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First Band with a Fender Rhodes


Shamanczarek

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What was the first major band to be seen with a Fender Rhodes Suitcase Piano? I think I know who it is but let's see if anyone else knows or has a good guess. This applies only to an internationally known act.
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Off the top of my head... Billy Preston with the Beatles, 1968/69?

 

EP history ...

 

Fender Rhodes Piano Bass already appeared in 1959 ... when Ray Charles recorded "What I Say" on a Wurli.

It´s considered to be the 1st recording using a electric piano.

 

Fender Rhodes Piano was born in 1965 when CBS bought Fender.

Aretha Franklin used her Fender Rhodes suitcase for writing and arranging,- at least in/from 1967 (that´s what Rhodes Super Site reports) and Miles Davis recorded "Stuff" w/ Herbie Hancock on the Rhodes on the "Miles in the Sky" album.

Recording dates were jan 16 and may 15-17 in 1968 ! (see wiki)

 

Preston worked w/ the Beatles jan 22. - 31. 1969 on Fender Rhodes Piano and Lowrey DSO heritage organ.

 

So, it can be Miles Davis w/ Herbie were the 1st using a Fender Rhodes.

I dunno if Aretha Franklin´s band used the Fender Rhodes for recording and gigging/ touring already in 1967,- just because the already owned one.

If yes, she would be the 1st using it w/ a band.

 

But one of the army bands might be the very 1st one as already mentioned above,- even not being famous.

 

For myself, I´m pretty sure I heard a Fender Rhodes on a Miles Davis jazz recording for the 1st time and then I started saving money to buy one AFAP.

I got my 1970s Fender Rhodes mkI 73 stage in jan 1971.

 

A.C.

 

 

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I was told the Rhodes and Wurlies were originally invented not as much as a performance tool but as a composing/scoring tool to fill rooms and rooms of composing facilities in the film, TV and post production business...

 

The guy I study with who is about 77 told me that... he really thinks they are an inferior instrument to an acoustic piano (of course he does).. I being 63 do not have the same opinion but I can understand where he is coming from. From a world before Wurlies and Rhodes ever existed!

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Zawinul played one with Cannonball Adderly on Mercy Mercy. That was probably 67-68.

 

Musicale

 

Mercy, Mercy, Mercy was recorded and released in 1966 and HERE is Zawinul on a Wurli (to my ears) ...

 

But w/

he´s (already?) using a Fender-Rhodes.

 

Very hard to find out who was the 1st using a Fender-Rhodes in a band.

 

A.C.

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Not to get to off topic but here is the skinny on the EP inventions:

 

"The instrument evolved from Rhodes' attempt to manufacture pianos to teach recovering soldiers during World War II under a strict budget, and development continued throughout the 1940s and 1950s"

 

"Early models

An early version of the Rhodes piano, used for teaching

 

Rhodes started teaching piano when he was 19. He dropped out of studying at the University of Southern California in 1929 to support his family through the Great Depression by full-time teaching. As a teacher, he designed a method that combined classical and jazz music, which became popular across the United States,[8] and resulted in an hour-long nationally syndicated radio show. Rhodes continued to teach the piano through his lifetime, and the piano method continues to be taught today by a team led by Joseph Brandsetter.[9]

 

By 1942, Rhodes was working for the Army Air Corps, where he was asked to devise a teaching program to provide therapy for soldiers recovering from combat in hospital. He was unable to supply enough acoustic pianos, so decided to develop a miniature electric model that could be made from surplus army parts.[8][10] Rhodes won a service award for his piano design and subsequently put the model into production for piano teachers during the 1950s. These were retrospectively known as the "Pre-Piano".[11]

 

In 1959, Rhodes entered a joint venture with Leo Fender to manufacture the instruments. Fender, however, disliked the higher tones of the pre-piano, and decided to manufacture a keyboard bass using the bottom 32 notes, known as the "Piano Bass". The instrument introduced the design that would become common to subsequent Rhodes pianos, with the same tolex body as Fender amplifiers and a fiberglass top. The tops came from a boat manufacturer who supplied whatever color happened to be available; consequently a number of different colored piano basses went into production.[1]"

