Any talk box fans out there?
Whew. Didn’t think so. I mean, doesn’t everybody hate those godforsaken things? Wasn’t it all downhill after “Tell Me Something Good?”
But did you know that the “talking guitar” has a rather exalted history four decades pre-Frampton Comes Alive? Check out this performance by Alvino Rey, the steel guitar genius who pioneered the technique.
I am TOTALLY going to have nightmares about Stringy for the next 10 years!
Rey worked his magic in tandem with his vocalist wife. She supposedly stood behind a curtain with a mic attached to her throat, the output of which modulated the guitar signal. (That’s what online sources say, though it sounds a bit fishy to me.) A similar technique — or perhaps the same one — was known as the Solovox. In this case, a small loudspeaker attached to the singer’s throat, “playing” the music through the vocalist’s mouth. More amazing/horrifying evidence:
That’s the basic principle behind the rock-era talk boxes, though they rely on a plastic tube inserted into the mouth rather than a mic pressed to the neck. The first commercially available model was Kustom’s The Bag from 1969, “immortalized” on Steppenwolf Live. The Heil Talk Box — the version of the effect most of us know and loath — debuted in 1973. Dunlop is still making them.
But I have a perverse affection for the Rocktron Banshee. It’s incredibly loud. It’s actually a small amp, quite capable of driving a speaker cab, with a blunt-force distortion tone. That extra power is useful for my preferred way of using a Talk Box:
How about you guys? Anyone have anything good to say about the talk box?