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Stylophone

To some, the stylophone is music to their ears; to others the most irritating musical instrument to have ever been! And we all know which school of thought Rolf Harris belonged in - he was, after all, the official ambassador for the toy.

When inventor Brian Jarvis created the first stylophone in 1967 after carrying out a repair jobbie on his neice's piano, he decided that, while the toy itself was interesting enough, a celebrity endorsement would propel it to new highs. And who better than Rolf - the king of UK entertainment at the time? Artistic, on trend and always up for a bit of experimentation - he was the archetypal stylophone fan and that remains true today.

But what exactly was this stylophone we talk of? Basically, it was an electronic organ/keyboard you could fit into a large pocket and take with you to play wherever and whenever you felt the creative urge. Packed with the usual oscillators, diodes and resistors, the stylophone had everything to enable you to play a tune - albeit a rather twangy one - by punching out notes using a small stylus. Luckily, Rolf was on hand to show the youngsters how to get the most from your stylophone - not only did his bearded face grace the product's box, but he also produced a flexidisk of instructions as well as played his own on his TV programme (David Frost was having none of it).

Over four million stylophones have been sold over the decades, in various guises. The usual was a black and silver finish, but fake wood veneers were also involved at one point, and a dual stylophone fell into hands of dedicated stylophoners in the form of the 350s.

The Noughties have seen a resurgence in the stylophone's popularity, as a new generation put their faith in the instrument to kick off their music recording careers. It's doubtful that many musicians attribute their success to early experiments on the instrument, but Pulp's Jarvis Cocker and David Bowie are self-confessed fans, and that's good enough for us!

Ben Jarvis obviously thought so too, when in 2003 he decided to resurrect his father brian's business and breathe new life into what had become a dusty relic of the 70s. He even convinced Rolf Harris to pick up the stylus for a burst of electronic wonderment with a full orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall in London!


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Message boards

Stylophone Last post by bakermuk
18 December 2009

Do You Remember Stylophone?

Do You Remember Stylophone?

  • Anonymous user
    on
    still have mine in its box shame about RH face on it though,
  • Anonymous user
    on
    I loved my stylophone!! brilliant fun to play. Still have the record with Rolf Harris on it with all the things you could do on it!plug it into an amplifer.. wow what a sound that was!!
  • professorEagleOwl
    on
    I loved this thing, i guess it was my first musical instrument. It was used to death over it's first Christmas, then, it practically became a christmas 'thing'. Excellent fun though.
  • Anonymous user
    on
    I remember The Stylophone being used in David Bowies "Space Oddity" and still to this day i can play Silent Night thanks to uncle Rolf......F G F G............
  • Anonymous user
    on
    Was it ever used as a serious musical instrument ( as opposed to a toy ) and , Kevin, what tune did 47978754 actually give us ?
  • Anonymous user
    on
    I have Rolf Harris's voice saying 4-7-9-7-8-7-5-4 burned into my memory.
  • Anonymous user
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    i loved it mum did not lol
  • Anonymous user
    on
    Rolf Harris has a lot to answer for ... I could only ever 'play' Jingle Bells (with it being a christmas present) ~Screeches 999 999~ Funnily enough it disappeared before New Year
  • Anonymous user
    on
    The stylophone of course didn't have a volume control. Instead you had to use your hand over the speaker, an oversight that they tried to market as being all part of the "expressive performance". Oh, and I still have my Rolf 7" that came with my stylophone.