Miscellaneous Hammond Notes

Why is the B-3 such a funky instrument? I don't know, but I'm looking for answers. So if you have a pet theory, some historical facts, etc., please e-mail me and I will include it.

Tom Tuson of Hammond-Suzuki USA uploaded some GIFs of their promotional brochures to Compu$erve's MIDI forum. There's an XB-2, XC-3, and an A-205 Chapel Console with built-in speakers. And, the other ... Yes! Finally, THE BEAST IS BACK!!! I kid you not! In the words of Hammond-Suzuki: "The B-3 Is Back! Hammond proudly introduces the B-3 for the 90's! - a brand-new, innovative instrument worthy of its heritage. This all-new instrument faithfully duplicates the sound of its famous predecessor, plus new capabilities never before dreamed of!"

Looks a lot like the original. The legend is reincarnated:
Long live the B-3 ... er, the XB-3!
The Nov. '91 Keyboard issue has a comparison of B-3 wannabes (an article entitled "To B or Not To B"): the Korg CX-3, the Rhodes VK-1000, the VOCE DMI-64 MKII and Hammond-Suzuki's own XB-2 were compared to the B-3. The Rhodes and the XB-2 came close, but all paled in tests of Authenticity, Sound Quality, Balls, Leslie Simulation, Playability and Keyboard Feel.

If you're looking for MIDI samples, Barbara Dennerlein recorded B-3 Sampling CD (Best Service 10) available for $99 at Keyboard stores. This 92 track, 73+ mns. disc has complete B-3 samples in halftone steps, with over 350 riffs & licks from jazz to techno.

Some History

Laurens Hammond invented his electric organ in the early 30's, and also patented 3-D movies and missile control systems. He was an engineer who did not play an instrument, and was jealous that the Leslie company built better speakers for his organs than his own. The Hammond "organ" was introduced at the Industrial Arts Exposition on April 15, 1935 by the Hammond Clock Co. of Chicago (now Hammond-Suzuki USA, Inc., Lombard, Ill., 708-620-6633).

The Hammond was marketed as an organ which could produce the pipe organ sound, but didn't weigh/cost as much as the church itself. It was relatively small in comparison to other organs (Wurlitzers). It was also a less expensive organ which made its way into inner city churches. This is where its use in hymns, spirituals and gospel influenced Jazz and Blues artists.

Other cheap uses for it were "accompanying music of radio dramas (especially soaps) and, yes, probably in some roller rinks. To a degree, these other uses are the ones that suffuse the reception of this music by most consumers: the organ's use in such "corny" places ..." (Milutis)

Hammond's aggressive marketing coincided with the final phase of the slow death of the pipe organ industry. The leaders of the industry convinced the FTC that Hammond's ads were partly responsible, and took the matter to the Senate, who never allowed a tone/wave analysis as evidence. Despite the fact that musicians and non-musicians alike couldn't tell the difference between a pipe organ and a Hammond in a blindfold test, they decided to forbid Hammond to advertise its organs as sounding like pipe organs, but allowed him to call his electric instrument ("electrotone") an organ regardless. The publicity of the hearings drove Hammond's sales, which more than offset the cost of defending the case.

A subject of debate among keyboard players is the notion that the Hammond was the first synthesizer. From what I gather, it was the first electronic keyboard instrument, but can't really be called a synthesizer by today's standards. A precursor to the synth seems to be the consensus on its status.

The B-3 was introduced in 1954, and discontinued in 1974. The Keyboard issue has articles on the B-3's construction, and what to look for when buying one. The Hammond List has put together a FAQ with a lot of info on Hammond organs and Leslie speakers culled from the experience of many people.

There is an indispensable compilation from Blue Note called So Blue So Funky: Heroes of the Hammond Vols. 1 & 2, available in the U.K. only. Vol.1 was released in the U.S. under the title Blue Funk. Check out Johnny Lytle's "Minor Soul" which has plenty, plenty soul (Jimmy Foster on organ: any info on this artist would be appreciated). Lytle is a vibes player, but always plays in an organ combo. Two of his albums were reissued on a 2on1 CD, The Loop/New & Groovy (BGP).

There are also a lot of rare grooves with great Hammond (& other organs) which can be found on compilations from the U.K. and from San Francisco's Luv N' Haight records.

Hammond® and Leslie® are registered trademarks of Suzuki Musical Instrument Manufacturing Co. Ltd.

Hammond Grounds ^Groove^

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