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Chapter XIV - The Hammond Organ is Born

momentous invention was needed to keep the Hammond Clock Company from dying.
I used to make up lists of things that were basic ideas that I might develop- and then i'd just cross out the ones that I found were no good. The smart thing for an inventor to do is to put together the old tricks you have done before, and one of the things I listed was something that could use a tremendous lot of these little motors we used in clocks. Then I thought of the dictum that anything that can be an electric motor can also be a generator- if you just took a Hammond clock and turned its wheels, you could generate electricity - and this electric current could be used to produce sound.
Larry's mother was a high church Episcopalian and as a boy in Evanston he had become crucifer at St. Luke's Episcopal Church. He loved the beauty of the services. As he carried the crucifix, or sat, or knelt, he used to think how beautiful the organ music was. There ought to be a more effecient way of making such music. Many, many years later, he thought, why couldn't my little motors be tone generators for a musical instrument - perhaps even a church organ?

A Great physicist named Helmholtz had discovered by experiment that musical notes are composed of a series of pure tones on different pitches or frequencies. Pure musical tones are rather dull, uninteresting. Seldom do you hear a pure musical tone, almost always it is enriched by overtones or harmonics. The harmonics are multiples of the frequency of the fundamental tone. To take an example, suppose your fundamental (the note you hear) vibrates 110 times per second (that's its frequency). This note is the "A" which is a little more than an octave below middle "C". Its second harmonic has a frequency of 220, an octave higher, for doubling the frequency always results in a tone an octave higher; its third harmonic has a frequency of 330, its fourth, 440 and that is two octaves up, its fifth, 550 , its sixth, 660, its seventh, 770, and its eighth, 880 and that would be three octaves and so on. The really extraordinary thing about this is that when you add together pure tones this way you don't hear a chord, or a mixture just hear the fundamental- the bottom one! The others just become enriching harmonics of it.

Howevers it turned out that the quality of the tone depends on which harmonics are added and how loud each one is. For example, if only the odd ones were added you'd get a tone characteristic of the clarinet. It was theoretically possible to duplicate the sounds of very different instruments if you just added the correct harmonics to the fundamental musical tone with the right intensity fo reach one.

ou can produce a sort of buzzy musical tone, as any bicyclist probably knows, by holding a piece of paper against the cogs of a cogwheel while the wheel is rotated. The faster you turn the wheel, the higher the tone and vice versa. and if there are two cogwheels turning at the same speed and one has more cogs on its rim than the other, its musical tone will be higher. The number of times per second that it makes the air vibrate is what counts. Well physicists found that a simlar thing happens electrically if you rotate a metal wheel that has humps or cogs on its rim within a magnetic field- a coil with a perment magnet in it. The rotating wheel sets up an alternating current in the coil; the frequency of its alternations depends on how fast it is turning and how many cogs or humps there are on the trim of the wheel. And this little alternating current will product a musical tone if hooked up to a speaker. The faster you turn the wheel, the higher it will go, the fewere humps on the wheel then the lower it will be. And the tone won't be marred by the harsh buzzy friction sounds that you get with paper held against a wheel.

These possibilities had been understood and attempted by Dr. Thaddeus Cahill in the 1880s. Cahill had set up a mammoth music generator in Holyoke, Massachusetts, an enormous conglomeration of electric motors of all sizes, switches, condensers and circuits. All this equipment, weighing 200 tons, he shipped in thirty boxcars to New York City, where he reassembled it and called it the Telharmonium. Each electric motor was one of this tone wheels which generated electric current of a particular frequency, which in turn would produce the musical tone of that frequency. He understood how to add harmonics to produce music of different qualities. But there were no amplifiers in those days so he had to use sizable generators and he didn't understand how to use one generator several times in the same chord. All he managed to produce were electrical impulses which were hooked into the New York telephone lines- a sort of early telephonic Muzak. It came to an end, it is said, when J.P. Morgan couldn't hear one of his clients over the telephone because the music was whooping it up. Morgan made such a clamor that that was the end of Cahill's telephonic Muzak.

