Inventor Of Fender Rhodes Piano Dies

Harold Burroughs Rhodes, whose instrument was used by the Doors and Stevie Wonder, was 89.

Harold Burroughs Rhodes, creator of the Fender Rhodes piano immortalized in music from the Doors to D'Angelo, died December 17 in Los Angeles, the New York Times reports. He was 89.

Rhodes, who also developed a widely used piano teaching method as a teen, began building compact pianos during World War II and founded the Rhodes Piano Corporation in 1946, according to the Times.

His most famous invention, the Fender Rhodes (guitar company Fender bought Rhodes' company in 1959), used a keyboard to strike small metal tines that were amplified like a guitar and could be altered with vibrato or wah-wah effects.

The Doors' Ray Manzarek embraced the instrument early on, particularly on "Riders on the Storm" (RealAudio excerpt). Other rock, jazz and funk musicians have since recorded with a Fender Rhodes, including Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Steely Dan and Erykah Badu.

"Nothing could play rain like a Rhodes piano," said Manzarek, who no longer owns a Rhodes piano and had to borrow one from a collector to play on a recent VH1 "Storytellers" episode.

Manzarek said Rhodes' innovations were essential to the Doors. "If Mr. Rhodes hadn't created the keyboard bass, the Doors would never have existed," he explained. "It was our bass player, played by me on my left hand. And it was full, fat and awesome."

Rhodes suffered a stroke in 1996, though rumors surfaced a year later that a new Rhodes electric piano would soon be available. "It is [still] our intention to manufacture a piano," Harold Rhodes Jr. told the Times.

The Rhodes brand name was acquired in 1965 by CBS, which bought Fender, and has had several owners since. The Rhodes family recently reacquired rights to the name.