Army AirCorps Piano 1942 (by Freddan Adlers)

The first instrument that Harold Rhodes ever created.
During World War II, undergoing a Army Air Forces Flight Instructor Training Course, Harold gave piano lessons to fellow soliders and one of the hospital surgeons on the base asked him if he also could do something to rehabilitate wounded soliders. He soon realized that there was a need for an instrument that also could be played in bed. After finding tubes of aluminium in the wings of wrecks from bomber B-17 that sounded good, Harold assembled a 2 1/2 octave acoustic intrument " The Xylette" and wrote the Air Corps Manual No. 29, so everyone interested could build their own.

Used at all the Air Force hospitals, his method became very popular and widely used. Some sources say that over 150.000 soliders learned how to play the piano thus. After the war Harold was awarded the Medal of Honor for the War Department's highest civilian honor, a Commemoration of Exceptional Civilian Service, for "the development of a patient participation musical therapy program." He filed for U.S. patent No. 2469667 in June of 1945.




The Rhodes Pre-Piano 1946-48

by Freddan Adlers

After WWII Harold was hot stuff at the musicfairs. Everyone was into electrifying instruments and the new markets this opened up. The Rhodes Pre-Piano, was launched at NAMM 1946. This is Harolds first "electric" instrument, with built-in tube amp and speakers. Made for a class-room situation it has a stand which is a combined bench and a 38-note range keyboard. After a few years of frustrating problems with the quality of manufacturing Harold discontinued the Pre-Piano idea and shut his company down and got into farming instead.

The sound producing idea is said to have been copied in the Wurlitzer electric pianos that came out ten years later, and the patent that went with it was filed by Ben Meissner. He was the same guy who completely dissed Harolds later patent for the "tuning-fork"-idea that all Rhodes pianos are using.

The FenderRhodes Piano Bass 1959-75

by Freddan Adlers

The Fender Rhodes Piano Bass came out as the product of Harold Rhodes and Leo Fender doing a joint venture in the late fifties. The 32-note keyboard is the lowest two and a half octaves of a full 73-note Rhodes. The Piano Bass was designed since Leo Fender didn't like the sound of the upper octaves of the piano that Harold wanted to manufacture. The hand-made prototype "X-38" is first shown at a fair in Las Vegas in 1960, but the first time the PianoBass shows up in the Fender program isn't until the 1962-63 catalogue.

"Musicians have found that by adding the Piano Bass to their instrumental group they have achieved the complete and finished sound that is important to every musical organization." Hmmmm....!

This was the only model Mr.Fender allowed Harold to produce, even though there's a whole "family" of FenderRhodes models in the 1963-64 Fender catalogue, and Harold already had protoytypes for an 88-note instrument. The PianoBass was meant to be placed on top of another keyboard to be played with your left hand. A stand was also provided, as can be seen in the next picture. Ray Manzarek of the Doors made this instrument famous.



The FenderRhodes Celeste 1966-68

by Freddan Adlers

The Fender Rhodes Celeste is the most obscure model of all the different Rhodes's there is. It could be seen in the early 1963-64 Fender catalogue ( 37-key verision ), but was not officially launched until 1968. It was produced for a short period and there seems to be a few different types of Celestes with different range and also even a "Suitcase"-49-key verision.

Basically it could probably be argued that the idea to put out a mini-model without the low and high octaves resurfaced when Rhodes took the idea up again with the Rhodes 54 model in 1980. In the pic to the right, ( Fender catalogue 1966-67 ) the Celeste is the 37-note model on the floor.



The FenderRhodes Electric Piano Instruction System Models 1967-69

by Freddan Adlers

The Fender Rhodes Electric Piano Instruction Systems probably was Harold Rhodes' dearest project in the -60's. He custom-built whole classroom systems with one Instructor unit connected to a number of Student units. I've even seen pictures of mobile labs installed in a bus! Apart from the Pre-Piano systems in 1946-48, the first systems, to my knowledge, were built in 1967 and had the Gold-top design. Later in the fall of 1968, the Berklee College of Music in Boston ordered a complete classroom with 28 Student pianos and an Instructors console.
Another complete system was ordered for 1969.

At present there are no definite number of how many of these systems that were installed in schools or how many there are left. The system was built so that the teacher could monitor each pupil separately, send a backing track to selected students and to connect two or more so they could play together. Later -70's Rhodes home and restaurant models had similar features like a microphone input, headphones output and a built-in metronome.

Thanks to Kaz Iwase at Urban Music in Tokyo for use of picture. Picture courtesy of Kaz Iwase.


