When I bought my first Rhodes – a Fifty Four – in my junior year of high school, I had only a vague awareness of the history behind the instrument. I didn’t know I’d found one of the last few models produced toward the end of an extraordinary period of growth and popularity. For over a decade, Rhodes pianos were ubiquitous on recordings of almost all forms of popular music but were eventually supplanted by much lighter and more portable digital keyboards.
After many years of regular use and many more of storage, my Fifty Four had become unplayable. So last year, when I finally dusted it off, I set about bringing it back to working condition. Tinkering under its hood turned out to be quite fun and after it was back in shape, I remembered how much more fun it is to play.
For my restoration projects, I’ve decided to stick to Stage model pianos – those without a matching amplifier cabinet. I don’t have much interest in working on the electronics of the Suitcase models. In general, my goal is to restore the pianos to their original condition so that they look like they just came from the factory.
I also perform restorations or repairs on customers’ Stage or Suitcase pianos as well as service on components such as pickups or key tops. Local amplifier repairman and former Rhodes technician Paul Schmittauer has agreed to perform service on any Suitcase amplifiers that may come to my shop.