Revered music industry technician Bob Heil, best known for inventing the Talk Box effect unit, has died at the age of 83.

According to the Belleville News-Democrat, Heil passed away after a cancer battle in Belleville, IL., leaving a legacy that included the advancement of live concert sound systems, pipe organ tuning and maintenance, ham radio and running a music store.

Peter Frampton – whose use of the Heil Talk Box on 1976 release Frampton Comes Alive! made the device’s reputation – said: “I am so sorry to hear of the loss of my friend for so many years, Bob Heil. A musician, inventor… Heil Sound and microphones.”

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Describing the Talk Box as “a very important present” which he’d received for Christmas in 1974, Frampton added: “Can never thank Bob enough. Rest in power my friend.”

Joe Walsh – for whom the Talk Box was developed in 1973 – recalled Heil’s motto, “So waddya got that doesn’t work?” and commented: “[A] tireless problem solver, a mentor to me and guide on my guitar journey, Bob was our wizard in the Midwest. He was also my friend for more than 50 years.

“’So waddya got that doesn’t work?’ Well, I don’t think my phone is working because you’re not picking up. RIP, man. I love you and miss you already. Sending love to… the world of audioheads you leave behind.”

The News-Democrat reported that Heil came to the rescue of the Grateful Dead in 1970 when they needed a sound system for a show in St. Louis. The band were so impressed with Heil’s powerful rig that they invited him to tour with them.

The following year he provided a similar service to the Who, then Walsh and Jeff Beck, and became a trusted advisor to many in the music business.

Hear Bob Heil’s Talk Box on ‘Frampton Comes Alive!’

“I started in 1955 as the pipe organist at the Fox Theater in St. Louis,” he said in a 2008 interview. “I was fortunate to learn how to voice and tune that pipe organ as a teenager. That's where I learned to listen – listening is a real art.”

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He said ham radio was his first love, and that a microphone he developed for the hobby was so good that fellow aficianado Walsh used it on stage, which had given its builder a new business line.

Another initiative that made Heil proud was his modular approach to building mixing desks. He explained: “[W]hat if you’re a group out in the field and channel six dies? What are you going to do? ‘I’ve got to send the board back.’

“Just unplug channel six and send it to me. You’re still working. You’re down one channel but you're not down ten channels. Pretty ingenious for 1971.”

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Gallery Credit: Loudwire Staff

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