Posts tagged vintage
Wurlitzer 700 (Mahogany): Details & Closeups

Is a piano more an instrument or a piece of furniture? If you're reading this blog, you'd probably find the question offensive. Of course a piano is an instrument! But if you just live with a pianist - as a spouse or a parent - you'd might have a different perspective. Specifically, that the piano is neither instrument nor furniture but some big wooden behemoth that takes over the living room and clashes with everything. 

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The Lap Steel Craze and the Gibson BR-9

Before the electric guitar, lap steel was the coolest instrument a kid could play. Introduced to the United States by Hawaiian emigres in wake of the 1898 annexation of Hawaii, the lap steel became hugely popular in the first half of the 20th century. It was on the cutting edge of technology not once, but twice: first, on its invention in the 1880s, and later as one of the first amplified instruments. Played with a high action and a metal slide bar, it allows a musician to unlock all of those interesting microtonal pitches that hide behind the frets of a guitar. Manufacturers instantly capitalized on the craze by releasing lap steels bundled with instructional booklets, sheet music, and eventually amplifiers. 

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The Wurlitzer 112, Explained

The Wurlitzer 112 was released in 1955. Excluding some prototypes, it is the first Wurlitzer electronic piano. 

As the first of it's kind, the 112 has a lot of interesting features that were phased out in later iterations of Wurlitzer keyboards. First, the pedal is mounted to the side, rather than the bottom. By 1956, even the revised Wurlitzer 112A had a bottom-mounted pedal. Surviving original 112 pedals have become extremely rare. 

The 112 also has a unique silhouette: slightly deeper and taller than later Wurlitzers. A vintage keyboard is never going to fade into the wallpaper, but the 112 has a clear presence in a room. Between its size, speckled paint, and midcentury lines, this is definitely a statement piece. 

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The Wurlitzer 700, Explained

When Wurlitzer first released its electronic pianos in the mid-1950s, they were sleek and modern - almost space-age - in design. Curved cabinets, elegantly tapered legs, bold speckled paint jobs: inside and out, these were the pianos of the future, unlike any pianos ever built before. 

And Wurlitzer knew pianos. By 1955, the company had been manufacturing pianos for 75 years: uprights, spinets, compact grands. Wurlitzer did it all: entry-level apartment-friendly pianos, ornate heirloom-quality pianos, chic spinets trimmed in avocado tolex. The unusual design of their first electronic piano - the 112 - was a statement, not a necessity. If Wurlitzer wanted to give it a traditional look, they certainly had the resources to do so. 

Enter the 700. 

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Things You Didn't Know About Wurlitzer #2: Wurlitzer was a major company throughout the 19th and 20th centuries.

It's easy to mistake Wurlitzer as the little-brother rival to the Fender Rhodes. For one, Fender is still around dominating the market, while Wurlitzer faded away in the 1980s. 

In fact, Wurlitzer has a much more storied past than Fender. Wurlitzer was founded nearly a hundred years before Fender, and was a huge retailer of acoustic pianos (among other instruments) back when household electricity was just a mad scientist's fever dream. 

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