I’m talkin’ ’bout Shaft…  & the Maestro Boomerang Wah Pedal

by Rik Mercaldi on January 30, 2015

MonkeyWahIt all started in the 1930s, when trumpeter Clyde McCoy began making quite a name for himself after he created an almost vocal like “wah-wah” sound on several hits including “Sugar Blues”.

The effect was later mimicked by steel guitarists in the 1950s by quickly rolling off and back on the tone control. In 1961, Guitarist Chet Atkins used a home-made pedal on one of the earliest, if not the first, recorded examples of wah-wah guitar on a track called “Boo Boo Stick Beat”.  The effect was further pushed into the spotlight in the 1960s by players including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page, who made the recently introduced Vox Cry Baby part of their tone arsenals. Incidentally, the first model Vox introduced was named the “The Clyde McCoy”.

The Cry Baby name was later used by the Dunlop company as it was not trademarked by Vox. The Cry Baby has become the best selling wah pedal of all time, and the name is widely used as a generic term for wah pedals.

ShaftYou’re probably thinking, what’s all this got to do with the Boomerang, baby? Shut your mouth! What is one of the most recognizable wah sounds on record? Is it the theme song from the film, Shaft? You’re damn right! The slinky, smooth, sexy quack that has become so instantly identifiable, was produced using a Maestro Boomerang. Played ever so soulfully by Stax Records session guitarist Charlie Pitts, the result is nothing less than iconic. Not only contributing to a stellar recording, but defining the sound of a genre, and arguably an era, of popular music.

The Boomerangs were manufactured by All Test Devices for the Maestro brand, which was a subsidiary of Gibson. The first model, the BG-1, was produced from 1969-1972 and later replaced by the BG-2, sometimes labeled as the Boomer 2, which stayed in production until 1976.

So for the uber pedal/musical electronics geeks out there, (I’m not making fun, I’m the nerd writing this, remember!) all Boomerang pedals use a 25K potentiometer and an El-Rad 500mH inductor. The inductor is a bit of a mystery and, to my knowledge, is not used in any other effects pedals or musical device that I know of. Could this be the key to the the elusive Boomerang tone? Possibly. That and the reactive combination between all of the specific parts, many of which are no longer manufactured, could be the key to the magical alchemy that is, the Maestro Boomerang.

It can be hard to imagine how a pedal with such a simple circuit can vary so much. I mean, it’s basically a foot controlled tone control, but these definitely have a unique sound that continues to keep tone freaks everywhere seeking them out. Can ya dig it? I think you can… What’s your favorite wah-wah guitar track?

  • Peter VW

    I own one of those Maestro Boomerangs – the BG-1. It is the best Wah I have ever used, no BS.

    • Thanks for chiming in Peter!
      They really are pretty awesome,
      Happy wah, wah-ing… ;- )

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