 

Rhodes: Rhodes Wikipedia

 

Wurlie: Wurlie: Wikipedia

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I used to work at Fender. Any Rhodes that came out of there between 1973 to 1975 I may have had a hand in building the cabinet. At that time Harold Rhodes was still working there every day. I saw him often in the break room but really didn't feel like I could approach him. In the early 90's I did talk to him on the phone regarding some Rhodes parts. One day at the factory they handed out a Rhodes Piano Course book that contained a history of the instrument. Those early versions he built while in the Army in the late 40's I believe were made from scrap airplane parts and were not electrified. The electric Suitcase Piano came out much later so I doubt if the Army even knew or had any interest in them as Harold was now working in the private sector.

 

Getting back to the original topic, I still know of a prominent band that was seen using a Fender Rhodes earlier than anyone has mentioned. Ray Charles is a good guess though. He did use a Rhodes at some point but that was probably beginning in the 70's. All his mid-60's performances that I can find are on acoustic Piano

 

Cannonball Adderley recorded Mercy, Mercy, Mercy in 1966 with Joe Zawinul playing a Wurlie. Victor Feldman told Zawinul about the Rhodes and he later acquired one for touring with Adderley. Joe showed Miles Davis the Rhodes and he became one of the first major artists to record with it in 1968.

 

The major act I'm thinking of probably didn't record with the Rhodes but were using it for live performances before any other artist I know of.

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I used to work at Fender. Any Rhodes that came out of there between 1973 to 1975 I may have had a hand in building the cabinet. At that time Harold Rhodes was still working there every day. I saw him often in the break room but really didn't feel like I could approach him. In the early 90's I did talk to him on the phone regarding some Rhodes parts. One day at the factory they handed out a Rhodes Piano Course book that contained a history of the instrument. Those early versions he built while in the Army in the late 40's I believe were made from scrap airplane parts and were not electrified. The electric Suitcase Piano came out much later so I doubt if the Army even knew or had any interest in them as Harold was now working in the private sector.

 

 

Very cool. Those are the years I find to be the best. At the moment I have two from 1973 and one from 1975. I also have a nearly mint 1978, but that one will probably go on CL as I just don't dig it as much as the earlier models.

 

I agree, Zawinul was a very main character in the spread of the sound.

 

Busch.

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On October 17, 1965 The Animals appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with a sparkle top Fender Rhodes Suitcase Piano. Dave Rowberry was the Keyboard player at that time. They performed "It's My Life" and "The Work Song" with Dave taking a Jazz style solo on the latter. I was first aware of this several years ago but was reminded of it when the Decades Channel ran the show a few days ago.

 

In 2001 I got to meet Rowberry and supplied the Keyboard for a New York City show with The Animals II that included founding members Hilton Valentine and John Steel along with Jim Rodford on Bass. The vocalist from my Doors tribute band filled the Eric Burdon role and did a European tour with them shortly afterward. Rowberry played on some of The Animals biggest hits including "We Gotta Get Out of This Place", "Don't Bring Me Down", "See See Rider", "Inside Looking Out", and "Shake". I found out from Dave that he used the recording studio's Lowrey Organ on most of these songs. He didn't really like Organ and preferred to play Piano when he was allowed to. Rowberry was seen playing a Hammond M162 and B3 in earlier Sullivan appearances.

 

Unfortunately, most of The Animals' performances from Ed Sullivan have been taken down from YouTube but a rehearsal video of "It's My Life" is still there.

 

This is a major historical event. The first appearance of a Fender Rhodes on national TV in 1965, the year the full-size instrument became available.

 

[video:youtube]

 

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Thanks for this thread. Ray Charles on What'd I Say and Joe Zawinul on Mercy Mercy Mercy are 2 signature sounds that made me love the instrument. Always been a Wurly guy, never a Rhodes.
These are only my opinions, not supported by any actual knowledge, experience, or expertise.
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Not to get to off topic but here is the skinny on the EP inventions:

 

"The instrument evolved from Rhodes' ...

