If you’ve heard Bob Dylan’s Lay Lady Lay, George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass, or Peter Frampton’s well… anything at all… then you may know Pete Drake and Alvino Rey.
Lets take it back to the beginning. It all started back in 1908, just after the great San Francisco earthquake pushed most of the bay area population across the harbor to a burgeoning Oakland, California, when Alvin McBurney was born. McBurney, later known as Alvino Rey, was a radio and music enthusiast who invented a handful of electric guitar amplifiers before being hired by the Gibson Guitar Corporation the 1930s (makers of Les Paul’s famous designs) to develop a prototype pickup for what would become the first commercially viable electric guitar, the ES-150. In 1939, Rey outfitted his wife (Luise King) with a military throat microphone hooked to his guitar and, hiding her behind a curtain, created the initial version of the Vocoder, aka: the talk box.
It wasn’t until the early 1950’s that Pete Drake bought himself a slide guitar outfitted with a talk box. Predominantly a back-up musician, in 1964, Drake released Forever, his first major album which would go on to sell over a million copies. Now famous, Drake played slide guitar for everyone, including Dylan and Harrison. It was at Harrison’s All Things Must Pass sessions at Abbey Road Studio that a 19 year-old Peter Frampton first heard Drake play slide guitar with the talk box. Four years later Frampton received a talk box as a Christmas gift and within two years had released Frampton Comes Alive!, selling over 6 million copies, one of the most successful live albums in history.
Drake’s Forever therefore is not only original and historically pertinant, but critically influential to some of the most well-known and pivotal musicians in America. This is an album that, while outdated, should be weighed along with the larger musical paradigm that developed in its shadow.