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He played with a local blues and jam band and co-founded the band Martha's Laundry, which later morphed into Prune Music store, with keyboardist Dave Kessner.They opened the store in 1967 inside a building that had been a Chinese grocery store.He worked as a repair tech in the back while Dave ran the front of the store.Offshoots of Prune Music continue in Berkeley to this day with Subway Guitars, Sam Cohen (aka Fat Dog) and Guitar Resurrection in Austin, TX with former Martha's Laundry guitarist, Jim Lehman (aka Lizard Slim) They were partners until 1975.He set about designing a guitar amplifier around the new principle, and in 1972 the Mark I was released.He produced a number of custom variations on the Mark I through the late 1970s, with options including reverb, EQ, various speakers (most often Altec or Electro-Voice), koa wood jointed cabinets, and wicker grill. As Mesa continued to grow, Smith moved the company to Petaluma in 1980.Other models developed in the 1980s included the Mark III, the Son of Boogie, and the Studio .22.
If hot-rodding Fenders was the first breakthrough, the second was developing an extra gain stage for the guitar input.
However, he would hop freight trains nearly every weekend from Santa Barbara to the Bay Area to see friends and return to the Beat coffee houses and bookstores of Berkeley.
The next four years he attended UC Berkeley studying humanities, English Literature and "invitation only" creative writing courses where he mostly wrote accounts of riding the rails with various hobos, but never quite graduated.
MESA was started by Randall Smith as a small repair shop which modified Fender Amplifiers, particularly the diminutive Fender Princeton.
Smith's modifications gave the small amps much more input gain, making them much louder as well as creating a high-gain, distorted guitar tone.