    Billys gear tech talks about his stuff at 1:18:50. It’s all over the place showing that tone is mostly in the fingers!

  11. Val says:

    I even prefer his tone on the earlier tours. You can hear bootlegs on 141guitars.com.

    ’71 was pure cranked Marshall (SuperBass, isn’t it?), really woody.
    ’74 is still “clean”, huge sounding.
    ’76 gets fuzzy but not as much as the ’80 shows.

    I’m dreaming of a ’76 WorldWide Texas Tour DVD. How come such a giant enterprise was not properly documented?

    I think on the OGWT, he said he had to find a last-minute amp given the size of the room. It might just be that Fender behind him (sounds like it) though he said it was something like a radio or what not he plugged into. We’ll know the truth about JFK before the lowdown on BFG’s gear…

    Funny how most guitarists can’t find one good tone while Gibbons finds two or three different ones on every tune he records. The Tejas album is a personal favourite. So many unreal tones, clean and dirty, it’s a sin.

  12. snaredrum says:

    it’s funny, i don’t really like BFG’s tone at Rockpalast. too chewy for my liking

  13. Bobo says:

    Here’s what I know about the amps in the Rockplast vid. At that time on stage he was using amps called Rio Grande. There is one in the front window of music store in Houston, I’ve seen it, they are real. Billy of course is full of disinformation on his gear back then, but he said they were made in Corpus Christi, TX by a guy named Jake Stack. I’ve also heard that they were Marshall Super Lead guts in the Rio Grande heads. He was also using a effect called the Bizarktone, which was a ring modulator probably based on a Mastro Ring Modulator. You can hear it on the breaks of Cheap Sunglasses along with a Fender Rhodes (I think its a Rhodes).

  14. Okie Joe says:

    Its all in the hands.

    We know all of SRV’s rig and not many can replicate that tone.

  15. Darren says:

    I too have been stumped on this one. But i think it’s a Colorsound Powerdriver. I have tried everything under the sun and this pedal is close.

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