Thanks to Vintage Guitar Magazine‘s October 2013 edition for its fascinating history of Vox, makers of musical amplifiers (primarily) but also effects pedals, guitars, organs … and guitar-organs. Peter Stuart Kohman’s article references Dick Denney’s futuristic appearance on Steve Allen’s I’ve Got a Secret 1960s game show – and fortunately, there’s a clip of this fascinating musical demonstration and great TV history moment:
Dick Denney Demonstrates the Vox V251 Guitar Organ 1967
It is particularly intriguing to see Denney – the instrument’s co-designer (who appears around the 6:30 mark) – show off the instrument’s “live looping” feature that allows the musician to sample & repeat a musical riff and then improvise melody lines on top of this looped musical accompaniment — a special capability that would only become accessible to the consumer market 30 years later (i.e., “one-man digital bands”).
This innovative technology – “a hollow metal neck full of hand-wired contacts (each fret had an individual trigger point for each string)” – would prove, however to have still been in its beta stage. According to Kohman, “While it did work (at least in the right hands), in the field it proved unreliable at best.” And thus, the Vox Guitar Organ (1) “was never really a commercial success” (2) an “over-the-top design” and (3) “an infamous part of guitar history.”