 

Well, your history is 100% correct !

 

But according to the OP´s topic it all starts 1965 when CBS bought Fender and the product Fender-Rhodes appeared on the market.

 

A.C.

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On October 17, 1965 The Animals appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show with a sparkle top Fender Rhodes Suitcase Piano. Dave Rowberry was the Keyboard player at that time. They performed "It's My Life" and "The Work Song" with Dave taking a Jazz style solo on the latter. I was first aware of this several years ago but was reminded of it when the Decades Channel ran the show a few days ago.

 

Congrats !

I cannot watch the video in my country and youtube-unblocker doesn´t help too,- but you might have found the 1st band performing w/ a Fender-Rhodes piano.

 

A.C.

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Original Animals Organist Alan Price was the one who played the Vox Continental. His replacement Dave Rowberry who joined in 1965 didn't care for the Vox and used a Lowrey in the studio and a Hammond on later recordings as well as for live shows. I've never been able to hear any Organ on "It's My Life", maybe a bit of Piano doubling the bass. It is pretty much dominated by the 12-string guitar. I asked guitarist Hilton Valentine about this and he insisted that there is a Keyboard part on the song. A bit of trivia regarding "It's My Life" is that it's not in a very guitar-friendly key. I asked Hilton why they did it in that key and he said that was the key of the demo recording they learned it from.

 

Some more trivia. Two songs on the 1966 Animalism album were arranged by Frank Zappa. Zappa and The Animals had the same producer Tom Wilson who brought them together. The song "All Night Long" written by Zappa has him on guitar, Larry Knechtel on Hammond, Don Randi on Piano, and Carol Kaye on bass. Fred Neil's "The Other Side of This Life" has Zappa on bass, Larry Knechtel on Organ, Don Randi on Piano, and Carol Kaye on guitar.

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Slightly OT, according to Wikipedia:

According to Jared Pauley of jazz.com, "Sun Ra was the first musician to record with an electric piano, the Wurlitzer, for his 1956 recording Angels and Demons at Play."

 

-Tom Williams

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Sorry. I said It's my life, but the song I should have said was We gotta get out of this place. Continental for sure.

 

On other Animals songs I have no question about whether it's a Continental or not. That is the one song I can't say for sure and I know the sound of a Continental pretty well as it has been my main Keyboard since the early 70's. Since Dave Rowberry played the Organ part I would guess that it is not a Continental but I could be wrong.

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Shamanzarek, cool story about working for Fender. Harold Rhodes is an inspirationnal person to me.

 

For some time I've been curious about his teaching method, which seems to have been quite popular at a certain time. I've asked about it on a piano teacher forum but got no answer. I know it put some emphasis on improvisation, but not much more than that. If anyone has any details I'd be very grateful.

"Show me all the blueprints. I'm serious now, show me all the blueprints."

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The Harold Rhodes Piano Course book I got was very basic. It came with a note chart to place behind the keys. It just taught basic reading and chords. Nothing revolutionary. Apparently Harold attempted to set up a chain of teaching studios in various cities in the late 60's or early 70's. An older electronics tech here in New Jersey told me about working with Harold on the project which never got off the ground.

 

My biggest regret about working at Fender was turning down the Piano Tuner position. At Fender when a job opened up you could bid on it. Most of the employees who were musicians were guitar players. Seniority was also a factor in getting a new position. I was about the only Piano player there and I didn't have much seniority. They still wanted me for the job because I played Piano. The job was on second shift so I wouldn't be able to play gigs which at the time were usually four days week. When I told my bandmates I was quitting the band I foolishly let them talk me out of taking the job. I was young and not thinking ahead. I probably would have gotten to work with Harold if I had taken the job.

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I don't know much it was exaggerated, but this can be found on the fenderrhodes.com site:

 

"Barely 20 years old (1930), he was managing a whole chain of schools across the USA, the Harold Rhodes School of Popular Piano. It was based on the success of the Rhodes Method, which you still can choose as a student (i.e. if you can still find it)."

"Show me all the blueprints. I'm serious now, show me all the blueprints."

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