Dave Pike, jazz musician who pioneered the amplified vibraphone, dies at 77

Jazz musician Dave Pike

Jazz musician Dave Pike plays the vibraphone in 1998

(Robert Lachman/The LA Times)

Dave Pike, a bebop-style jazz musician who pioneered the amplified vibraphone, died Saturday in Del Mar. He was 77.

A smoker since his teens, Pike had emphysema, said his wife, Brooke Eisenberg-Pike.

Influenced by the sounds of Milt Jackson and Lionel Hampton, Pike began playing drums when he was 8 and later taught himself the vibraphone. He added an amplifier to the instrument in 1960 and spent the next four years touring with Herbie Mann.

He then moved to Europe, where his band, the Dave Pike Set, gained popularity in Germany and Belgium. He returned to the United States in the early 1970s and talked the owner of Hungry Joe’s, a tiny Huntington Beach hangout for bikers and surfers, to let him play there. With pianist Tom Ranier, guitarist Ron Eschete and bassist Luther Hughes, Pike and his group became regulars and turned the establishment into a lively jazz club.




Oct. 9, 10:59 a.m.: An earlier version of this obituary referred to pianist Tom Rainier. His name is Tom Ranier.



Noted jazz historian Leonard Feather wrote in 1973 that Pike played the amplified vibraphone with “ingenuity, dynamism and improvisational energy,” extracting from it “a resonance on top of resonance, to which at certain points he adds a grating but sometimes attractive fuzz tone.”

Pike made more than two dozen recordings during his career, including “Times Out of Mind,” “Carnaval” and “Jazz for the Jet Set.” He stopped touring in 2010 when his illness worsened, his wife said.

Born in Detroit on March 23, 1938, Pike moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was 15 and within a year was playing professionally. Among the musicians he performed with in the early years of his career were Curtis Counce, Elmo Hope, Dexter Gordon and Paul Bley.

Besides his wife, Brooke, whom he married in 2004, he is survived by a son from a previous marriage, Jesse, and three grandchildren.

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