Well, there had been many breakthroughs since Cahill's day and Hammond found in the early thirties that the technology of electronic reproduction of sound had advanced so since his college years - thanks to radio= that he had to take a crash one man course to bring himself up to date. An engineer in a loudspeaker firm, Hugh Knowles, became his tutor and he mastered all that was known in this field as rapidly as possible. With assistants, he began exploring the production of musical tones by electric tone generators made in their shop, using his own little motors. And he read everything there was to read on the physics of musical sounds, especially a book by D.C. Miller, who had done a great deal of experimenting and analyzing as well as theoriziing. Miller would, for example, play a sustained note on the violin and measure and tabulate its content. Now Hammond and his assistants, with their own little tone wheels, duplicated many of Miller's experiments, and then pushed on into uncharted seas and all sorts of wierd sounds, some musical and some not, came forth from his laboratory at any time of day.

A man names William Lahey in the Hammond staff was a church organist on Sundays. "Bill," Hammond asked him one day, "did you hear anything unusual today?" "I heard a flute," said Lahey, "or it sounded like one."

Well I've just made an electric flute, " said Hammond proudly. He was rapidly becoming for the time being, one of the most knowledgeable experts in the world on the synthetic production of musical sounds. He tried vacuum tubes as a source, but found them less stable than his tonewheels, which could go neither sharp nor flat so long as the electric current which turned them kept its frequency- and by this time this was true all over America.

As a result of the use of synchronized tonewheel generators, Hammond organs stayed on pitch in a most remarkable and outstanding way, and could be used for tuning other instruments. He bought a second-hand piano for fifteen dolalrs, threw away everything but the keyboard and started wiring up connections from his tone generators to switches under the keys.

At first he had thought this invention would be just a gimmick- a cheap little keyboard which you could take home and plug into your radio set and speakers and play on the little keyboard- he visualized something that would sell for $30 or $40, Maybe. But as time went on, the possibilities of this thing began to grow and grow and it became evident after awhile that it wasn't just going to be a gimmick- it should turn into a full organ- unlike anything that had ever been before.

As they worked along with their embryonic instrument, they found how they could project a structure which could produce all the harmonics needed, borrowing from whichever tone generators they needed. They had no problem about calculating or knowing how to use the information they had gathered and got a structure more and more usable all the time.

As to the number of harmonics to be included in their synthesized musical tones, they had to make a practical compromise. Miller had demonstrated that in the tones of some instruments a great number of harmonics or partials can be traced-- even as many as 30, in the case of the horn. But the harmonics in general are progressively weaker the higher they get. In most cases they weaken greatly after the fifth or sixth. As Hammond finally wrote in his patent:

Harmonics above the eighth have very little effect in characterizing the tone, particularly in the middle and upper registers, where harmonics of a higher order would lie above the range of audibility. Thus most musical tones may be produced by definite combinations of the fundamental tone with various proportions of the first eight harmonics.

There are a few exceptions, but Hammond felt that it was not practicable to build in excessive and costly additional circuits to cover all the traceable harmonics of every instrument which an expensive pipe organ purports to simulate. The compromise decided on was to provide the first six harmonics and the eighth. And when higher harmonics were desired, by pulling out the first two drawbars, you would get the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th, 8th, 10th, 12th and 16th harmonics as described in a later paragraph.

One of the difficulties in adding harmonics is that some of them come out to be frequencies which aren't very close to any of the notes we use on piano or organ. The octaves are perfect. and the third harmonic is very close to a piano note. The third harmonic for the A we started with before has 330 cycles per second, is very close to the E above middle C (329.63). Te fourth is an octave. The Fifth harmonic, 550, is possably close to E (659.26) but the closest note to the 770 of the seventh harmonic is G, at 783.99 and that just doesn't seem close enough to use. So the Hammond tone wheel organ omitted the seventh harmonic. To provide a true seventh harmonic for every note on the keyboard would involve practically doubling the number of tone generators. The eighth harmonic is another octave. Graphic Form makes this clearer. The following chart illustrates the situation for the note of A we have used before, a little more than an octave below middle C:


Cycles per Second

Tone Used

Its Frequency

First (Fundamental) 110 A 110
Second (one octave up) 220 The Next A 220
Third 330 Next E 329.63
Fourth (two octaves up) 440 Next A 440
Fifth 550 Next C Sharp 554.37
Sixth 660 Next E
Notice this being an octave higher has twice the frequency of the E used for the third harmonic
Seventh 770 Nearest is next G- seemed too far off 783.99
Eighth (three octaves up) 880 Next A 880


They added an ingenious device. The First two drawbars (stops) which controlled the harmonics would introduce a tone an octave below the third harmonic, and another an octave below the fundamental. The effect was to change the voice from that of an 8' organ pipe to that of a 16' organ pipe -- and to provide higher harmonics up to the 16th, as described above.

