RMI Electra-piano - electric pianos keyboards

Ron Mael and his RMI Electra-piano
Ron Mael and his RMI Electra-piano - 1975
The RMI model piano on this pic is the 368X
When he played with Halfnelson in the early '70s, Ron Mael was behind a Farfisa organ. During the '80s, he played a JP-8 Roland Synthesizer (Ron flipped the letters on the instrument which became a “Ronald”) but during Sparks' Island years, it was the Ron's RMI Electra-piano which gave this unique percussive power that drove Sparks' songs on.

Ron Mael played the RMI Electra-piano on Sparks' "Kimono My House" and "Propaganda" albums. The piano intro of “This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both of Us” is characteristic of the RMI Electrapiano sound. - read more...
The keyboardist mainly used two RMI models : The 368 one, which was introduced in 1972, its unit was covered in black vinyl and it was in production until 1974. Then Ron used the 368X model. This model was identical to the 368 with the exception that the unit was manufactured in a hard shell plastic case. Two colors were available, black or brown (black for Ron).

During the '70s the Electra-piano was very popular with many progressive-rock bands. It was featured prominently on numerous Yes' albums, Rick Wakeman's songs, and Genesis' tunes (keyboardist Tony Banks). Other famous players include John Lennon on "Imagine" (in the left speaker you'll hear the mellow tone of the RMI), Stevie Wonder, Leon Russell... Ray Manzarek of The Doors was seen with a RMI Electra-piano in the promo video for "Hello I Love You".

The RMI Electra-piano & Harpsichord was known to act as an onstage substitute for a grand piano, but it didn't actually sound like one (or even an electric piano !). It had it's own distinctive sound, much dryer and brighter, that separated it from other electric pianos like the Fender Rhodes or the Wurlitzer. The RMI Electra-piano had a pleasant sound nonetheless sounding somewhere between a harpsichord and a guitar.
This instrument also featured other sounds - harpsichord, organ, lute and other variations - but, like the main piano sound, these were also unrealistic and rarely used being rather thin and weedy. The sound of the RMI was generated by transistors, like an electronic organ, instead of a hammer hitting a reed or tine. With an electronic tone-generator for each note, un-weighted plastic keys, which were not touch-sensitive, and a set of "stops" for sound selection, the RMI Electra-piano more closely resembled an organ than anything else. Both sustain and volume pedals were included with the unit. Most were black tolex-covered consoles with 61 (later 68) keys, and rested on a set of metal legs.

RMI Electra-piano 368 X with hard shell case
RMI Electric piano 368X model
RMI Electra piano 368 model 1972

Rocky Mount Instruments was a subsidiary of the US manufacturer Allen Organ Company. It was based in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The electric piano models are by far the most recognized instruments of the RMI line. The first models were introduced in the fall of 1967, and the last models ended production in 1980. In 1970, RMI began producing the 300 Series, from which the Model 368 and 368x would be considered the archetype. In 1973, RMI came out with the 400 and 600 series, which were essentially variations on the 300 design. The company ceased to exist by 1983. Countless models had been produced by RMI since its first model in 1967 but RMI Electra-pianos are rather rare these days...

Sparks became a British band
go back to the main page
SPARKS 1969-1973
the early years of the Maels

Informations regarding Rock Mountain Instruments
were obtained from those sites:
www.synthmuseum.com - www.hollowsun.com

Additional infos from Peter Greenwitch and Rock Mountain Instrument files

©2006 by XAVIER LORENTE-DARRACQ / GRAPHIK DESIGNS - FRANCE duplication strictly prohibited