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Anne Beetem Acker

Sound-effects device that utilizes the player’s mouth as a resonator, allowing the player to form an electric guitar’s or other electronic instrument’s sounds into words and phrases. Output from a phenolic diaphragm speaker is sent through surgical tubing to the player’s mouth, where the sound is modified and picked up by a microphone.

The guitarist Alvino Rey initiated the technology in 1939. In 1950 the Nashville steel guitarist Pete Drake used a small low-powered loudspeaker and funnel coupled to a hose, but it only could be used in the recording studio. The rock guitarist Joe Walsh recorded his hit song ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ with Drake’s system, spurring the need for an onstage version. Bud Ross, owner of Kustom Electronics, introduced a portable 30-watt driver, but the low-powered diaphragm could not hold up to stage use. Walsh then asked Bob Heil (b St Louis, MO, 5 Oct 1940) to build a high-powered version for live performance. The resulting Heil Talk Box was introduced in ...