I have been a fan of the Roland brand since I began putting various machines together to make music. I have always wanted a Professional Roland Music Workstation. Producers that I have had the wonderful experience of working with have one in their studio. It is the one item I have on my tree (visual wish list) that I will be so proud to own. At the present time I’m an underground starving artist/student and can’t afford the $2000 to purchase one. When the opportunity to study an inventor, technical innovation or Electronic Music Artist/DJ, Roland stuck out like a sore thumb.
I chose to find some information on Roland inventor Ikutaro Kakehashi, who is the founder of the Roland Corporation. Prior to founding Roland, Ikutaro started Acetone, an organ company. He left and started Roland in 1972. In 2013 he received a Technical Grammy Award for the invention of Midi. He shared the award with Dave Smith. Eventually in 2013 Kakehashi retired from Roland. Kakehasi also received an Honorary Degree from the Berklee College of Music in 1991 for his contribution electronic instruments.
Kakehashi studied Mechanical Engineering, and also worked as schoolboy worker for the Hitachi shipyards. It was while working there that he saw a lot of destruction during the last months of war. The Hitachi shipyards are where Japan built the suicide submarines. He also lost his parents at the age of two to tuberculosis. Eventually he would also be having tuberculosis in both lungs at the age of twenty. All of the money he saved for his education would be used to treat his tuberculosis. He spent years in the hospital supporting him by repairing watches and radios for staff, and patients. He would assemble his own transmission receiver while being in the hospital as well. Kakehashi condition was becoming terminally ill. Luckily he was selected as a test patient for a new drug Streptomycin that would eventually save his life. After a year on the medication he was able to leave the hospital.
After leaving the hospital he opened an electrical goods and repair shop named Kakehashi Musen (‘Kakehashi Radio’). The business was successful for six years. He would eventually change the name to Ace Electrical Company. In 1955 he branched out and started developing products for the music market. He built a four-octave organ from parts of reed organ, transistor oscillators, and bits of telephones. However the prototype never went into production. In 1960 he founded Ace Electronic Industries and designed the Technics SX601, an organ. This would excel Ace into a manufacturer of musical equipment. They would later add on guitar amplifiers in 1963.
In 1968 he joint ventured with Hammond International to become Hammond International Japan, and this would be the source of organs from Ace Tone. With this venture the Piper Organ that Kakehashi was involved in developing would become the most successful products produced by Hammond. In 1972 he would leave the company after becoming a minority shareholder. This was accidental and Kakehashi was tired after 18 years so he resigned.
A month after leaving he established Roland Corporation. The name was chosen because he wanted something two syllables with soft consonants. Hammond was interested in shareholding in the business but Kakehashi chose to do it on his own. Roland would start out in a rented shed, with seven staff members from Ace Electronics, and $100,000. There was no customers or product. With Yamaha and Kawai dominating the music market in Japan it was hard for Roland to compete. This lead Kakehashi to the US and European markets.
The first product Roland released was the TR77, a rhythm box. You could merge rhythms, and had two and four beat patterns. It also had a fade out feature, and independent volume sliders. Hammond would go on use this product and rename it the Hammond Rhythm Unit. In its first year the turnover for Roland was $300,000. Kakehashi marketed his products in Japan, North America, and Europe.
Nicole UNECC Williams