Del Casher (originally Delton Kacher. Born 1938 in Hammond, Indiana) is an American guitarist and inventor. His many creations include the Wah-wah pedal, which significantly influenced the development of rock and roll guitar style. He also devised the Ecco-Fonic, and later the solid state Fender Electronic Echo Chamber. He was the first to introduce the Roland Guitar Synthesizer for the Roland Corporation.
Life and career
Del is an alumnus of the University of Pittsburgh where he majored in communications. After college, he moved to Hollywood and was invited to perform as the guitar and banjo soloist on the Lawrence Welk TV show. At that time, he also toured with "The Three Suns", RCA recording artists who were well known for their hit song "Twilight Time".
While on tour for their album "The Three Suns in Japan", he introduced his new invention, the "Ecco-Fonic", a tape echo device that was portable and could create echo effects that were previously possible only in the studio using large, expensive tape machines. At that time he became friends with Ikutaro Kakehashi, who was the founder of the Roland Music Corporation of Japan. Later, Mr. Kakehashi, as chairman of Roland, invited Del to Japan to perform and introduce the first Roland guitar synthesizer. He signed on with Japan Victor and Japan's Union Records as a featured artist on more than 16 hit albums.
At that time, he was a much sought-after studio guitarist in Hollywood. Paramount Pictures chose him to appear with Elvis Presley in his movie "Roustabout". Elvis liked Del’s guitar playing so much he invited him to join his friends for future engagements. Del then received a contract to appear on Gene Autry’s Melody Ranch TV show. During this part of his career, he played with a diverse assortment of musicians, ranging from Eddy Arnold, Connie Francis, and Bobby Vinton to Sonny and Cher and Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention.
Inventing the Wah-Wah pedal
In the mid-1960s Thomas Organ Company acquired the Vox amplifier name from Jennings Musical Instruments of the UK. Del was a guitarist and consultant for Vox and often performed with the Vox Amplifonic Big Band in California. The solid state engineering staff at Thomas Organ (headed by Stan Cutler) assigned Brad Plunkett to convert the UK Vox amplifier into the new US Vox solid state amplifier. To save costs, Vox decided to have the Dick Denney Mid-Range Boost Switch [clarification needed] redesigned into a variable tone control. As Del worked on the project, he discovered that when he moved the tone control from left to right on the amplifier, it created a "wah" sound similar to a harmonica player cupping his hands around the microphone and harmonica. This was the new sound that Del had been looking for. It enabled him to express a better bluesy feeling on the electric guitar
Del immediately asked the engineering team to have a breadboard with that circuit installed into a Vox organ volume pedal. This enabled him to play his guitar while moving the pedal. However, with the rich harmonics of the guitar, the sound was too harsh in the "bright" position and too muddy in the "mellow" position. With a little experimenting, Del and the Vox engineering staff were able to create a sound similar to a trumpet "wah" mute.
Vox saw no use for a "wah" sound for the guitar, believing it would be better for the electric trumpet. In 1967, after some negotiating, Vox agreed to have Del compose and release a record using the new Wah-wah pedal.
Film and TV performances with the pedal
Soon after, Universal Pictures hired him to be the featured artist on three movies using his prototype Wah-wah pedal: "The Ghost and Mr. Chicken", "The Shakiest Gun in the West" and "The Travelling Saleslady." MGM followed suit, hiring Del to play on the Tony Curtis film "Don't Make Waves". In the meantime, Vox was unsuccessful in its efforts to promote the pedal for use on the electric trumpet.
His playing is also featured on the theme for "NBC Nightly News" and is the longest running TV news theme.
In 1972, he was hired as Music Director for the children’s TV show "The New Zoo Revue". He produced over 200 shows as well as over 200 children’s music, educational and dance albums for Activity Records of New York. His music is heard in public schools that utilize Hap Palmer's educational materials.
He has composed a classical work in three movements: "Americana Suite for Orchestra". He is also the producer of the Japanese anime TV series, in English, "Love Hina", "Tenchi Muyo", and "Sakura Wars".
He recently played a series of small gigs in London and the south of England. He was backed by The "Delstars" of London and members of "The Lotus Pedals".
- "An Oral History of the Wah-Wah Pedal" in Wax Poetics magazine. Vol.42, July/August 2010
- "Del's Bio". delcasher.com. Retrieved 16 November 2010.
- "Notable Personalities Born, Raised, or Became Famous in Lake, Porter Counties Indiana and Surrounding Illinois Communities.". lakenetnwi.net. Archived from the original on 4 October 2011. Retrieved 16 November 2010.