MXR, And My Little Rock & Roll Christmas…

by Rik Mercaldi on December 23, 2014

It was Christmas morning, and I was 15 years old. My Dad said he had one more present for me. As I ripped off the shiny, metallic green wrapping paper I instantly recognized the yellow box with black lettering. An MXR Distortion Plus! I ran upstairs and grabbed my guitar, amp and some cables and started blasting away every riff and lick I could muster.

MXR PedalsMy family watched, a little confused, but seemingly happy (my Mother held her ears and smiled) as I joyfully embraced the sonic bliss that this wonderful little box had brought into my life. Now, the stuff that I had been diligently practicing for hours on end, sounded just like the record!  At least, it did to me. My Dad couldn’t understand why I wanted to make my recently purchased used Les Paul Custom sound so fuzzy and distorted, he thought I was nuts. Still, I realized I had a pretty cool Dad. How did he know that this was the holy grail of distortion pedals to me? And so began my love affair with MXR pedals.

MXR was launched in Rochester, New York in 1972 by Keith Barr and Terry Sherwood. Their pedals were known for their sturdy, nearly indestructible metal boxes and their great sounds. The first pedal introduced was the Phase 90, a simple one knob phase shifter that immediately found it’s way into the arsenal of many guitarists.  It’s smooth liquid tone produced everything from slow swirling swells to wobbling leslie-like rotating speaker effects that quickly became a staple of many records produced in the 70s.

Les paul & MXR

The Phase 90 was followed by a simpler more subtle version, the Phase 45, and a more elaborate version with presets called the Phase 100. The original Phase 90s with the script logos have become very sought after and highly collectible, they continue to climb in value. A few of the more popular pedals produced, included the Analog Delay, Dyna Comp compressor, and the Blue Box, a sort of erratic, octave fuzz famously used by Jimmy Page for the guitar solo on Led Zeppelin’s “Fool In The Rain”.

When I was a teenager almost every guitar player I admired had some kind of MXR pedal (or Electro Harmonix, but that’s for another blog). When I needed  more tonal flexibility, I got the MXR 6 Band Graphic EQ and when I thought a Flanger might be cool, I got MXR’s… you get the idea.

The original company went out of business in the mid 1980s, but in 1987 Jim Dunlop picked up the brand and started making reissues of some of the classic block logo models and has continued to expand the line to the present day. I still have my original Distortion Plus and it still sounds awesome! Have you owned or own an original MXR pedal and do you have a favorite?

  • Effectsfreak

    Love the original Micro Chorus and Flanger. Small boxes, huge tone. Enjoyed the article.

    • Glad you enjoyed it, thanks for reading. Cheers!

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