Guitar Villa is pleased to announce the addition of the Diaz line of hand built, high quality tube amplifiers and effects pedals. The Diaz heritage includes early associations with Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, G.E. Smith, R.E.M., Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Richie Sambora, Billy Gibbons, Jimmy Vivino, Neil Young, Live, Fuel and Diaz amps are a mainstay on the stage with The Allman Brothers, Government Mule and Warren Haynes, to name a few loyal users.
A native of Puerto Rico, Cesar Carrillo Diaz was playing guitar by age six. Listening to records by Robert Johnson and Sonny Terry sparked an early love for blues music. At 12, he was guitarist for The Hungry Men, where he would remain until 1969, when he came to the mainland with Johnny Nash (of “I Can See Clearly, Now” fame), before moving on to join Frijid Pink. In 1970, he met G.E. Smith, and they have been friends ever since.
During the seventies, Cesar played a major role in the then- developing market for vintage tube-powered guitar amplifiers. Guitar World magazine–the publication that dubbed him “The Amp Doctor”, has characterized him as the “guiding light” of tube-amp restoration. Over the course of that decade, Cesar located, restored, and returned to productive musical use countless vintage tube amplifiers–and opened the ears of a horde of guitar players to hidden worlds of tone and expression they never knew could be drawn from their instruments.
In 1979, Cesar befriended the as-yet-unsigned Stevie Ray Vaughan, whom he outfitted with the amplifier/speaker setups on which that guitarist’s sound would go on to conquer the blues world. His friendship with Vaughan would last until the guitarist’s untimely death in 1990. “We were real close. He was a good friend,” Diaz says “No one can take Stevie’s place.”
By the early eighties, Cesar was designing and hand-building prototype amps that would evolve into his own line of limited-production guitar equipment. Meanwhile, he continued locating and restoring vintage amplifiers for such guitar luminaries as Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.
Diaz met Clapton through a member of the Rolling Stones’ camp; he worked with the Stones and Keith Richards from ’82 to’87. Diaz served as Clapton’s technical advisor on the “Journeyman” album.
In 1986, G.E. Smith, who’d just joined Bob Dylan’s band, brought Cesar on board to tend to the two guitarists’ gear and tone. That began Cesar’s six-year association with Dylan. After G.E. left the band, Cesar stepped into the guitarist’s slot, playing some 50 dates with Dylan. Cesar also played with Dylan when he won his Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 1991. He left Dylan in ‘93 to devote more time to his family and amplifier business.
Back home, Cesar continued to develop and manufacture amplifiers, along with high-end guitar effects–all hand-made, in small production runs. Numerous guitar stars cherish their Diaz amps. Richie Sambora uses his on the road and in the studio. Billy Gibbons (ZZ Top) and Jimmy Vivino (Conan O’Brian’s guitar man) each own six Diaz Amps. The Tremodillo–Cesar’s unique tremolo device–has been used on top-ten charting releases by Joan Osborne, Collective Soul, R.E.M. and other recording artists.
The publicly-visible aspects of Cesar’s contributions to the music– such as album and interview credits from Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Keith Richards, Neil Young and others–are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to his impact on the sound of contemporary electric guitar. Any guitar player who has ever called on Cesar’s services has come away from the experience with a whole new outlook on their instrument’s voice and potential for the expression of musical feeling. Cesar’s modifications of guitar pickups and his amp and guitar-effects innovations have been widely imitated by a whole new generation of equipment manufacturers. He has helped shape the sound of rock~n~roll history.