Last Friday I loaded my 1974 88-key Fender Rhodes electric piano into the van on a road trip to Richland, WA for a complete tune-up and restoration with the Rhodes Scholar himself, David Ell. To borrow a phrase from him, this is intended to be my “forever Rhodes” and I want to do it up right. My roll top cover is scratched up something fierce. The rubber hammer points need some work and this 88 has been hauled around a lot, so there are some harp adjustments to be made. The speakercab is in particularly rough shape. It needs new tolex, grill cloth, external hardware and general attention to detail that is beyond my pay grade. To top it off, a fully intact “EightyEight” nameplate (mine, like so many others, reads “EightyEigh”).
In 2006 I considered getting rid of this Rhodes. Thankfully I repressed my inner purger and held on to it. It’s already a special Rhodes (the keys have been counterbalanced) and it should sing when David is done with it.
I’ve owned a Nord Stage since they arrived on the scene and love it. I have no desire to haul this 88 to club or studio gigs, but there really is something special about the feel and sound of a real Rhodes. I’ve used a fake Rhodes on the last three or so albums I’ve recorded and I’m not sure that I can tell the difference when it’s buried in a mix. Well, maybe I can, but played by itself there are all sorts of personality traits that are lost in translation. I can’t wait to place my fully restored forever Rhodes in the basement studio.
Here’s the 88 (on the right) next to a couple other Rhodes that David is currently restoring.