I finally got hold of a Wurlitzer electric piano. It is the classic 200A model that is by far the most current variation. I have played countless Wurlitzers over the years in studios and on stage, but never actually had my own. The Nord Stage does a very good Wurlitzer imitation, which I have relied on for years, especially live, but now the time had come for me to get my hands on the original quirky beast, with all it’s analog noise and unpredictable behavior. It is a nightmare to tune. It picks up interference of all sorts. Maintenance is super complicated. But it has a warmth and a depth to the sound that makes it worth all the trouble.
If you don’t know what a Wurlitzer is, it is definitely not because you have never heard one! It is one of the must used electric piano sounds, and it has appeared on a huge number of classic songs. Yet somehow it has managed to not go out of fashion (unlike it’s cousin, the Fender Rhodes, which has had much higher ups and downs as far as trendiness goes).
Here are some songs that feature the Wurlitzer. On many other songs you can hear it somewhere in the back, but I tried to pick some where the Wurlitzer is really up front and part of what identifies the song. To give you an idea of how much this sound is part of modern music, some of these examples even steal off each other… On John Lennon’s tune “How Do You Sleep at Night” from the Imagine album, Phil Spector deliberately went with the Wurlitzer to get the vibe from B. B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone”, and there is no way that Amy Winehouse and Mark Ronson couldn’t have had Ray Charles’ “What I’d Say” Wurlitzer riff in mind when they arranged her tune “Rehab”. “What I’d Say” from 1959 is by the way one of the first uses of the Wurlitzer electric piano, which seriously helped popularize it.