The completed organ had 91 tone wheels or generators. Under each key, there were nine switches, each connected to a tone wheel or generator, one for the fundamental tone which that key represents, and one for each harmonic used: second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, eighth, sub-third and sub-fundamental. They found as they started to experiment, that they couldn't have ordinary electric switches like silver pipe organ switches for these very low voltages. They needed a contact like platinum on platinum. They finally found that the busbar could be coated with palladium, which worked very well. Later on when an Italian firm made some electric organs, they weren't interested in platinum or palladium, decided silver contacts would be all right. They went ahead and made 1,000 organs with silver contacts and every single organ quit and they had to take them back.

When anyone started to try to play what they were putting together, it had a very un-organ-like characteristic; the music was on full blast as soon as the contact touched; and it stopped abruptly and completely as soon as the contact was broken. There wasn't a trace of the somewhat gradual buildup or attack, or of the gradual fade out of the tones of the pipe organ. Hammond became discouraged with it but Lahey reassured him. "Don't worry about this prompt action, " said Lahey; "That's what organ builders are trying to get. You just keep on going and get something I can play and i promise you that you can make it sound alright.

So he went ahead, but the amount that had to be done before the device would be ready for production was still fearsome while Company deficits continued to mount. Before you get experimenting on such a product, if you realized all you had to do to make it commercial, you'd feel there was just too much, you'd become appalled that its so complicated or its requirements are so stiff; you'd think, "How can I in any reasonable length of time get this thing on the road?"

To take just a few examples: synchronous motors "hunt" or vary a bit in speed; this was ultimately remedied with a flywheel and a long torsion spring. And it turned out to be practically impossible to produce rigid meshing gears and pinions which could transmit power from one shaft to another smoothly an daccurately enough -- irregularity ruined the music. Resilient spring drives had to be developed. The accuracy of centering the tone wheels proved to be an extremely critical factor. Another thing: one tone generator tended to cause inductive interference with its neighbor. Again, the current (and hence the sound volume) of one sustained note mustn't diminish when other notes were played and current surged into their circuits. All notes had to be given equality of volume. A noticeable "key click" had to be minimized or eliminated, etc. etc. It was a monumental task.

n effect, we were experiementing with this new invention on money the banks had loaned us to make clocks, and I worried that someone might try to take advantage of this situation. When the lengthy patent application was finally drawn up, complete, I did something which as it turned out was the most marvelous thing I ever did. At the next directors' meeting I said to the directors, "I think the organ is just going to be a wonderful thing. It has always been that heretofore whenever I patented anything, it was assigned in the patent itself to the Hammond Clock Company. But in this case, if you will trust me, I would like to just skip that. And the organ patents will belong to me. And if some guy comes in here and wants to take it, I want to be ready to tell him, "Well, to Hell with you- this thing doesn't belong to the company; it belongs to me. And if you bankrupt the Company, any threat that you have that interferes with my operation I will simply take my entire engineering staff and move across the street. I have enough money to do that - I and my friend - and we'll go on and make organs".

"Now," I said to the Directors, "Actually I will consider the organ to be the property of the same stockholders that there are now, and I will do everything that will make it come out just the same as if I had not done this unusual thing of not assigning it to the Company, and if you will trust me...."

And they said, "Oh Larry, of course we'll trust you. It's quite all right, " and all that sort of thing. But nobody seemed to think that it would happen. Well, finally I had the organ working, in the sense that I had a very crude model. It would play and it had pedals and a motor and the whole thing and a very strange design it was. Above the two keyboards or manuals we had provided drawbars to pull out as far as you wished. They determined which harmonics you wanted to include and their intensity. And to the left of the manuals were preset keys: you could preset the switches to obtain the sound of diapason or flute or horn or whatever without bothering with the drawbars. But the whole thing was squared off and looked like a packing case.

