Watch Lucille Ball demo a 1939 ancestor of the "talk box" famously used by Peter Frampton

In this 1939 newsreel, the great Lucille Ball demonstrates the Sonovox, a device that brings amplified sound effects from vinyl records into the throat where the tongue and lips modulate it. Here's the patent for the Sonovox, invented by Gilbert Wright and used in TV advertisements, the movie Dumbo (1941) for Casey Junior the train's voice, and the "days of the week" radio jingle that was included on The Who Sell Out (1967).

Of course the Sonovox begat the "talk box" that routes an amplified instrument's sound from a small speaker into the musician's mouth via a rubber tube so they can shape the tone as if they're speaking. In the rock arena, Peter Frampton made the talk box famous on the track "Do You Feel Like We Do" (1973).

More on all this in my post last year featuring Pete Drake's beautiful pedal steel "talk box" tune "Forever" from 1963, long before Peter Frampton showed us the way.

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Pete Drake's beautiful pedal steel "talk box" tune from 1963, long before Peter Frampton showed us the way

In the early 1960s, pedal steel guitar virtuoso Pete Drake (1932-1988) played his instrument through a talk box to record a fresh cover of the song "Forever." A talk box essentially routes an amplified instrument's sound from a small speaker into the musician's mouth via a rubber tube so they can shape the tone as if they're speaking. (Of course in the rock arena, Peter Frampton made the talk box famous a decade later on tracks like "Do You Feel Like We Do.")

Interestingly, the talk box concept dates at least as far back as the late 1930s when Alvino Rey used a microphone on his throat to modulate the sound from his electric guitar. Rey called his approach the "singing guitar" and almost certainly inspired Drake's "talking steel guitar."

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