Like many rock fans and aspiring guitarists around the world, Fil Olivieri had a musical epiphany the first time he heard the Australian band AC/DC’s classic 1980 album, “Back in Black.”
That epiphany turned into a decades-long quest for the Dallas-born, Rome-raised Olivieri, whose company, SoloDallas, will be an exhibitor at this week’s NAMM Show in Anaheim. For years, he sought to replicate the striking “Back in Black” guitar tones of AC/DC’s Angus Young, but didn’t know how.
“I became obsessed with it,” said Olivieri, 47, who now lives in La Jolla and was not yet a teenager when he became an AC/DC fan in 1978.
He bought the same guitars as Young (vintage Gibson SGs) and amplifiers (Marshalls). Still, the sound he wanted proved elusive.
Olivieri did not discover until reading an interview in 2012 that Young’s guitar sound owed much to a Schaffer-Vega wireless system. The same system had also been used by Eddie Van Halen, Peter Frampton and other six-string legends.
The long discontinued system, of which only 1,000 had been made, enabled guitarists to roam concert stages at will, without having their instruments plugged into amplifiers. The system included two controls that Young specifically credited for creating the over-driven guitar sound that is a trademark of AC/DC’s “Back in Black.”
After learning that Ken Schaffer had stopped making his wireless system in 1982, Oliveiri tracked him down in New York. They spoke several times at length.
Impressed by Olivieri’s enthusiasm, Schaffer gave the Italian-American his last two wireless units — and his blessing to create the Schaffer Replica, which Olivieri began marketing last year.
His company, SoloDallas, will display Olivieri’s Schaffer Replica wireless unit ($1,299 each) and foot-controlled stomp-box version ($399) at the NAMM show. That fact that AC/DC’s Young now uses Olivieri’s high-end product is an added bonus.
“Muse guitarist Matt Bellamy and Billy Idol’s guitarist, Steve Stevens, both have one now, and Lenny Kravitz, Keith Urban and other guitarists know about us because of AC/DC,” Olivieri’s said. “We made 850 units last year, and Angus has the first one. My company expects this NAMM Show to be really successful for us.”