I had two girls; one was Viloma Gaumer and the other was Louise Benke. Anyway, we went down and demonstrated this thing in the patent office. We wanted to have this case made special. It was still in the Depression and everybody was out of work and sellig apples, and any invention that would create new employment should get special treatment, and we said we can't afford to go ahead and design a thing like this, and then find out that somebody else has made one. The way to do it was to get the case made special, and have the patent issued without the usual delay. To demonstrate its properties, we moved our organ into the basement of the patent office- a room which has marvelous acoustics (somthing the organ at that time needed).

earing the sounds come floating up the stairwells, they stopped all work at the patent office. Everyone came down there to listen and see what it was. And then a group of them asked if we would come and describe this thing to them, explain why it works the way it does, and how it sounds- some of them would like to hear a lecture by Mr. Hammond. They said, "You can hold it in the hall up there, and it can start just when the patent office lets loose, when they go home."

An enormous proportion of everyone employed in the patent office showed up to hear this lecture, and I was absolutely overwhelemed; I thought boy, this is amazing, the interest that people have. So I did the best I could to describe the principles on which it operated, why it was different from pipe organs, why it was different from this, and why from that, and of course I had the organ up on the stage there and the girl and I could say well, that would make so and so and she would do this- I could more than just talk- I could demonstrate. I thought, well, they'll all stop to listen for a few minutes and then they'll all start filtering out- but they stayed for a long time and I delivered a long, long lecture. I was tremendously flattered at the interest they showed.

Well they made it special, and the patent was issued in a very short time - on April 24, 1934. And that was our assurance that we could go ahead and do everything we wanted; that there was nothing like it and that it was an original patent - because once they get to the point of issuing a patent, they look over very carefully anything that may have come in in the meantime.

The patent went into the most tremendous detail of all kinds of things; the original Hammond organ patent is a very thick document. (18 pages of diagrams, about 20,000 words of description and explanation)

o and behold, a man arrived (whom we'll call Mr. Wolf). I don't know what his relationship was with the bank, but he had told the bank that I was developing something, which he had heard about. He himself could play the pipe organ. He said to me, "You understand that you are really developing this thing on the money of the bank and that doesn't seem to me right, because it is the bank's money that is being used- and everything has a chance of failure. I think very highly of this thing, but you are actually developing this thing on the bank's money."

And it was quite true, and by that time I had a lot of people working on it, including my own time. I worked on that organ so hard that I had three shifts working, and I arranged my own personal schedule such that I would be there at part of the time for each of the three shifts. I lived quite a long way from the factory. I would go home, but after dinner I would get in my car and drive back to the factory and meet the next crew; and of course I had it fixed so that it split, and as I arrived, one bunch was leaving and another came on, so I only made one extra trip to the factory. But it was a nighttime trip and I really put in work.

Then he said, "Now I would be willing to advance some money if you would give me a half interest in the organ. And with the money, you don't need very much more money, you've come a long ways here - maybe for fifty or sixty thousand dollars you could finish this thing, and I could at least tell the bank, "Well, I've fixed it so that I am paying the expenses on the development work now, and have an understanding with Mr. Hammond, etc. Well, he sat and spun all this out and I was so pleased, so inwardly pleased that I could say to him, "Well, that's all a very good idea, except I won't go for it. Any way in which you interfere with my operation, I will take my crew across the street and finish the organ with my own money."

And he said, "You can't do that."

I said, "I can't? did you happen to notice that that is the only patent that we've had that is not assigned to the Hammond Clock Company? And it therefore belongs to me, and the organ is mine, and nothing that you can do will stop me. I'll move across the street and go on with this thing."

And he said, "Why, I never heard of such a thing, don't you have a contractual relationship with the company, that the company will get the patent?"

And I said, "Well, we normally would, and I think we did have, but in this case I had a special meeting of the Board of Directors, and explained that somebody like you might come along, and that I wanted to be fully prepared to repel boarders- and that I would guarantee that on a personal basis I would consider that the organ would belong to our stockholders- and that would be it."

