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The Best Overdrive Pedals for Rockabilly (2023)

Rockabilly is the perfect blend of blues, old-school rock ‘n’ roll, bluegrass, swing, and even country music, all “organically” fitting within one defined genre. And it’s also a musical style where an electric guitar can work well with an upright bass. But just like with any genre, you’ll need a more or less specific guitar tone. With that said, we’ll be looking at helping you find the best overdrive pedal for rockabilly.

One thing to bear in mind is, that just like with any genre, there isn’t the “best” piece of gear in any category. Ultimately, it comes down to your playing and how you’re using your guitar, amp, pedals, and other gear. So these overdrive pedals will be nothing but tools to help you achieve the best results. Now that we have that out of the way, let’s move on.

Our Top Picks

  • Lovepedal 5e3 Deluxe – The 5e3 Deluxe is intended to replicate Fender’s old Deluxe amps. A simple pedal that isn’t the easiest to find, but capable of great tones if you find one.
  • Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer – Part of the classic TS family. The TS9 is particularly good for rockabilly due to it’s brighter sound.
  • Boss BD-2 Blues Driver – Another classic overdrive pedal with a treble-heavy tone, ideal for rockabilly.
  • Boss FBM-1 Fender Bassman – A versatile and organic-sounding overdrive pedal that recreates the Fender Bassman amps. Unfortunately, the FBM-1 is discontinued so you will have to keep an eye on the used market.
  • Nobels ODR-1 – An underrated and overlooked overdrive pedal, the ODR-1 tends to have a smoother sound, but with the right settings is capable of great rockabilly tones.

What to Look for in an Overdrive Pedal for Rockabilly

The genre of rockabilly will first require an old-school mindset. This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to spend a fortune on amps manufactured in the 1950s or some overpriced “boutique” pedals.

However, at the same time, you should be taking more things into consideration than just your overdrive pedal. Whatever you choose, make sure to know how it will work with your amp and guitar. Additionally, bear in mind that tube amps will work better, especially in the style of old-school Fender amps.

With that said, an overdrive that’s capable of reproducing old Fender amps is also welcome. Overall, you should be looking for a treble-oriented overdrive that would help you get some of that “piercing” kind of tone.

At the same time, you’d want to keep some of the old-school vibes in there. I’m inclined to say that “transparent” overdrives aren’t a good choice but some would say that they are. Think about this pedal as the perfect blend between “muffled” creamy blues and ear-piercing surf rock tones.

What you should also think of is how the pedal affects a tube-driven amplifier. There’s got to be that “organic” breakup without making things too saturated.

Finally, think of the overall simplicity. While it’s not wrong to use something more complex, I’d always advise a simpler overdrive for rockabilly music. Two or three knobs are all that you need.

The Best Overdrive Pedals for Rockabilly

1. Lovepedal 5e3 Deluxe

What’s kind of a bummer is that this one isn’t that easy to find. But if you do get it, you’re in for some great tones. But bear in mind that this pedal has only two knobs and is mostly a great choice for tube-driven amps. On the other hand, it can help you enhance a simple solid-state amp and give it some tube-like vibes.

As its name suggests, the 5e3 Deluxe is intended to replicate Fender’s old Deluxe amps, those known as the 5E3 models. The pedal brings — in my opinion — the perfect combination of warmth and brightness. As a result, you get a fairly well-defined tone that gets some tight bottom ends and low mids.

While this might not be the cheapest overdrive out there, especially considering its simple controls, it’s worth every single penny. Yes, I know this kind of contradicts what I mentioned in the intro of this guide, how you don’t need an expensive boutique pedal for rockabilly. But if you have a budget, this would be your ultimate pedal for rockabilly, blues, and old-school blues rock.

2. Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer

The TS9 Tube Screamer is a no-brainer. There’s a plethora of genres where the variety of TS variants are useful tools. As far as rockabilly goes, TS9 would probably be the best option. After all, the pedal gravitates more towards the “brighter” side of things, all while keeping some of the low mids in the mix.

Coming with its usual 3-knob layout, the TS9 still provides you with enough versatility, especially when paired with a tube-driven amp. In fact, if the amp has less headroom, you can create some seriously distorted tones, even on a clean channel.

