Brad Sarno saw the Dead for the first time at Alpine Valley in 1986 and fifty times afterward, although he says his favorite moment was seeing the Garcia Band with his hands on the edge of the stage at the Greek Theater in Berkeley in 1989. A guitarist, he played in a band for seven years in clubs from the Wetlands to college towns, but eventually they burned out and he came home.
He’d grown up with the vacuum tubes and soldering iron of his father’s Ham radio hobby shop, and he had an inventor’s mind. Then he found a partner. Auset was a veteran Dead Head who wrote songs, played guitar, and sang, and soon they were a couple. Auset quickly revealed a profound grasp of design, graphics, the world of web and business operations in general. They got married, and work and play became one.
They started Sarno Music Solutions in 2003, and their first product was the Steel Guitar Black Box, which he says is a “vacuum tube tone enhancer.” Weir has several. SMS has lots more products, and they’ve been used and endorsed by Bill Frisell, Richard Thompson, and the great pedal steel player Buddy Emmons. And of course, if you want to have Jerry Garcia’s tone, you can buy the SMS Classic, which is a rack mounted preamp based on Jerry’s stage preamp. His genius mind, ears, and fingers, however, aren’t for sale.
Brad’s the ideal guy to write The Tone Zone.