Eric Johnson pays heartfelt tribute to late amp-building icon Howard Alexander Dumble

Eric Johnson and Howard Alexander Dumble
(Image credit: Scott Dudelson/WireImage/Getty / Orianthi/Facebook)

Eric Johnson has paid tribute to the legendary guitar amp builder Howard Alexander Dumble, who passed away earlier this week.

In a lengthy statement posted to Facebook, the electric guitar icon spoke in detail of the close personal and professional relationship he shared with Dumble, likening it to the partnership of literary giants C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkein.

Calling him a “one of a kind”, Johnson praised Howard’s “wonderful passion for music and sound and guitar tone”, and spoke about the two Dumble amps – the Overdrive Special and Steel String Singer – that he used throughout this career.

Johnson began by recalling the first time he heard of Dumble, during a period in which he was being “groomed by Warner Bros” to make a record for them – a record that would turn out to be Tones.

It was during this experience that Johnson first met the amp builder, as he explains: “My friends Christopher Cross and Richard Mullen were jubilantly praising how wonderful Alexander Dumble’s amps were. They suggested that I meet him and procure an amp. 

“Alexander worked in a space over at the Abbey rehearsal studios and I have such fond memories of going over there and talking tone and inspirational visions of music,” he continued. “Alexander had a wonderful passion for music and sound and guitar tone. 

“I would always leave there so excited, kind of like when C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien would get together and rev each other up to go be artistic on their own after their meeting and do their best work.”

“I was lucky and honored to be able to play an amp made by Alexander – actually, two amps. The song, Zap, on the record Tones, was recorded on an Overdrive Special and Roscoe Beck’s [Gibson ES-]335. The Steel String Singer that I eventually got from Alexander was such a magical amp, there’s been nothing quite like it since.” 

“I regret that I let go of it many years ago during a period when I was going through a traumatic time in my life suffering from loud exposure and thought that I would never, never want to be around or play through an amp of that caliber of wattage. 

“It was one of my shortcomings not to have the insight to put it in the closet and wait for another graceful day when I could have figured out a way to use it, baffling speaker cabinets or using lower efficiency speakers or simply turning the master volume down!”

Johnson concluded his heartfelt tribute by saying the world had “gained an extra jewel of ability and dimension by playing electric guitar through his masterpieces”, and that there will “never be another one like him”.

Johnson was joined by blues guitar ace Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who also took to social media to pay his respects to Dumble.

As well as praising his "deep well of technical knowledge", Shepherd also took the opportunity to say, "He had an especially kind heart and was a man of strong convictions and faith. 

"He inspired me both as a person and a player and he elevated my music with the amps he created for me," he added. "I will forever cherish our friendship and never forget his example."

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.