I’ve had my 88 key Rhodes suitcase model for many years. I don’t even know where I originally purchased it. Maybe the Trading Musician? But I didn’t pay much. However, over the years I’ve had a lot of restorative work done on it. And the restoration and tuning holds a lot of meaning for me.
Let me back up. A while back I went on a major purge of gear. I kept everything that I thought was essential or at least highly enjoyable and pleasing. I have a thing for fixing up old instruments—in the past I’ve owned as many as 5 Fender Rhodes at one time, not to mention 2 Hammond B3s, 3 Leslie speakers, lots of synths, guitars, etc. I’m done with that game, but I do like having a few nice instruments that I use.
That’s kind of where this Rhodes teeters: between something I use less and less but enjoy as a physical object—and something that I think might just be taking up space in my house.
The first major overhaul on this Rhodes was performed by a locally-famous piano tuner named Bill Nye (not to be confused with Bill Nye the Science Guy). He was meticulous beyond measure and went to the trouble of counterbalancing every one of the 88 keys with keyleads so they were properly balanced and weighted. Nobody ever does this to a Rhodes. This impressive feat was performed out of love—because Bill hated the Rhodes as a “crude” instrument but loved me and my brother. So, we struck a deal and traded him 1,100 bottles of Diet Peach Snapple to counterbalance, regulate and generally overhaul the guts of this Rhodes. Why? Because that summer Bill drank 2 or 3 Diet Peach Snapples a day—OCD. We didn’t have much money, but Greg (my bro) was working on a Snapple campaign handing out free samples of Snapple around Seattle. Which means that “free” Snapple samples paid for a big part of my Rhodes overhaul.
A few years later I met who I consider to be one of the premier Rhodes technicians in the world today, David Ell. David was kind enough to refinish the tolex and regulate my 88-key Rhodes in Kennewick, WA. He gave me a hell of a deal as we were both kind of kick-starting each other’s music careers. He was helping repair and enhance all my Fender Rhodes for tour and studio use while I spread the word about Dave’s incredible Rhodes technician prowess. Honestly, this guy is a bit of a genius as it relates to understanding the physics and repair of the Rhodes mechanism.
And here I am today seriously considering selling off this Rhodes with all my memories attached. From Snapple to Kennewick and back—rooming with my brother in Wallingford and dragging my crazy gear around to find crazy people to work on it for next to nothing. But loving all the bartering and comraderie involved.
I think it’s time to let go of the Rhodes, but I had to type through it.
P.S. RIP Bill Nye (death by spider bite of all things). I truly hope you enjoyed the Diet Peach Snapple. Your workmanship lives on in this Rhodes.