1972 Fender Rhodes Piano Bass

A bass player in a box

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I spotted it on eBay: A 1972 Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, a very cool silver Sparkletop one in pretty much mint condition. The seller was located close enough to my house that I could pick it up, and I wouldn’t have to worry about it being destroyed in shipping.

Bought it for a reasonable price (considering that it’s a “collectable”).  It also included a rare, original pedestal stand that I sold for enough to make the net cost of the piano bass a real bargain.

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Now, I guess I’m a true Doors geek:  Vox Continental, Rhodes Piano Bass and Gibson G101.

It’s a great-sounding instrument.  When I got it, the action felt heavy, typical of many early-1970s Rhodes pianos.  I improved it greatly by cleaning it, lubing the felts and pins,  and re-setting the escapement. I also replaced its original aged and hardened tonebar grommets and screws, which improves its sustain and permits more precise voicing by keeping everything better aligned.

Many people add a plastic bump to the key pedestals of the early ’70s Rhodes models to lighten the action, but my experience has been that this is not always necessary on a properly adjusted and lubed instrument.  It certainly was not necessary on this piano bass, which has the so-called “Marcel Curve,” a very slight concave shape to the top of the key pedestal, which tends to lighten the action somewhat.

This model has the slightly rounded, skirted key caps (with plastic on the side of the key) of the era.  Some people don’t like the feel of them, but I don’t find them to be a problem at all. Also, these keycaps are still snow white, unlike some later Rhodes model where either the front or the top of the keys tended to get yellow with age.

The Piano Bass is now perched on top of my  Vox Continental, in true Ray Manzarek style:P1000218

Truth be told, Ray primarily played a ’60s-vintage gold Sparkletop Piano Bass.  Obviously, that’s all that was available in the heyday of The Doors. But from a player’s standpoint, these ’70s models play and sound better, in my opinion.  Parts are easier to come by, too.  This is the model Ray should have played.

 

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3 thoughts on “1972 Fender Rhodes Piano Bass

  1. I own a Motif ES-8…play and record a bit. Bought a ’72 Fender Rhodes Piano Bass, a little rough. Harp cover is almost pristine. Far left key has a burn mark and doesn’t play (coincidence). Case needs to be re-covered. Knobs and raised logos are all good. I live in Canada. I was at the right auction at the right time to acquire this instrument. I want to sell it. Any idea on what I should ask for it? By the way, yours looks incredible! If I had a left hand (LOL), I might consider keeping this piece of history…thanx in advance…Bill

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    1. It seems like prices have dropped on these recently. I see silvertops of that vintage that have sold on eBay for $800-$1,000 U.S. (Subtract a couple hundred $$ if yours is a blacktop.) A few years ago, they were often selling for 50% more. Some of the low prices may be related to the time of year: Christmas bills leave people low on cash. If you can wait until spring (U.S. tax refund time) you might be able to get more than $1,000. Good luck!

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    2. EBay might be the way to go selling-wise. I just bought one I found on Craigslist. Granted, it had a Frankenstein top, but it is in great playing condition. I bought it for $500CAD, and completely dragged my feet and bought it over a month after the original posting. I am very broke and typically very careful with money, but the price was way too good to pass up. I haven’t seen one sell for much less than $1000US on eBay in the past three months (as long as I’ve been looking).

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