THE CONN ELECTRONIC ORGANS
(Updated 14. 02. 08)
Fig One: Anton Stormlund playing the Conn 651 at his Organ Museum in Denmark. Fig Two: Close-up of the three-manual organ
Fig Three: A Conn Classical 621F, a vintage musical instrument.
Charles G. Conn, a noted Indiana figure and politician, founded C. G. Conn, Ltd. in 1875 in Elkhart, Indiana. The company became famous for their quality line of fine band instruments. They manufactured their first electronic organ, the 2-D Connsonata, in 1947. Their first commercially successful organ was produced in 1951. In 1955, the Artist model was introduced as the Model 700. This instrument had two 61-note manuals and 25 pedals. The manual stops were all at 8’ pitch and produced octave and mutation pitches through a plentiful supply of couplers. This made the Model 700 somewhat a harmonic synthesis organ. There were separate tremolo oscillators for each manual, and they both ran at different speeds. This was the organ that Ken Griffin used on some of his last recordings. To my knowledge, he recorded five songs on the Conn organ; they were Elmer's Tune, Side by Side, Louise, The Blonde Sailor and Sunday. Conn later revised the Artist from the ground up and made it a 32-pedal organ with conventional stop control.
Conn used an independent tone generator for each note and employed special keying circuits to slow down slightly the attack of the notes, imitating the lag of a pipe organ. This intentional slow attack and bold voicing of the Conn organ produced an instrument that bore an uncanny resemblance to a pipe organ for purchasers in the mainstream commercial market. The Conn organ was famous for its string tone; if you closed your eyes, you’d think a real violin was playing. As the years progressed, so did Conn, and many features that the home organist wanted were also included, such as Chimes, Piano, Sustain, Repeat Percussion and much more. There were also exclusive features unique to Conn, such as Stereo Expression Pedal, Phantom Bass and Calliope Tuning. They even had sets of electronic pipes, which were actually speakers that could be attached to any model.
Conn was a popular and formidable competitor in the electronic organ market. They produced organs of every size for every need from the small spinets Caprice and Minuet, to the mammoth Model 651 3-manual theatre organ pictured on this page, and every step in between. There were home and theatre spinets (the Theatrette (one version was a 3-manual spinet!), home and theatre consoles (the 643 theatre model is seen here in the Evangelical Spiritual Church, Cicero, Illinois; this organ has been replaced), church and theatre concert models (Classic (800 series), 650, 651, 652, 653). The 650 series were all 3-manual theatre organs. They also made 3-manual church organs and custom-built organs.
Don Baker played on Conn when a theatre pipe organ was not available and was a representative for them. Don Kingston also represented Conn. George Wright recorded two albums on the Conn organ as well.
In the late 1960s, Macmillan & Co., a publisher of textbooks for school use, purchased the Conn Organ Company. This transaction did not include the rest of the Conn operation, which continues to operate today continuing the great tradition of Conn band instruments. In 1979, Conn was one of the first big organ companies to go out of business, but it was taken over shortly thereafter by the Kimball Piano & Organ Company, and soon the whole organ operation of Kimball and Conn passed into oblivion.
Update 14. 06. 05.
I was surfing the web when I came across your website. I noticed that the organ that sits in my living room is the very same organ pictured in figure. 3. It is a Conn Classical Model # 621F Serial number 612893.
The organ was handed down to me from my friend's Mother who was also named Anna. Anna used the organ to teach and entertain the neighborhood children. I myself have had the organ for over 12 years. It is in great shape!!
Anna Monaco, Huntington Beach CA.
Update: Anna was unable to sell the Con 621F before moving house but a neighbour is taking care of it until then. Therefore if you are still interested in this Classic organ please get in touch. Though, I should add, the neighbour has quite fallen in love with the instrument.
Fig 4: Frank at the Conn 643 formerly at his local church in Chicago. Fig 5: Close-up of the 643.
Photographs: Fig 1 & 2 by Bill Reid.
-------------------Fig 3 (unknown)
-------------------Fig 4 & 5 The Evangelical Spiritual Church, Chicago.
The Anton Stormlund Organ Museum at Vejle, Jutland, Denmark (Open only to invitation Tel. 75 83 78 83).
(Also includes Railway Telegraphy, Tica-Tape machines and Model, Miniature Industrial Steam Engines).
Thanks to Frank Pugno for the pictures and text.
04. 07. 05.
A REAL BARGAIN
Don Boudreaux, who lives in Lafayette, Louisiana, found himself a real bargain on Ebay! For just $200, plus the time and effort to pick it up from the dealer in Frisco, Texas. Don explains below and appears to be very pleased at having such a fine instrument and it certainly looks nice in the photograph and the dealer can be assured that it has found a good home.
The Conn 580
it was some adventure going and getting it. I left Sunday morning about 6:30 AM
and drove with one stop for gas, and arrived Frisco, Texas about 2:30 PM. and
checked into the Holiday Inn there. I called John (the dealer) and drove to his
house a couple hours later and was very satisfied at seeing the organ. He had
bought it new in 1978 and paid $3,000.00 for it. He was extremely nice and said
he was glad that I was not a dealer that was going to sell it to make a buck,
because he wanted it to go to someone who would appreciate it. I assured him
that there was no one else in the world that would want it more. I made
arrangements to pick it up next morning at 5:45 AM because he leaves for work at
6AM. Monday we loaded it on the truck and I wrapped it up good and tied it down,
and drove back home, another 8 hours. When I got home and got it unwrapped, I
got scared that just two people might have trouble unloading it, so I called a
piano mover to take it off the truck and move it in the house. They couldn't
come until Wednesday so I worked on cleaning it up and staining some of the
scratches on it. I spent about 3 hours on it and when I finished it looked new.
The only mishap was in transit; one of the small buttons on the rhythm unit fell
off and got lost. It is the small gray buttons
the left on the bottom keyboard. I made one this morning out of a wood dowel and painted it gray, and you have to look close to see that it is not the same. You can see the empty spot in the picture. Also he had taken off the folding hinged bracket that holds the music stand up because he had the electronic pipes, and he could not find it. I made one out of a piece of wood and an angle bracket and it works fine. You can't fold it down, but that doesn't matter. Overall I think I got a fantastic buy, I saw someone had one on the organs for sale list and they want $1500.00 for it.
I never dreamed I would ever own such a beautiful organ. If only I could learn to play it, even just as well as I used to play 20 years ago I would be happy''.
I'm sure that Don will find that old playing technique once he gets back to playing the organ more regularly and I am sure too that you will wish him lots of enjoyable times at the keyboard.