Renowned guitar amplifier designer and builder Howard Alexander Dumble has reportedly passed away. The news was confirmed earlier today
(January 18) on Dumble Amp’s Instagram account.
“It is with great sadness that we announce Howard’s death,” the notice reads. “His work brought joy and inspiration to countless musicians and engineers.”
There is no doubt that Dumble will be remembered as one of the greatest boutique guitar amps ever, known for its highly respected personal design process. The engineer’s most famous two-channel Overdrive Special and single-channel Steel String Singer designs are still some of the most coveted guitar equipment on the planet.
A skilled guitarist in his own right, Dumble tailored his highly responsive amplifiers to the specific player he made them for, meaning each one has unique characteristics. Alexander began building amps in the first half of the 1960s, and through largely word of mouth he had built them for guitarists, including Jackson Browne, David Lindley, Lowell George, and Bonnie Raitt in the late 70s.
In the 1980s, his clients included Stevie Ray Vaughan and Robben Ford – the latter forging a strong bond with Dumble that would result in the creation of the Overdrive Special.
“He told me he had the idea to build the Overdrive Special from listening to me play through a 60s piggyback Fender Bassman and cabinet,” Ford revealed in 2017. “I’ve always been very proud of it. I think “It may have something to do with the really warm relationship we both have. I consider him a really close friend; I mean like family.”
Such was Dumble’s unique process, it is said that players often had to wait for the call from the designer or his representatives if he was willing to work on an amplifier for them. And one player who created a collaboration with Dumble in recent years was bluesman Kenny Wayne Shepherd.
“The key word is inspiration,” Shepherd told us in 2017 about why Dumble Amp’s reputation is justified. I’m not talking to you as someone who has bought into some hype. I speak to you as someone who has legitimate experience before and after. Quite literally, the amplifiers, the point behind the amplifiers he has built for me, and what they do is inspiring. It inspires me to play new things. Inspires me to take other paths and create new sounds. the way he does it is what you’ve probably heard. I mean, he literally tailors the amplifier to the musician’s playing style and approach.
This ability was honed over hours with a player, as Shepherd explained.
“I would go over. I see him really regularly,” he continued. “I sit and hang out. I just sit like this, me and you, and play guitar for hours. All the time he listens. He has good ears. I mean, obviously. He hears how a person plays. He knows what it’s I try to get out of the amplifier. He hears how hard I play, the attack I use, the touch. It all. You can see his mind is working all the time. He’s just listening.
“Then he goes and works on the amplifier. Then you come back, you play it again, and we see how it reacts. Then he refines it further if necessary. Normally, in my experience, it has not been necessary. I’m going back. I’m connecting for the first time, and that’s right, which I think is one of the reasons he’s always been determined that the amplifiers he’s building are for that person. “In theory, if someone else were to play through my amp, it would obviously not necessarily respond as it was meant to because it’s someone else playing.”
Dumble Overdrive Special: we connect to one of the world’s most coveted guitar amps
For Carlos Santana, Dumble was the culmination of his tone-quest. “I have everything I need,” he told us in 2015. “I have Dumble amps, I have a relationship with Mr. Alexander Dumble. I stopped leading because I found everything.”
When we spoke to Dumble amplifier owner Jason Isbell last year, he noticed the relationship his friend and producer Dave Cobb had with the late amplifier designer and what he thought was Dumble’s greatest gift.
“Dave told me that when he went to his store and saw his wall of components, those were all things you could get at Radio Shack or your local electronics store,” Isbell remarked. “[The tone] does not come from the individual components, it’s all down to how Dumble hears your game. He puts it all together like a cocktail of incredibly simple ingredients that work incredibly well! “
Australian guitarist Orianthi was one of the first musicians to pay tribute to Dumble after the news of his passing.
We hear very sad news that one of the undisputed tone kings, Howard Dumble, has passed away. Our love for his friends and family, his work touched many lives x #dumbleJanuary 17, 2022
Howard was a true innovator and genius in the form of Jim Marshall and Neal Fender. I will miss you, my friend. #DumbleAmps “Celebrated Amplifier Designer Howard Alexander Dumble Dies | MusicRadar ”https://t.co/laVKliWkQ5January 18, 2022