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Ten Musicians Who Became Inventors

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Boston Guitarist Had More Than a Feeling His Invention Would Be a Success


John Prine once wrote a song called “The Frying Pan”, which was a humorous look at infidelity. Its name alluded to the old maxim about jumping from a fire into the title subject, even though it could very well be an appropriate tune to play in honor of a musical instrument so familiar to Prine and millions of others.

This year marks the 90th birthday of the first electrified guitar, known as the Frying Pan. It was an aluminum lap steel guitar, developed in 1931 by George Beauchamp of the National Guitar Company.

In the nine decades since then, countless musicians have made names for themselves using different forms of the instrument. Among them are Michael Nesmith of the Monkees, whose mother was an inventor in her own right.

She of course patented what has become an essential product for offices and schools, commonly known as Liquid Paper. Her son would go on to become an inventor himself, for it was Nesmith who helped create short videos that would a few years later lead to the birth of Music Television or MTV.

Several other musicians have also become inventors of sorts, usually devices that improve upon the tools of their trades. Here are ten of those artists, accompanied by a brief description of their creations.

1. Tom Scholz

While a member of Boston Scholz invented The Rockman which is, according to fellow rocker Ben Folds, “a little box that looked like a Sony Walkman which allowed you to play professional-ish guitar sounds through headphones or a stereo.”

2. Jason McGerr

Death Cab For Cutie's drummer invented the Expansion Pack for Propellerhead Software's Reason 4.

3. Michael Jackson:

By clipping the heels of his shoesinto metal pegs that held them firmly to the ground so he could lean, Jackson in 1993 patented the revolutionary piece of stagecraft known as Gravity Boots.

4. Graham Nash

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A dedicated painter since his folk-rock heyday, Nash invented the Art Printer in an effort to ease the reproduction of his works.

5. Prince

His favorite color inspired the name of his Purpleaxxe, which because of its combination of two rock instruments is more commonly called the “Keytar.”

6. Neil Young

Disappointed with the inferior sounds of digitized music, the folk-rock legend created Pono, a music player focusing on high-quality uncompressed digital audio.

7. Jimmy Hotz

Hotz Box is computer software which helps manipulate 3D imagery in real-time with audio, invented by this guitarist mainly associated with Fleetwood Mac.

8. Bob Heil

Before his High-Powered Talk Box Heil got his start in music as the house organist at Fox Theater in St. Louis, while tinkering with various ways to tune and voice the pipes. He helped Joe Walsh modify the box to an electric guitar, recording the most recognized tracks with the device until Peter Frampton in 1975 used it on the multiplatinum Frampton Comes Alive.

9 .John Deacon

Queen's bassist, an electronic engineer by training, invented the “Deacy Amp” to create the sounds reminiscent of various orchestral instruments so characteristic of his group's sound.

10. Stewart Copleland

Splash cymbals had never appeared in rock until The Police drummer created an innovation, using heavier pieces to help distinguish the sound of his popular band.

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