7 February 1930|
|Died||1 April 2017(aged 87)|
|Known for||Founder of Ace Tone, Roland, Boss and ATV|
|Notable work||Electronic musical instruments, MIDI, amplifiers, effects units|
Ikutaro Kakehashi (? Kakehashi Ikutar?, 7 February 1930 - 1 April 2017), also known by the nickname Taro, was a Japanese engineer, inventor and entrepreneur. A pioneer in electronic musical instruments and a Technical Grammy Award winner, he was founder of Japanese companies Ace Tone, Roland Corporation, Boss Corporation and ATV Corporation. He was involved in developing Roland drum machines such as the TR-808 and TR-909, the MIDI standard, TB-303 bass synth, Ace Tone Rhythm Ace drum machines, Roland synthesizers, Microcomposer sequencers, and Boss guitar amplifiers and effects pedals. His electronic equipment were influential, shaping popular music genres such as electronic, dance, hip hop, R&B, rock and pop music.
He founded Ace Tone in 1960, producing electronic organs and drum machines in the 1960s. It evolved into Hammond Organ Japan, which he eventually left, and then founded Roland in 1972. At Roland, he was involved in developing a number of electronic instruments that became widely adopted by the music industry. He also founded Boss, a Roland subsidiary, in 1973. Kakehashi died in April 2017, at the age of 87.
He was born on 7 February 1930 in Osaka, Japan. Both of his parents died to tuberculosis during his early childhood, leaving him to be raised by his grandparents. Much of his childhood was spent studying electrical engineering and working in the Hitachi shipyards of Osaka. During World War II, his home was destroyed by American bombings. Following the war, he failed to get into university on health grounds in 1946, and then moved to the southern island of Kyushu.
In 1947, at 16 years of age, he founded the Kakehashi Clock Store, a wristwatch repair shop on Kyushu Island. He soon began repairing radios as well. He later returned to Osaka to attend university. During a mass food shortage, he contracted tuberculosis and spent several years in a sanitarium, where he became a clinical trial test patient for an experimental medicine antibiotic drug, Streptomycin, which improved his condition. In 1954, Ikutaro Kakehashi started Kakehashi Radio electrical appliance store, while concurrently repairing electronic organs and created new prototype organs throughout the 1950s. At 28, he decided to devote himself to music and pursuit of the ideal electronic musical instrument.
Ikutaro Kakehashi never received any formal musical training. He wanted musical instruments to be accessible for professionals as well as amateurs like himself. He also wanted them to be inexpensive, intuitive, small, and simple. He constructed his first 49-key monophonic organ in 1959, specifically designed to be playable by anyone, with no musical skill necessary. The focus on miniaturization, affordability and simplicity would later become fundamental to product development at Roland.
In 1960, Kakehashi founded Ace Electronic Industries Inc. In 1964, he developed a hand-operated electronic drum, called the R1 Rhythm Ace. It was exhibited at Summer NAMM 1964, however not commercialized.  Kakehashi patented the "Automatic Rhythm Performance Device" drum machine in 1967, a preset rhythm-pattern generator using diode matrix circuit, a drum machine where a "plurality of inverting circuits and/or clipper circuits are connected to a counting circuit to synthesize the output signal of the counting circuit" and the "synthesized output signal becomes a desired rhythm."
Ace Tone commercialized his preset rhythm machine, called the FR-1 Rhythm Ace, in 1967. It offered 16 preset patterns, and four buttons to manually play each instrument sound (cymbal, claves, cowbell and bass drum). The rhythm patterns could also be cascaded together by pushing multiple rhythm buttons simultaneously, and the possible combination of rhythm patterns were more than a hundred (on the later models of Rhythm Ace, the individual volumes of each instrument could be adjusted with the small knobs or faders). In 1968 a joint venture was established with Hammond USA, The FR-1 was adopted by the Hammond Organ Company for incorporation within their latest organ models. In the US, the units were also marketed under the Multivox brand by Peter Sorkin Music Company, and in the UK, marketed under the Bentley Rhythm Ace brand. The unique artificial sounds characteristics of the FR-1 were similar to the later Roland rhythm machines, and featured on electropop music from the late 1970s onwards.
In 1972, Kakehashi founded the Roland Corporation. Over the following two decades, Roland released several instruments that have had a lasting influence on popular music, including the TR-808 and TR-909 drum machines and the TB-303 bass synthesizer. The 808 was used on more hit records than any other drum machine and became a cornerstone of the emerging electronic and hip hop genres.
In the early 1980s, there was no standardized means of synchronizing electronic instruments manufactured by different companies, which Kakehashi felt was limiting the growth of the industry. He proposed the idea of developing a standard to Oberheim Electronics founder Tom Oberheim, who discussed it with Sequential Circuits president Dave Smith. In October 1981, Kakehashi, Oberheim and Smith discussed the idea with representatives from Yamaha, Korg and Kawai. In 1983, Kakehashi and Smith unveiled MIDI, which became the industry standard.
In 1994, Kakehashi founded the Roland Foundation and became Chairman. In 1995 he was appointed chairman of Roland Corporation. In 2001 he resigned from the position and was appointed as Special Executive Adviser of Roland Corporation. Kakehashi retired from Roland in 2013.
In 2014, Kakehashi founded the ATV Corporation. Together with Paulo Caius, former CEO of Roland Iberia, Founder and CEO of Roland Systems Group EMEA, Makoto Muroi, a prestigious research engineer for music and audiovisuals, also former President of the Roland Systems Group Japan, Mark Tsuruta, former CEO of Roland Audio Development USA and Glenn Dodson, previous CEO of Roland Australia.
In 1991, Kakehashi was awarded an honorary doctorate from Berklee College of Music for his contribution to the development and popularization of electronic instruments. The Bentley-branded Rhythm Ace inspired the 1997 Birmingham band Bentley Rhythm Ace when a model was found at a car boot sale.
In 2000, Kekahashi left his handprints at Hollywood's RockWalk in Hollywood. In 2002, Kakehashi published an autobiography, I Believe In Music, and was featured as a biography in the book The Art of Digital Music. As of 2002, Kakehashi was awarded about 50 patents, since the 1960s. In 2005, he was awarded the title of professor emeritus of the Central Music College of China and the University of Glamorgan.
In 2013, Kakeashi received a Technical Grammy Award, shared with Dave Smith of Sequential Circuits, for the invention of MIDI. The 2015 documentary film 808 documented the impact that his Roland TR-808 drum machine had on popular music and popular culture, describing it as the "rock guitar of hip hop". In 2017, Electronic Musician magazine listed thirty of his instruments and innovations that have influenced popular music over the course of fifty years.
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