A Quick History of The Talk Box Guitar Peddle
You know that particular 'singing guitar' sound you hear listening to Peter Frampton, Joe Walsh and the James Gang, Richie Sambora's Bon Jovi tracks, etc? Like the guitar is singing to you? It's all possible by a little piece of gear called a Talk Box. It works like a guitar amplifier, but on a smaller scale. Instead of pushing sound out through speakers, it sends sound through a tube, into your mouth, and your mouth becomes the amplifier. You mouth words while you play, and your guitar is your voice. Not super technical, but not to be discounted.
There's a guy named Bob Heil. Bob owns a huge audio company. If you're a musician, you've probably either seen or even used his gear in your lifetime. Bob is credited with the invention of the Talk Box even though it was invented the year before he was born. How is that possible? Well, it's complicated...
So the year is 1939. There's a savvy 'Wizard of Oz' type musician and ham radio operator named Alvino Rey out in Utah. Even though the method was different, he was the first to develop this 'singing guitar' sound. Instead of placing a tube in your mouth where the sound was funneled, he reversed how a microphone worked and put that against the throat to create it. Neat? Yeah. But as he had his wife stand behind a curtain to mouth the words as he played his guitar, tricking everyone in the audience thinking it's just some sort of magic, that's why he's gets the 'Wizard of Oz' label.
(Side bar... while Alvino may have gotten a rotten reputation for his parlor tricks, without him, Gibson might not have become the rock-n-roll legends they are. Hell, without Alvino Rey, there might not even be the mighty Les Paul. So credits due.)
There's another similar invention that came out that same year from Sonovox that produced a similar sound, but it was adopted by advertising agencies and radio jingle producers. The first, and only notable musicians to really put a Sonovox to use was The Who in the late 60's. It was a piece of gear that went nowhere, but still had to get a mention.
Skip to 1964. Pete Drake breaks out the tube and sets the 60's 'country' scene on fire, even though he was moaning the blues like nobodies business! Literally, he was the guy that put a tube on this tech and created that signature sound you've heard throughout the last five decades of rock. Not to discount was Bob Heil was able to build in a brand... Bob did create a powered version of this tech, which made it possible to really round out the sound you know today, but it was a modification to what Pete Drake modified from Alvino Rey... Savvy?
While that may be an abriated version of the full story, it is the story. If you're actually still reading this, kudos. I hope you get a nugget of trivia out of this mildly interesting tale.
In case you haven't gotten that nugget, here's another... Les Paul may be the famous Gibson guitar, but they didn't create it. The Epiphone brand people consider "junk" did, as Les Paul was an Epiphone man. Granted, their kit was American made back then, and Gibson is who shipped them overseas due to competition... But I decree, if you ever hear anybody call an Epiphone Les Paul as a 'Fake Les Paul,' drop that knowledge bomb on em.