Custom Audio Electronics founder Bob Bradshaw
(center) with Michael Landau (left), Steve
Lukather (right), and the racks he set up for them
in the ‘90s.
My main inspiration was Craig Anderton
and his technical articles in the back of Guitar
Player magazine. In a series of articles, he
mapped out an idea for an electronic switch,
sparking in me the idea for a switching loop.
I didn’t have any idea about Pete Cornish and
what he had done in the ’70s—I just had this
concept of a remote control switcher that could
control all the pedals and rack stuff, so you
are not running audio to and from the amp.
Most of it would be back in a rack, neatly
wired together, up off the ground, so you could
adjust the pedals standing up. I wanted a patch
bay arrangement with individual loops. I didn’t
want to modify the effects; I just wanted them
to work nicely together, so I developed various
types of audio-routing circuits.
How did you get started selling this concept?
I built some custom pieces for a few players
around town. One of my favorites was
Buzzy Feiten. He had this crazy pedalboard,
and an Echoplex on a mic stand so he
could manipulate the delay time. He was
tap dancing on the pedals and bending over
to tweak them—it was distracting for the
player, as well as the people watching. I presented
to him the idea of building a floorboard
with labeled switches for each effect.
I didn’t know about professional racks or
trays at the time so we mounted everything
in a Technics home stereo rack. We cut slots
into a piece of aluminum and mounted the
pedals on the top: the Echoplex, a Boss EQ,
and an MXR Dyna Comp. The rack stuff,
like his Eventide H910 harmonizer, was
mounted below. On that rig, the jacks for
the loops were mounted on the top of the
interface box; it didn’t occur to me to put
them on the back. The front of the box had
outputs for amplifiers, and a big, honkin’
multi-pin connector for the control pedal.
Buzzy is a tinkerer, always looking for better
sound. I would learn new stuff and apply it
to his rack. Through him I met Mike Landau,
through Landau, Steve Lukather, through
Lukather I met Eddie Van Halen, and
through Eddie, Steve Vai. Then I met Andy
Summers, Peter Frampton, and so many others—
it was all through word of mouth.
How did you eventually connect with
He came to me and wanted a switcher. He
is another one who is always looking for
the best way to do stuff. He was still working
at Rudy’s [Music Stop] in New York. I
persuaded him to come out here, gave him
a car and found him a place to live.
This 1982 sketch details the
first rig Bradshaw designed for Landau. Photo
by Glen LaFerman
Did he come out specifically to work
The story goes: I was working with Steve
Lukather, who wanted a switcher for his
multiple amp rig. We were using a Soldano
amp for the main solo sound, a Marshall for
crunch, and a Mesa/Boogie amp for clean.
It was really expensive to ship multiple amps
around, so I commissioned Mike Soldano to
build the first 3-channel preamp.
I gave Mike one of my switcher chassis
and said, “I want totally independent
channels with bass, middle, treble, gain and
master for each channel. I want the first
channel to be voiced like a Fender Twin, I
want a Marshall crunch channel, and I want
your SLO-100 preamp stage for the solo
sound. And, I want to be able to remote
control it from my switching system.”
He built it and that became the Soldano
X88R preamp. It opened up a big new business
for Soldano, who was charging $1,800
a pop for this preamp. But even though it
was my concept, he was selling them to me
for $1,700! And, there were things about the
Soldano I didn’t like. There weren’t many
guitar-voiced power amps at that time,
so you would be shoving this preamp
into a flat-sounding, solid-state amp or a
sterile-sounding tube amp. I had to use
an extra EQ stage to give them more life.
I started talking to John Suhr, who
was doing Marshall mods by that time.
John and I came up with some ideas for
improving the three-stage preamp’s tone,
and we added a tube-powered active EQ
stage at the end of the chain that you
could switch in and out of the circuit.
John put the guitar thing away for a
while and we started doing preamps and
the OD-100 amplifier. I came up with
the concepts and John designed the circuitry.
We formed a company: Custom
Audio Amplifier. When he left and went
to Fender we dissolved the company.