BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Surely you know about Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, two of the greats of the Bakersfield Sound, now passed on. Add one more name to that list – Howard Alexander Dumble. You may not know him but the world of rock ‘n’ roll absolutely knows him.

Dumble was the creator and builder of the Dumble electric guitar amplifier – regarded by many as the Stradavarius of guitar amps. Dumble – known to family and friends as Howard and professionally by his middle name, Alexander – made them by hand – transistor by transistor – tailored to specific clients. Eric Clapton owns a Dumble. Stevie Ray Vaughan has played through a Dumble and so have  Joe Bonamassa, Bonnie Raitt, Larry Carlton, Don Felder, John Mayer, Keith Urban, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jackson Browne, David Lindley, Robben Ford of the Yellowjackets, Lowell George of Little Feat, and many more. Perhaps his most famous client was Carlos Santana, who in one interview said Dumble was the end of a long quest for the perfect amp. “I have a  long relationship with Mr. Alexander Dumble. My search is over because I found everything [in terms of sound].” 

Not bad for a guy born and raised in Bakersfield – a 1962 East High School graduate. He played football and starred as a member of the school’s champion wrestling team.

Dumble died Sunday in Turlock at age 77, according to the Stanislaus County Coroner’s office – the likely cause of death, according to family members, a stroke.

He was a reclusive guy, low key, soft spoken, maybe a tad eccentric, but he knew his way around a guitar amplifier.  As a young man he worked for Semie Moseley, maker of the legendary Mosrite guitar. Artie Neisen, who opened Front Porch Music in downtown Bakersfield in 1978, said Dumble started out copying the inner workings of a Fender amp.

“Dumble was one of the first boutique amp builders, you know, ever,” Niesen said. “It’s just the tone of them. It was the tone that was hard to get out of any other amp. He would change the circuitry associated with the tubes, you know, change some resistors or capacitors in the amp to make it respond a certain way.”

Ramon Goose of the Guitar Store, has posted several stories about Howard Alexander Dumble on its website, based out of the UK. 

“Dumble had this basic setup here that he would then tweak for the player,” Goose said. “It was like measuring a suit for you. Everything was a one-off. He couldn’t re-create exactly the same amp because he’s playing guitar as he’s soldering in the resistors and capacitors and playing the guitar to morph the sound.”

Friends and family members are discussing the possibility of a private memorial service in Los Angeles in the coming weeks. They aren’t prepared to say precisely when or where. They agree on one thing, though – his was a quiet, but at times very loud, life.

So the next time you listen to a Stevie Ray Vaughan lead guitar solo, think of Bakersfield. Think of Howard Alexander Dumble.