Peter Frampton’s famous talk box is back in a big way, found everywhere from his new FCA! 35 Tour release to that funny commercial for Geico auto insurance. But where did he first hear this unusual device?
Frampton, speaking to radio station BIG 100.3, says the sound goes back to his childhood — though his initial experience with the modern talk box didn’t happen until the turn of the 1970s.
“I first heard it on the radio when I was growing up in England,” Frampton says. “The station would use that sort of Sonovox sound. I think the American stations used it, as well. It sounded like you were gurgling (laughs), electronically.”
He’d finally get to examine how the similar-sounding talk box worked when he was asked to play as a sideman on a signature Beatles solo effort — some six years before the guitarist would shoot to world-wide fame behind the six million copy-selling Frampton Comes Alive in 1976.
“I was doing a session for George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass album in Abbey Road studios, after I’d left Humble Pie,” Frampton tells BIG 100.3, “and Pete Drake — the pedal steel player — was there from Nashville, and he had a talk box. His pedal steel starting singing to me, out of his mouth — and that was it. That was the gotcha moment for me.”
Now, there was just one problem for Frampton.
“Then I just had to find one,” he says. “He made that one himself. “Bob Heil, of Heil Sound — who makes great microphones these days — made one for Joe Walsh. Then Joe Walsh did ‘Rocky Mountain Way,’ and I did ‘Show Me the Way!’” (Laughs.)
FCA! 35 Tour: An Evening With Peter Frampton, the new 2-DVD/Blu-ray concert set including “Show Me The Way,” is out now via Eagle Rock Entertainment.