Goodbye to Bob Heil, the inventor of the Talk Box.  He was 83 years old

Goodbye to Bob Heil, the inventor of the Talk Box. He was 83 years old

Bob Heilthe sound engineer and inventor of Talk Boxa device brought “to success” by Peter Framptonpassed away at the age of 83.

According to the Belleville News-Democrat, Heil died after a battle with cancer in Belleville, Illinois, leaving behind an important technical legacy, including the development of sound systems for live concerts, the tuning and maintenance of pipe organs and many other audio technical solutions. He was an avid amateur radio operator and also known as a music shop manager.

His best-known “creature”, the Talk Box, created in 1969, is a device that modifies the sound of an instrument, in particular guitar and keyboards, through the use of the mouth.

This is how Wikipedia describes it:

The talk box is a pedal effect and inside it houses a speaker to which a plastic tube is connected, the end of which is positioned near the instrumentalist's mouth, connected to a microphone. When the effect is activated, the sound is directed through the tube to the player's mouth, changing the shape and position of the tongue. The operating principle is completely similar to that with which the voice coming from the vocal cords is modulated to form speech, with the difference that, in the case of the talk box, the starting sound is that of the musical instrument. The result of the process is collected by the microphone and passed to an amplifier, thus obtaining the talking guitar effect.

Peter Frampton makes use of the Heil Talk Box for the first time in 1976 on the live album “Frampton Comes Alive!”making the world discover the device. The guitarist said: “I am so sorry to hear of the loss of my friend of so many years, Bob Heil. A musician, an inventor of Heil Sound and microphones.”

Describing the Talk Box as “a very important gift” he had received for Christmas in 1974, Frampton added: “I can never thank Bob enough.”

Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh, for which the Talk Box was developed in 1973, recalled Heil's motto: “So, what doesn't work?” and commented: “I hear Bob Heil's voice in my mind. An extraordinary musician (especially with a pipe organ), a mad scientist, a radio enthusiast, a tireless problem solver, a mentor to me and guide on my guitar journey, Bob was our wizard in the Midwest. He was also my friend for more than 50 years. So-he added “what's wrong?” Well, I don't think my phone works because you don't answer… RIP, man. I love you and I miss you already.”

The News-Democrat reported that Heil helped the Grateful Dead in 1970 when they needed a sound system for a show in St. Louis. The band was so impressed with Heil's powerful system that they invited him to tour with them.

The following year it provided a similar service to the Whothen to Walsh And Jeff Beck and became a trusted advisor to many in the music world.

“I started in 1955 as a pipe organist at the Fox Theater in St. Louis,” he said in a 2008 interview. “I was lucky enough to learn how to voice and tune that pipe organ as a teenager. That's where I started listening: listening is a true art.”

He said that ham radio was his first love and that a microphone he developed for his hobby was so good that fellow enthusiast Walsh used it on stage, giving its builder a new line of business.

Another initiative that made Heil proud was his modular approach to building mixing desks. He explained: “What happens if you are “in the field” and channel six dies? What are you going to do? “Do you have to send the desk back?” With his solution mode it was easy: “Just unplug channel six and send it to me. You can still work. You're down one channel but you're not down ten channels. Pretty nifty for 1971,” he said.