The FenderRhodes Electric Piano

by Freddan Adlers

The first released full size Rhodes electric piano. Harold Rhodes had already built one in the middle fifties, but when the cooperation with Leo Fender began, Harold wasn't allowed to build anything else than the PianoBass. This pic is from the 1964 Fender catalogue and shortly thereafter in January 1965, CBS bought the Fender company. When Don Randall and Goddard Lieberson, who handled the deal, found out that Harold wanted to go along with CBS and put the pianos out under the Fender name, they gave him go ahead. The piano consists of two parts. One is the actual piano and the other is a cabinet that also serves as a stand and includes the sustain mechanism, the power amp and four speakers.

This model is the one heard on all the famous early and groundbreaking fusion-albums from Miles Davis, Cannonball Adderley, Bill Evans, Ray Charles that shaped all music to come thereafter and made the Rhodes explode in popularity during the -70's. The piano had Ray-Mac tines and felt-hammers just like all the other models before 1970. A preamp mounted on the namerail with volume, bass, treble and tremolo-controls ( called "Vibrato" because of Leo Fender ) was constantly updated and developed as well as the amplification system and the hammers & tines construction.




The FenderRhodes Electric Piano MkI

by Freddan Adlers

In 1970 the need for a smaller, lighter and less expensive model triggered the Stage model as well as Harolds wish to produce a big model triggered the 88-note verision ( Wich he had already built way back in 1964 ). The timing of releasing the MkI Stage 73/88 and the Suitcase 73/88 program must have been divinely inspired. The sales figures soared and Rhodes pianos was heard in 70-80% of songs in music charts of all categories and styles.

Now also starts an intense and constant mission to continuosly work with every part and function in the pianos, to make them better and better. First of all a new tine ( Torrington ) and tone-bar is introduced (1970), then the felt-hammers are replaced by Neoprene hammer tips ( 1971 ).

In 1974 the desicion is taken to drop the Fender-name from the brand and call it just Rhodes. Neither this nor the switch to the MkII's in 1979 are linked to any special sound or change in construction, wich many believes. All changes made during the -70's ( and there were MANY ! ) were developed and incorporated as they came, as for instance the "modified key pedestal" that 1976 successfully ended the problems with the too heavy action of many pianos from the first half of the -70's.




The Rhodes MkII Electric Piano

by Freddan Adlers

Originally in 1979 when the MkII Stage & Suitcase, 73 / 88 models replaced the MkI's, the only difference from the predecessors was in the exterior design. A flat top made it more practical to stack other keyboards on top of the piano.

The Stage 54 comes out in 1980 as well as some attempts to sell home-models, but we're talking polyphonic synthesizer-time here! From here on and up to the MkV in 1984, it was downhill for electric pianos in general and Rhodes in particular. One severe blow naturally was Midi and the Yamaha DX7 in 1983. A big part of the DX7's success was paradoxically it's great Rhodes-patch, used on thousands of recordings in the following years. An incredible sign of how contemporary music is built upon a sound palette where a Rhodes-type sound is a must!



The Rhodes Electric Piano MkIII EK-10

by Freddan Adlers

A parenthesis and an odd product was the Mark III EK-10. An ordinary Stage MkII with a built-in synthesizer to resonate with the pianosound, a bit like when you hook up two synths via midi. The sound of the synthesizer in these pianos sounded flat and funny, and there were not that many parameters to work with. As well as being the strangest Rhodes piano model, it's main contribution to Rhodes history is the great story about when the EK-10 was to be introduced in Japan:

"Apparently when several thousand units were shipped to Japan, it was quickly discovered that the EK-10's synthesizer component interfered with PAL-format TV in a very bad way: during a national broadcast demonstrating the new piano, it caused televisions to explode!!! Apparently all of the Japanese EK-10's were dumped in the ocean afterward, creating an "artificial reef" " ( John McLaren of MajorKey)



Rhodes Electric Piano MkV 1984

by Freddan Adlers

The MkV was released in 1984 and here we see the fruit of all the ideas and discoveries made by techs at the Rhodes-lab. Harold himself had been constantly trying to improve his instruments, and had found a soul-buddy in Steve Woodyard. Harolds way of singning-off was by letting Steve "do his thing" and use all possible knowledge and experiment with a radically altered instrument. The MkV is mainly an instrument that has been made much smaller and lighter in all aspects as well as it's more modern design. The mayor improvment technically, however is that Mr.Woodyard managed to increase the hammer stroke length. This gives the MkV a much more dynamic response and after redoing the damper mechanism, it turned into a great instrument wich is a pleasure to play.