Home / Home / Who Made Who: The Talk Box in Rock Music

Who Made Who: The Talk Box in Rock Music

In 1939, Alvino Rey, novice radio operator W6UK, utilized a carbon throat microphone wired in such a way to modulate his electric steel guitar sound. The mic, originally created for military pilot communications, was placed on the throat of Rey’s wife Luise King (one of the King Sisters), who stood behind a curtain and mouthed the phrases, combined with the guitar notes. The technique was known as the “Singing Guitar”, and used on stage as well as in the film Jam Session, as a “novelty” attraction, but wasn’t developed any further.
Rey also created a relatively similar “talking”  sound effect by manipulating the tone controls of his Fender guitar, however the vocal effect was less pronounced.

Another early voice effect using a same theory  filter was the Sonovox, invented by Gilbert Wright in 1939.  The Sonovox was marketed and promoted by the Wright-Sonovox company, an affiliate of the Free & Peters advertising agency. The Sonovox was used in many radio stations produced by JAM Creative Productions and the PAMS advertising agency of Dallas, Texas.  The first use in music was a score by Ernst Toch in the Paramount Picture “The Ghost Breakers”, in June 1940. The Sonovox also appeared in the 1940 film You’ll Find Out starring Kay Kyser and his orchestra, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff, and Peter Lorre. Lugosi uses the Sonovox to portray the voice of a dead person during a séance. British rock band The Who included a piece on their 1967 album, The Who Sell Out.  This recording was in fact a radio jingle by created by PAMS.

Kustom Electronics Talk Box (The Bag)

The Kustom Electronics Talk Box, referred to as “The Bag”, was the very first world marketplace device and came in a decorative bag.  It utilized a 30-watt driver and was released to the music industry in 1969, two years prior to Bob Heil’s Talk Box grew to become accessible. The Bag is claimed  to have been developed by Doug Forbes, who states that exactly the exact same concept speaker connected to a plastic tube and inserted into the mouth had  been patented as an artificial larynx.

John Kay of Steppenwolf  used the Talk Box  at studio recordings and performances starting in 1969 on  the album Steppenwolf  Live recorded in January 1970. The talk box can obviously be heard on the music tracks “From Here To There Eventually”, “Hey Lawdy Mama” and “Twisted”.

The band Iron Butterfly used a talk box in the song track “Butterfly Bleu” from the album Metamorphosis in 1970. Alvin Lee did the same for the Ten Years After song “I Say Yeah” from the album Watt in 1970. Young-Holt Unlimited featured a talk box on their song “Wah-Wah Man”, also released in 1970, on the album Born Again.  Jeff Beck used the talk box on “She’s A Woman” from his 1975 release Blow by Blow, and was seen using it for the song “Five Faces of the Guitar” in 1974.

 

DUNLOP HEIL TALK BOX
Photo By kevin (Flickr: DUNLOP_HEIL_TALK_BOX) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Heil High Powered Talk Box

The very first high-powered  Talk Box was created by Bob Heil. He designed it so it could be used for live concert performances. His first Heil  Talk Box was constructed for Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm tour. Heil and Walsh’s guitar tech “Krinkle”  combined a 250-watt JBL driver and appropriate hi-pass filter which was used for Walsh’s  single “Rocky Mountain Way”. Walsh gives credit to Bill West, an electrical engineer and a  Nashville steel guitarist.

Pete Townshend, stated  in his 2012 autobiography Who I am, claimed to have invented a version during The Who’s tour in 1976. In 1988, Heil  sold the manufacturing legal rights to Dunlop  Manufacturing, Inc., which currently builds the Heil  Talk Box to the exact requirements that Heil  developed in 1973.

Peter Frampton says he first got news of the talk box in 1970 while sitting in on sessions for George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass. Frampton said that the sound it produced reminded him of an audio effect he loved listening to on Radio Luxembourg in the late 1960s. Frampton acquired one as a Christmas gift from Bob Heil in 1974. It was a hand-built Talk Box in a fiberglass box using a 100-watt high-powered driver. It was used for the Frampton Comes Alive tour and album.  With the success of his two albums Frampton and Frampton Comes Alive, the hit singles “Do You Feel Like We Do” and “Show Me the Way”, Frampton has become relatively known with the talk box. Peter Frampton also sells his own line of custom-designed “Framptone” products, including a talk box.

In 1972 Todd Rundgren used a Talk Box on the album Something/Anything on the instrumental track, “Breathless”.  In 1975, Nazareth lead singer Dan McCafferty used a talk box in the popular single “Hair of the Dog”. Also in 1975, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry used a talk box in the band’s highly popular singles “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way”, both on the album Toys in the Attic. Steeley Dan used it in a solo section of “East St. Louis Toodle-Oo”, on Steely Dan’s 1974 album Pretzel Logic. Ronnie Montrose used a talk box on the track from his 1976 album “Jump On It”.  David Gilmour of Pink Floyd used the talk box on “Pigs (Three Different Ones)” on their 1977 Animals album, and on “Keep Talking” from 1994’s The Division Bell.

Matthias Jabs, lead guitarist for Scorpions, has used the talk box in many of their songs, most notably the 1980 song “The Zoo”. Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora used the Heil Talk box in many of the band’s songs, including  “Livin’ on a Prayer” from Slippery When Wet, “It’s My Life” from Crush. Lead guitarist Slash from Guns N’ Roses used a talk box in “Anything Goes” on their album Appetite for Destruction and for “Dust and Bones” on Use Your Illusion I.  Motley Crue guitarist Mick Mars uses a talk box in “Kickstart My Heart” on the album Dr. Feelgood.

Lead guitar player Brian May from the rock group Queen was asked whether the song “Delilah” was recorded using a talk box on Queen’s 1991 Innuendo record. His reply was, “Yes, I finally succumbed and used one … I suppose there’s no other way to make the cat sounds, meow, meow, meow.”  Rage Against the Machine, Metallica, The Foo Fighter’s, Dream Theatre, Avenged Sevenfold, Alice in Chains,  plus dozens of other music groups use the Heil Talk Box in their song sets.

 

Check Also

Review: Mitchell Guitars HD400 and TD400

Since 1986, Mitchell Guitars has built high-quality acoustic guitars that offer incredible value to beginning …

Ibanez’s New RGA Iron Label RGAIX6FM Guitar: See and Hear It in Action

Ibanez recently released its “made for metal” line of guitars, the RGA Iron Label series. Here’s …

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this:
Skip to toolbar