Bob Bradshaw's Custom Audio Electronics has been building rack and pedal control systems for more than two and a half decades.
Picking up where Paul Rivera left off -- Rivera was designing early pedalboard systems in the late 70s before deciding to concentrate on amp modifications -- Bradshaw upped the ante with his footswitch controller and patchbay routing systems, allowing guitarists to interface their vintage Fuzz Faces to their rackmounted, studio-quality Eventide Harmonizers.
And by virtue of the controller patchbay system, any combination of pedals and effects could be recalled with the tap of a single footswitch. With the proliferation of rackmounted guitar effects and preamp devices in the 80s, Custom Audio Electronics took off.
Bradshaw became the go-to guy for studio stalwarts Buzz Feiten, Steve Lukather, Mike Landau, Paul Jackson Jr., Dann Huff and Tim Pierce who also happened to take their rack systems along when touring, with Bradshaw himself tagging along on occasion as guitar and road tech for Feiten, Landau and Lukather.
In this vid, Bradshaw gives credit to Steve Lukather for introducing many of his 'rockstar employers' to the Bradshaw system.
At a recording session with Eric Clapton, Lukather apparently let Clapton check out his Bradshaw system which led to the guitar legend ordering a rack system of his own. Soon Bob was shipping out systems to David Gilmour, The Edge, Yngwie Malmsteen, Eddie Van Halen and Peter Frampton.
And legend has it that when the guitar tech for Prince custom ordered a system, the 'Purple One' tried it out at a soundcheck and decided he preferred having his Boss pedals at his feet instead.
The '90s saw a backlash against rackmount systems with the resurgence of analog pedals and a trend towards lo-tech and lo-fi. Blame it on the grunge era.
While he never stopped customizing effects systems, Bradshaw also launched a line of Custom Audio Electronics Amplifiers -- which were actually designed by John Suhr of Suhr Guitars, a topic for another article -- and recently teamed up with Jim Dunlop on their MXR line, licensing his designs on the MC401 Boost/Line Driver and the MC402 Boost/Overdrive pedals.