Up for sale, a 1969 Fender Rhodes Mk I Suitcase 73 in exceptional condition and in perfect working order. A transitional model in every respect, and an exceedingly rare variant bridging the Mk I and Sparkle Top eras of Fender Rhodes production, this piano features the harp and action assembly of the earlier Sparkle Top pianos, with one of the very first Peterson stereo preamps, a hallmark of the Mk I pianos.
The Sparkle Top Rhodes pianos are sought after for their sweet, bell-like tone via untapered Raymac tines, square tonebars, and felt teardrop hammers. A classic sound that can be heard on pioneering Rhodes recordings by Miles Davis and Billy Preston (perhaps most notably with the Beatles on "Let it Be"), the Sparkle Top Rhodes sound is unmatched in its uniqueness and rich tonal character. Made in extremely small numbers compared to later Rhodes models, the Sparkle Tops very rarely come up for sale and this particular piano is an exquisite example. Of course cosmetically this piano has one of the very first curved black plastic harp covers as opposed to the sparkle fiberglass tops seen pre-1969.
A best-of-both-worlds piano, this prototypical Mk I pairs the Sparkle Top-style harp and action assembly with a Peterson preamp. Unlike the Jordan preamp and corresponding power amp which came with the Sparkle Tops and was a 50 watt mono design, the Peterson system represented a significant upgrade with its stereo functionality and 80 watt power handling. Hands-down the most celebrated Rhodes preamp, the Peterson design pairs beautifully with the Raymac tines yielding extra headroom, with active EQ controls that can further sculpt the tone beyond what's possible on Stage model pianos. The tremolo operates in Stereo, bouncing between the right and left halves of the 4x12 speaker cabinet.
Within the Sparkle Top family, there are both "A" and "B" versions of this piano, this one being a "B" version with 4" red wire pickups, dual harp supports, and a foldable sustain pedal. Unlike the one harp support seen on the earliest Sparkle Tops, the two support design has greater consistency between the two extremities of the harp, assuring that the tines and hammers are properly lined up across all registers. This particular Rhodes harp retains its gold foil serialized badge in the lower right corner, with a factory stamp from the 33rd week of 1969.
The piano action is smooth and responsive, and the original key bushings are in great shape. The original damper felts are intact and still do their job well, showing only minimal wear. The stock teardrop hammers are also present and deliver a warm, creamy sound that is distinct from the later neoprene tips on the Mk I pianos. The piano has also been professionally tuned and voiced, making this an ideal choice for a studio or serious gigging musician. The namerail retains a nigh flawless aluminum faceplate for the preamp complete with stacked knobs, and the original small "Fender Rhodes" badge also intact. The "Seventy Three" badge is brand new, furnished by Vintage Vibe, and the corner of the black plastic harp cover adjacent to this badge had cracked in the past and has been cleanly repaired.
Inside the speaker cabinet, the piano boasts the Peterson power supply and pair of stereo circuit boards, mounted in a different orientation than most due to the early nature of this piano. The power supply has been thoroughly serviced and recapped as needed by our in-house techs here at Mike & Mike's Guitar Bar, ensuring a reliable signal with a low noise floor and peak performance. The speaker complement includes the original quad of Utah-made 12" drivers with blue foil Fender labels and clean date stamps on the edges of the frames from the 50th week of 1967. Also notable, while the majority of Mk Is have ceramic magnet speakers, these speakers feature heavy duty alnico magnets, perfect for the chiming character and rich polyphony that this Fender Rhodes delivers.
Cosmetically, this is a very well-kept, original, and studio-worthy piano. The original smooth black tolex is intact on both the piano and speaker cabinet, with the original silver sparkle grillcloth with turquoise thread retained on both sides of the cabinet as well. The large Fender Rhodes badge on the cab is fully intact and quite rare, as the badge has the raised text typically only seen on the Sparkle Top era pianos. The red felt inside the piano's latching lid has been replaced, and all original hardware is present including the latches, handles, corners, sphinx glides, and suitcase "legs."