Famous guitar amplifier designer and builder Howard Alexander Dumble has passed away. The news was confirmed earlier today
(January 18) on the Dumble Amps Instagram account.
“It is with great sadness that we announce Howard’s passing,” the post read. “His work has brought joy and inspiration to countless musicians and engineers.”
There is no doubt that Dumble will be remembered as one of the greatest amp engineers of all time, known for his highly respected custom design process. Engineer’s most famous two-channel Overdrive Special and single-channel Steel String Singer designs remain some of the most sought-after guitar gear on the planet.
An accomplished guitarist in his own right, Dumble has tailored his highly responsive amplifiers to the specific player he designed them for, meaning each has unique characteristics. Alexander began building amps in the first half of the 1960s and, largely by word of mouth, he built them for guitarists such as Jackson Browne, David Lindley, Lowell George and Bonnie Raitt in the late 1960s. 70.
In the 1980s his clients included Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robben Ford – the latter forged a strong bond with Dumble which would result in the creation of the Overdrive Special.
“He told me he got the idea to build the Overdrive Special from listening to me play through a stacked ’60s Fender Bassman and cabinet,” Ford revealed in 2017. always been very proud. I think it might have something to do with the really warm relationship we both have. I consider him a very close friend, I mean, like family.
Such was Dumble’s unique process, it is said that players often had to wait for a call from the designer or his representatives if he was willing to work on an amp for them. And one player who struck up a working relationship with Dumble later was bluesman Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
“The key word is inspiration,” Sherpherd told us back in 2017 when explaining why Dumble Amps’ reputation is justified. I’m not talking to you as someone who bought into some hype. I speak to you as someone who has legitimate experience before and after. Literally these amps, the point behind the amps he built for me and what they do is inspiring. It inspires me to play new things. It inspires me to take different avenues and create new sounds. How he does it is what you’ve probably heard. I mean, he literally tailors the amp to the playing style and approach of the musician.
This ability was honed over hours with a player, as Shepherd explained.
“I would go further. I see him very regularly,” he continued. “I’ll sit down and we’ll hang out. I’m gonna sit like this, you and me, and play guitar for hours and hours. He listens all the time. He has big ears. I mean, obviously. He hears how a person plays. He knows what I’m trying to get out of the amplifier. He hears how hard I play, the attack I use, the touch. All. You can tell his mind is working all the time. He just listens.
“Then he goes there and he works on the amp. Then you come back, you play again and we see how he reacts. He will then refine it if necessary. Usually, in my experience, this has not been necessary. I return. I plug it in the first time and it’s good, which I think is one of the reasons he’s always been adamant that the amps he builds are for that person. He built it around my playing style. In theory, if someone else were to play on my amp, they naturally wouldn’t necessarily react as expected, because it’s a different person playing.
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For Carlos Santana, Dumble was the end of his quest for tone. “I have everything I need,” he told Us in 2015. “I have Dumble Amplifiers, I have a relationship with Mr. Alexander Dumble. I stopped looking because I found everything.”
When we spoke to Dumble amp owner Jason Isbell last year, he remarked on the relationship his friend and producer Dave Cobb had with the late amp designer and what he believed to be the greatest gift of Dumble.
“Dave told me when he went to his store and saw his component wall, that’s all you can get at Radio Shack or your local electronics store,” Isbell remarked. “[The tone] doesn’t come from the individual components, it’s all about how Dumble intends your game. He puts it all together as a cocktail of incredibly simple ingredients that work incredibly well!”
Australian guitarists Orianthi were among the first musicians to pay tribute to Dumble following news of his passing.