“I can never thank him enough”: Peter Frampton pays tribute to late Talk Box pioneer Bob Heil

Heil died last week following a year-long battle with cancer.

[L-R] Peter Frampton and Bob Heil

Credit: Getty Images

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Peter Frampton has paid tribute to Bob Heil, pioneer of the Talk Box who died last week aged 83.

The Talk Box is a device which allows the player to modulate the sound of their instrument using their voice via a plastic tube. Classic instances of its use include the intro of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ On A Prayer, Joe Walsh’s Rocky Mountain Way, and much of Peter Frampton’s music, including Do You Feel Like We Do and Show Me The Way.

While the origins of the Talk Box can be traced as far back as 1939 – when amateur radio operator Alvino Rey used a carbon throat microphone to modulate his electric guitar sound – the first high-powered Talk Box was developed by Bob Heil for Joe Walsh in 1973.

Heil Sound was founded by Bob Heil in 1966, 7 years earlier, and focused largely on live sound systems at the time. Per MusicRadar, Heil’s big break came when Jerry Garcia reached out to see if he would provide a PA system for the Grateful Dead’s show at the Fox Theater in St. Louis in 1970.

Following the success of the show, Heil was invited to tour with the Grateful Dead, and later provided live sound for Peter Frampton, The Who, Joe Walsh and Jeff Beck.

15 years after creating his Talk Box, in 1988, Heil sold the rights to the Talk Box to Dunlop Manufacturing, inc., which still manufactures the unit to this day.

“I am so sorry to hear of the loss of my friend for so many years, Bob Heil,” Frampton writes on Twitter (now X). A musician, inventor, ham radio expert – he gave me a very important present mid-’70s. The Heil Talk Box! [I] can never thank Bob enough. Rest in power, my friend.”

Heil’s cause of death was revealed to be cancer by Heil Sound, which confirmed the news of his passing on Facebook.

“Bob fought a valiant, year-long battle with cancer, and passed peacefully surrounded by his family. Driven by a lifelong passion for sound, Bob’s pioneering work revolutionised how concertgoers experienced live sound.”

Today we say goodbye to our beloved founder, Dr. Bob Heil. Bob fought a valiant, year-long battle with cancer, and…

Posted by Heil Sound on Friday, March 1, 2024

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