Ibanez TS9 Tube Screamer - Classic

What’s important to know about the TS9 is that it will always be able to help you cut through the mix. While it may not be as “beefy” compared to some other Tube Screamer models, it still keeps things fairly balanced.

TS9 really brings a specific flavor of organic distortion when paired with a vintage-oriented tube-driven Fender amp or anything that copies that style. While it might not get super-distorted in such a setting, it’s one of the best combinations for rockabilly or old-school blues.

3. Boss BD-2 Blues Driver

Boss BD-2 is a classic. In fact, despite what its name Blues Driver implies, it’s far more than just a pedal for blues. Once again, we have a pedal that tends to be treble-heavier than usual. It’s not like it will pierce your ears on all settings, but you can definitely hear some serious sparkle with it.

Boss BD-2 Blues Driver Guitar Effects Pedal

This is another example of an overdrive designed to work best with tube-driven amps. And with British-style amps, it can even make things sound really fuzzy and “grainy.” With American-style tube amps, like classic Fender stuff, you’ll still get some fuzziness although it will be cleaner.

The latter option makes for a perfect rockabilly or blues tone. Seriously, with single-coil pickups and a Fender tube amp, you’ll get that Stevie Ray Vaughan tone. But for rockabilly stuff, I recommend that you keep the gain control at a lower level. BD-2 is extremely useful as a boost as it adds just some coloration to the tone but also lets your tube amp do a lot of heavy lifting.

4. Boss FBM-1 Fender Bassman

Here’s another Boss pedal that I’d like to mention here. However, FBM-1 is a discontinued unit, which is really a shame since it was a great recreation of the legendary Fender Bassman in a pedal.

This is a very organic-sounding overdrive pedal. Even when you push the gain knob higher, you’ll notice that the tone isn’t getting too “muddy” and that you can still keep things under control. Even with a solid-state amp, you’ll be getting some serious tube-amp-like tones.

The pedal is also pretty versatile for such a compact piece. Firstly, you have two inputs, one normal and one “bright.” This is what you’d also get on some of the old-school amps, like the old Fender Bassman. Then there’s a total of six knobs, two of which are packed nicely with the inner and outer knob design.

Apart from volume and gain controls, you’ll get a 3-band EQ, as well as a presence knob. With these, you’ll have full control over your tone.

5. Nobels ODR-1

Lastly, I’d like to mention Nobels ODR-1 pedal. Overall, this is one of the most underrated and overlooked overdrives. And as far as rockabilly or old-school rock ‘n’ roll goes, it’s one of the most interesting choices.

Nobels ODR-1 Natural Overdrive Pedal (bc)

Overall, ODR-1 tends to be smoother. Now, I know that this kind of goes against some of the things that I mentioned in the intro. However, when set properly and when used with certain amps, ODR-1 can give you a pretty balanced tone. So this would be a great choice if your guitar and amp tend to be bright and you want to smoothen things out a little but without losing all of the edge.

The spectrum control is pretty interesting. It helps you alter the bass and treble without even touching the mids. So it’s somewhat of an advanced one-knob EQ control.


Do I Need an Overdrive Pedal for Rockabilly?

Just like with every genre, the choice of pedals and other gear is up to you. After all, they’re tools that will help you get the tone you want, not a mandatory piece of gear. The same goes for rockabilly and overdrives.

However, choosing the right overdrive pedal will not only make the tone-shaping process easier but you’ll also get better results. It’s not like you really need one, but getting one of the pedals that we mentioned above could help you a lot. Just bear in mind that this is just one of the components in the whole sonic equation and you should first start with your guitar and amp.

What Other Effects Are Good for Rockabilly?

Even modern rockabilly musicians do their best to keep their tone old-school-oriented. So everything either sounds like it’s straight from the 1950s and the 1960s or is at least gravitating toward it. With that said, the effects should follow this trend as well.

And back in those days, you didn’t have that many effects. Reverb was somewhat common and so is an occasional tremolo effect. So these are the effects that you should be looking into for a rockabilly pedalboard. “Slapback” delay, or delay with a very short echo time set, could also be useful.