The idea of this completely new business venture would not only need the electronics wizardry of Brian, but one of the most important aspects of any new product - marketing. There was little doubt that the new Stylophone had potential, but it would need Burt to get the product across to the masses.
Saturday nights on TV during these years were a time for variety shows, and one person - Rolf Harris - together with his support troupe The Young Generation, were the backbone of these early-evening entertainment shows.
The nationwide TV coverage; on Rolf's show and a number of other programs; led to the Stylophone becoming very popular. In the early days, the Stylophone was only available by mail order, and each unit was hand made.
Extra staff would be required - together with larger premises - in order to meet the overwhelming demand. Staff numbers would eventually grow to around 75 during their full production era, with a move from their little basement premises to a proper factory setup in Cricklewood, London, which would become 'Dübreq House'.
The major success would bring the inevitable copies - and copyright infringements - from abroad. (Some examples / explanations can be found on the HK page). The problem was to be solved through the courts with UK government backing. This same government however would inadvertantly take away the good work it had previously done.
The whole affair increased the profile of the Stylophone even further, and sales increased.
The story of the Stylophone is one of great success, but the initial gamble of the 3 main instigators in Brian Jarvis, Burt Coleman and Ted Coleman cannot be under-estimated. This was a venture into the unknown, and virtually all their resources - both financial and work time - went into this product. Had it failed, it could have meant near ruin for all of them business-wise. Fortunately for us, we now have happy, nostalgic memories of a small innovative instrument, that truly did go on to become the Greatest little instrument of the century' !
The 'Face' Of The Stylophone....
From this very early introduction, the connection between instrument-and-entertainer was cemented forever!.
The Stylophone would in fact become The 'Rolf Harris' Stylophone, due to the superb marketing and advertising through the late 60's and early 70's.
A glance by Burt to the cover of the Radio Times - featuring Rolf on the front cover - set marketing bells ringing, and put his PR skills to the test. Despite several failed telephone calls, Burt finally managed to get into Rolf's rehearsal studio, and the new Stylophone was shown to him. From this initial contact, Rolf was said to be very impressed with the new instrument, and played with the unit for some time.
It had initially been arranged that the Stylophone would be introduced to the public on ITV's David Frost Show, but circumstances led to the unveiling being delayed. A subsequent 'phone call from Rolf to the Stylophone makers led to the instrument making its' debut on Rolf's own BBCTV Saturday Show.
The Rolf Harris connection had been made . . .
You would be hard pressed to find any better person than Rolf to have fronting your product.
His ability as a musician, and his fondness for 'quirky' instruments (such as didgeridoo, wobble board etc!) made him the perfect match for this new instrument. Books, records, leaflets and TV adverts all featured Rolf, as of course did the boxes in which they were sold. His enthusiasm for the Stylophone is heard on the demonstration records that were included with many of the pocket versions, and also on the long-playing teaching record that came with the much larger 350S model*. (*see below).
The connection with Rolf Harris would continue right through the manufacturing years of the Stylophone (manufacturing ended in 1975), and until Dubreq's final closure in 1980.
Rolf and 'The Young Generation' play the Stylophone on Rolf's Saturday TV Show
*This is the actual 350S that was used on the demonstration and teaching records.
Presented to STYLOPHONE.COM in 2004
The recordings of Rolf Harris were made by Burt Coleman.
The first major milestone in the Stylophone success story was reaching the '1 Million Sold' mark.
To mark this very special occasion, a tiny number of gold-plated Stylophones were made for selected guests.
Burt's own Golden Stylophone
Golden Stylophone !
Rolf Harris at the Golden Stylophone Dinner, with Burt Coleman (seated right) and Burt's wife Veronica (center).
Script discussions between Rolf and Burt
..... and still friends today!, enjoying fond memories of the 'Stylophone Era', more than 30 years later.
In hindsight, the huge success celebrated at this dinner represents not only the Stylophone, but British manufacturing in general. With virtually all mass production of electronic items giving way to Far-East countries, the Stylophones made in England during this time are a real part of history.
Apart from the product itself, the singlemost important part of the Stylophone success story is due to the collaboration with one man...