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"....the story of Rotosound and the birth of a world leading brand started in the 1950's when company founder James How was playing violin at the time that a film called "The Third Man" was running in cinemas. It was the use of an instrument called a zither in this film which led to James purchasing such an instrument, albeit without a full set of strings.
James was captivated by zither music and set out to learn the instrument. Zithers were hard to find in 1950's Britain and were invariably in poor repair and lacking strings. As a result James ended up with over 250 zithers, utilising just the strings or parts to make complete instruments. He then turned to his qualification as a skilled engineer and set about designing and making his own zither strings. It was not long before he had 250 zithers with strings at a time when the instrument was immensely popular. He sold these and with the proceeds was able to develop new style string making machines which would revolutionise the string making industry. In just three years James How was the first manufacturer in England and perhaps the world to have a semi-automated string winding plant.
In the early years the product was known as "Top Strings". James realised that it was not possible to register such a common word, so "Top Strings" became "Rotop", from which developed "Rotosound".
One development followed another. James saw that the guitar was becoming a very popular instrument, and would of course be a tremendous consumer of strings. Soon, James How strings were being taken by Vox, Burns, Hagstrom, Hoyer, EKO, Guild, Goya, and Watkins in prestigious quantities.
James soon turned his attention to other stringed instruments and before very long was producing strings for the Double Bass, giving birth to the RS90 Supreme set. These strings were being used by at least 60 Orchestras and over 100 prominent soloists and session players all over the world.
In the early 1960's the company's main strengths lay in the product- and the marketing. There were few top bands who were unaware of the product. Rotosound strings were carried around the world on the instruments of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, The Who's John Entwistle, Yes' Chris Squire, Led Zeppelin's John Paul Jones and many others. This effectively "free" advertising in the United States and other countries soon dictated an appetite for the company's products and with remarkably little overseas marketing the exports markets developed over time.
By 1963 many bass players were suffering from a lack of tone and definition using flatwound strings and their sound was lost in the mix of many recordings. This led to many hours of work with top acoustic and electric bassists to find the best material combination available to satisfy the needs of these highly regarded musicians.
Around this time James came up with a combination of Stainless Steel and round wire to produce an extremely high output bass string, the likes of which had never been heard before. This string was christened "Swing Bass RS66" and for many years has set the standard by which all other bass strings are evaluated. To this day, all Rotosound bass strings are handmade in the same way as they were back in the early 1960's- a technique that we're passionate about retaining!
Amongst other famous sets produced are the Black Nylon "Tru Bass" set (as used by Sir Paul McCartney on many Beatles tracks from Revolver through to the Let It Be album).
In the early 1970's other Rotosound string innovations were to follow. Although the idea was in James' mind as early as the mid-sixties it was only in 1974 that the Superwound "Piano String Design" bare core bass string came onto the market (originally under the name "Super Bass", but it wasn't long before it became a brand in it's own right later that year. The first players to exploit the full potential of this design were Stanley Clarke and later on, Mark King of Level 42.The string produces piano-like brilliance, incredible sustain and increased volume that no other bass string could match.
Eventually the RS6006 Spacer set was developed to give the musician a string that resists sweat and thus give a longer playing life. These particular sets last up to three times as long as the standard set. The different colour silks were attributed to Jaco Pastorius for identification purposes- along with the black anodised finish.
Alongside Stanley Clarke, Mark King was also really enthused about the Superwound piano string design where only the centre core made contact with the bridge. For their particular style of playing they both chose the 30-50-70-90 gauges- the Funkmaster set. This set went on to become the funk fusion string of the late 80's.
In 1987 we took our two most popular sets, the RS66LD and the RS66LC and made a hybrid set using three strings from these two sets and making the first 40-60-80-100 set, which we called the Rotosound Swingmaster. This hybrid gauge has become established around the world and sales continue to increase.
With the demise of the rock era came a new breed of young artists writing songs heavily influenced by the 1960's. So Rotosound, with the launch of the all new lion box packaging began the onslaught with such bands as Kula Shaker, Oasis, Cast, Mansun, Dodgy, The Lightning Seeds, The Sixty Foot Dolls, Shed Seven and Supergrass. Other top bassmen include Jonathan Noyce of the unstoppable Jethro Tull, Bruce Foxton, formerly of The Jam, and now with Stiff Little Fingers, plus Lawrence Cottle and Mo Foster, the session supermen.
All these bands and players currently choose as their favorite bass strings the same set that John Entwistle and Chris Squire chose in the mid 1960's. It is this unique formula in manufacture that keeps the Rotosound brand ahead of the competition for sound, quality, durability and value. Whether it be Paul McGuigan of Oasis who recently went to America armed with three different sets of bass string, the RS77, RS88, and RS66 for various shows, or Geddy Lee with Rush who will not use anything but the standard Swing bass set, you can be sure there is a set to suit your needs and pocket. "
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