Gary Smith, whose legendary tone earned him the title of Godfather of the South Bay Blues, has endorsed the Sonny Jr. Cruncher amp. This is a very big deal for a lot of reasons.
I had heard about this endorsement but I was skeptical. Gary has always been a vintage Fender guy. In fact, his award winning DVD “Amplified Blues Harp Demystified” is mostly a celebration of the magic of vintage Fender amp tone. For Gary to get behind a different amp now is, as I said, a very big deal.
Anybody who has heard Gary Smith play live or has heard his CD “Blues For Mr. B.” or on Mark Hummel’s “Blues Harp Meltdown” knows that Gary has the most beautifully articulated Chicago-style tone on the planet. Listen to the first few bars of You Can’t Hurt Me No More or Elevate Me Mama for an object lesson in blues harpology.
That is why this is such a big deal. Gary honed his extraordinary tone over the last 40 years using mostly Fender gear. His main gig rig of late has been the venerable Fender Bassman. For him to change up now is a huge risk of upsetting the perfect tonal apple cart. He had to be mighty impressed with the Cruncher amp to do this.
He is. I had a conversation about this with him last night. Gary Smith fully endorses the Sonny Jr. Cruncher amp, and will be using it at all his gigs. In larger venues he will add the Bassman for back-end support while mic’ing the Cruncher through the FOH speakers. At all other gigs it will be the Cruncher by itself. What he likes about the Cruncher is the complex tone from the multiple speakers of different sizes and configurations. He told me the Cruncher throws to the back of the room with ease. He walked around while another player used his un-mic'ed rig and said it sounded “right there in the front of the mix.”
As you may be able to tell, I am very impressed with Gary Smith as a blues harp player. He is the real deal, and he is an expert on harp amps. If he sincerely endorses the Sonny Jr. Cruncher – and I am convinced he does – then that is good enough for me. Yes, I have had my differences with Gary Onofrio, the owner of the Sonny Jr. brand, but this is impressive and cannot be ignored. Also, Onofrio was a stand-up guy in helping me hook up with Gary Smith.
Sound clips of Smith playing the Cruncher are on the way and will be added to this post soon. I’m still working to get a Cruncher amp in my hands for a thorough review. Check back for more details on this.
Sonny Jr. Amps