23 January 2009
The "Fender Rhodes Organ" product line evolved quickly as the 1970's began.
The 73-key Electric Piano was renamed the "Fender Rhodes Suitcase Piano" in 1969, featuring a black harp cover and a stereo 80W amp, and by 1970 the "Fender Rhodes Mark I" Stage Piano was available.
"The Fender Rhodes Mark I Stage Piano" was the piano top from the Suitcase model, modified for use with an external guitar or bass guitar amplifier.
"The Stage" model featured detachable legs (parts from a Fender pedal steel guitar), a sustain pedal and pushrod (part of a Rogers Hi-hat stand), and a simplified front panel with only volume and bass EQ controls.
Internally, the "Fender Rhodes Mark I Stage Piano" was nearly identical to the "Suitcase model".
Press your hand to these keys for the first time and you'll hear it, the smooth electric ring with a touch of grit and lots of soul.
It's hard not to sound good on a keyboard this classic, but the best players can muscle out a powerful growl.
You probably know the sound.
"The Fender Rhodes Organ" is not an electronic instrument or a synthesizer, it works mechanically like a regular piano.
Rather than hammering strings, each key on the "The Fender Rhodes Organ" strikes a thin metal rod, called a tine, that is cut to length and amplified through a pickup.
A few knobs on the faceplate can alter the tone or vibrato, but modification of the raw sound is barely needed.
Plug this baby in a Fender 1965 Twin Reverb Amplifier and you're good to go.
It was invented by "Harold Rhodes" as a bedside piano for wounded GIs, and manufactured by the Fender company as early as 1959, but portable (though damn heavy) stage models produced in the late 60s would drive its popularity and acceptance by artists from Jazz, Rock, Soul, or any genre.
Being one of the most important piano innovations of our time, the Rhodes is still dearly loved and highly collected today.
As "Ray Charles" would say during "Harold Rhodes"' lifetime achievement Grammy Award presentation:"The Rhodes was a musical atom bomb, changing the face of the music landscape forever".