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English translation of the article
The Rhodes Electric Piano:
Against All Odds

from the Swedish magazine MM
published September 1996
© 1996 - 2004 Frederik Adlers
Mölnlycke, Sweden

Memorial to Harold


Joe Zawinul

George Duke


Classic Effects

Audio Archives

Timeline: The Long and Winding Road

The years are either definite, approximate or guessed. My sources were books, magazines, experts, service manuals, PR material, price lists, pianists and fanatics, records and discographies. Sometimes the dates differ, one year more or less, from source to source. Therefore I've tried to pinpoint the most likely, after some extra research. (OK, I have guessed too!) My own memories and experiences go back to 1972-73. I hope the list will clear the historic fog a little bit and my aim has been to capture the most accurate facts possible.

1910  Harold Rhodes is born.
1930  The Harold Rhodes School of Popular Piano: The Rhodes Method.
1931  Rickenbacker's first electric guitar.
1932  Ben Meissner applies for several important electric patents.
1935  Gibson's first electric guitar. Hammond Model A (tone-wheel principle).
1940  Earl Hines Storytone Electric Piano Tour, certainly electric but weight: 1.5 TONS!!!
1942  USA enters WWII. Mr. Rhodes shuts down his business and is drafted. Eventually ('43 or '44) he constructs the first Air Corps Piano (2.5 oct).
1945  Harold Rhodes is awarded the Medal of Honor for achievements during the war.
1946  The Pre-Piano (3.5 oct) is displayed at NAMM
1948  Pre-Piano discontinued. Wurlitzer gets curious. Fender Broadcaster.
1950  Fender Telecaster (two years earlier launched as Broadcaster, then Nocaster due to a name conflict). Milt Buckner invents the block-chord style of jazz piano.
1951  Fender Precision Bass.
1952  Gibson Les Paul.
1953  Horace Silver records "Opus De Funk".
1954  Fender Stratocaster. Wurlitzer Model 100. Ray Charles' first hit "I've Got A Woman".
1956  Sun Ra's "Angels And Demons At Play": the first recording with electric piano (Wurlitzer).
1959  Fender Rhodes Piano Bass. Hohner Cembalet. Ray Charles' "What'd I Say" the first hit record with electric piano (Wurlitzer). Austrian accordion prodigy Joe Zawinul comes to USA.
1960  Fender Jazz Bass.
1962  Hohner Pianet.
1963  Strange 63/64 Fender Products Catalogue with four different Fender Rhodes models in orange tolex. Mellotron (England).
1964  Hohner Clavinet.
1965  Jan. 4th: CBS buys Fender for $13 million. Fender Rhodes Electric Piano is born.
1967  Fender Rhodes Celeste (3 oct). Doors debut album. Atlantic signs Aretha Franklin (she writes and arranges all her music on a Suitcase). The Cannonball Adderley Quintet live verision of "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" by Joe Zawinul becomes a huge instrumental hit. Herbie Hancock first encounters an electric piano (Wurlitzer) on a Miles Davis session on December 28th "Water On The Pond". RMI releases the Rock-Si-Chord and this year is the absolute peak in organ sales worldwide, ever!
1968  The catalogue offers a 4-octave Piano Bass as a special order. Herbie Hancock records "Stuff" with Miles Davis, his first recording on the Rhodes. Miles Davis experiments with several pianists (simultaneously, too) and releases Miles In The Sky and Filles De Kilimanjaro. "I Heard It Thru The Grapevine" with Marvin Gaye and a characteristic electric piano intro soars in the charts. Hohner Clavinet C. Walter Carlos' Moog record Switched On Bach sells a million.
1969  The Stereo Tremolo, 2 x 50W power amp, silver-flake top and chrome panel are the features in the '69 Fender catalogue. In A Silent Way and Bitches Brew by Miles Davis and his band totally dominate jazz sales and polls and include Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea and Joe Zawinul on Rhodes. Among the Moog pioneers are Sun Ra, Paul Bley and Dick Hyman! Wurlitzer releases Model 200.
1970  Fender Rhodes Mark I is introduced offering 4 models: Stage Piano 73 or 88, Suitcase 73 or 88 . Torrington tines replace the old Raymac's. The first Minimoog is shown and ARP delivers the 2500 and 2600.
1971  Neoprene tips (replaces felt hammers). The "E" model Rhodes. The supergroup Weather Report is born. Hohner Clavinet D6. The Beatles Let It Be (Billy Preston).
1972  Steel twisted bars (replaces "fat" iron bars). Stevie Wonder's Talking Book.
1973  Satellite Speaker package (two 100W cabinets with the stereo preamp). Chick Corea's Light As A Feather features a Stage 73 through a Twin Reverb. Herbie Hancock is heard on his classic Headhunters album, plus the great 4-song Rhodes demonstration floppy record in Down Beat.
1974  The Fender name is dropped (nine years too late!).
1975  Leo Fender is back with "Music Man".
1976  ARP Avatar, the first guitar synthesizer. Weather Report's greatest hit "Birdland". The all-plastic hammers and a new pedestal are parts of a quite severe update internally.
1977  New panel with sliders and black speaker cloth creates a new Rhodes look. The "Disco Debate" in jazz magazine Down Beat, about sellouts and electric instruments, is heated and the electric piano gets its own category in the polls. Yamaha CP-70 Electric Grand and Hohner Duo (Clavinet + Pianet).
1979  Mark II with the flat top is introduced. Dyno-My-Piano. Sequential Prophet V. The first porta-studio. ARP Chroma.
1980  Rhodes 54, Mark III (EK-10) and Janus I 2 x 50W optional cabinets.
1981  CBS buys ARP (therefore Rhodes Chroma). Miles Davis' comeback with his own Suitcase on stage.
1982  The "Domestic" Suitcase 88. Yamaha DX7. MIDI is introduced.
1983  CBS sells the Rhodes division to Bill Schultz. Joe Zawinul gets a Chroma.
1984  Mark V: totally new housing, same construction. Three are made with MIDI.
1987  Roland takes over. Harold Rhodes to Tokyo.
1989  Rhodes MK-60 and MK-80. Harold is shocked and pleads innocent.
1991  Harold records a new video version of the Rhodes Method.
1993  The Chick Corea "Paint The World" tour (with his MIDI Mark V).
1994  Harold Rhodes writes to Roland. On July 27th the reply is: Sorry, not commercially interesting to make electric piano.
1995  The Rhodes Piano is elected into Hall of Fame of Keyboard Magazine, and is from now on immortal.
1996  The never-ending story: Harold Rhodes declares that now he's gonna show us what a real good electric piano sounds and looks like. Unfortunately, later this year he suffers a stroke.
2000  Harold dies on Dec. 17 in Los Angeles.