“John played alone, but most people thought there were five or six players on his records,” remembers Lu Woolley, his promoter and booking agent. “People were absolutely wowed by him. Nobody played like him.”
Adomono’s secret weapon was the Ecco-Fonic, a cutting-edge tape-echo machine. Alongside DeArmond’s Tremolo Control, it was one of the first stand-alone effects for the guitars and Adomono was one of the early testers, promoters, and endorsers.
Adomono was Romani. Born in the 1930s, he was playing guitar on the streets of New York City for spare change when he was five years old. He met fellow Roma Django Reinhardt during his sole U.S. visit in 1946, and was inspired to play jazz. But it was Adomono’s introduction to one of Ray Butts’ EchoSonic amps that spurred his fascination with echo and helped create the sound that made him famous.
In the late ’50s or early ’60s, Adomono was playing in Memphis when he met local guitarist John Arnold and borrowed his Gretsch 6120 and EchoSonic amp with built-in tape echo. “He would just play the crap out of it,” Arnold says. “He was amazing. He could get more out of a guitar than anyone that I had ever heard. This was his first time playing with a portable echo chamber. He was so enamored with the thing doing echo and making him sound like more guitars.”