He pestered people around- he didn't believe it for awhile, but of course I sent the secretary with the record of the Directors' meeting in that case the individual Directors had all signed that they were in accord with this. But I had such enormous satisfaction in throwing Mr. Wolf out- I just got to laughing as he talked. The poor guy said, "Well I guess you're just too smart."

bout this time the telephone operator said, "Outside there are two men who say the personal representatives of Mr. Henry Ford, and Mr. Henry Ford has heard that you have an electric organ, and he would appreciate it if you would let these two men see and understand what it is. They are competent engineers."

Well, I thought, now thats a strange thing. But I said, "Oh yes, well, I'll talk with them."

So they came in and they said,. "Well now, Mr. Henry Ford is not interested in manufacturing organs, or anything of that kind. But, you know, he has a development laboratory out in Dearborn, and we work on all kinds of things, mostly things that amuse Mr. Ford." He had an old fashioned village of buildings, all of which had been moved from somewhere else. He was an admirer of Stephen Foster, and he bought Stephen Foster's little house and moved it to Dearborn, and he dug a huge hole in the ground under it and installed air-conditioning equipment and put grilles all over the bottom floor so that crowds could jam up in that little house and still the air would be perfectly fresh. And he wanted it fixed so music would sound well in there. These men told me all this. And they said, Mr. Ford says, if you would show us the organ, he would greatly appreciate it, and we will go back and tell him what it's all about.

And I said, "All Right. I have an organ, and two girls play, in two shifts - its our first real genuine model, and it just turns out that we are going to exhibit it in about two weeks in a show in New York." In New York there was an exposition to promote new products at that time, things were in the doldrums - "so it just turns out we're going to send this thing with a man who can play it, and... " ( I laughed to myself, because the way we sent the organ around was in a little Ford one ton closed truck) "so you can come up now and listen to the organ, and the girl will demonstrate- you just ask her all the questions you want to and she may not know how to answer all the questions, but then you come back to me and you can ask me any questions. In the meantime, here is the patent." Well, of course the patent described the thing in the most tremendous details, so that they could see exactly all about it.

Well it was no time at all after they got back to Dearborn before they started calling up. And they said, "Mr. Ford is so interested in your organ that he wants to meet you, and if you could in any way possible arrange to come to Detroit, Mr. Ford would appreciate it very much."

Well you know when Henry Ford asked you to come and meet him personally, you tended to do it! I said, "Well, yes. However, we're sending the organ to this show, and it could stop on the way with you and demonstrate, and I will come some time later; but right now it's very inconvenient for me."

So then I told my two boys: it was Emory Penny, the sales manager of the Company, and John Hanert, the engineer who could play organ, and was a wonderful factor later on in my things. At first he was absolutely no good as an inventor- I couldn't do anything with him, but then gradually he became transformed through the years. He was an accomplished organ performer.

o I told them, "Now, look- when you get to Detroit, the first thing you do is go out somewhere near where you're going to make this demonstration, and you get that car washed, Simonized and everything, and there mustn't be a speck of dust on it". I'd heard all these stories about Ford- "If necessary, if it's been spattered with rain or anything, you yourself take along a chamois, and just wipe that thing so it's perfectly clean. And what will happen is, they'll open the doors and you'll drive in to his great laboratory room, where the floor is made of a wonderful parquetry, and always kept shining. There are two or three men shuffling around there polishing the floor all the time. This is one of Ford's manias."

And Ford was a very peculiar fellow; I got to have a tremendous admiration and respect for him, and I got to know him very well, as I will tell you. But he had two very strange complexes. Three, really. One was that you must under no circumstances employ a Jew. If you just hired one Jew in a factory as big as Ford, he thought it was like having one rotten apple in a barrel and it would just kill everything. That was a terrible thing, you know. And the other was that you mustn't smoke. Or drink. He didn't approve of that, but he had no way to monitor drinking, but you sure couldn't smoke at the Ford plant- that was for sure; If you got caught smoking on the grounds of the Ford Motor Company, you were dismissed. Believe it or not, they did dismiss people for smoking. And so people who really had the habit, went to the most fantastic trouble to get out somewhere and post a guard, and throw their cigarette butts in some container they could close up and hide, because a lot of people did sneak out for smoking. (Emory Penny automatically started to light up a cigarette when they were demonstrating the organ at Dearborn, until the looks of horror froze his fingers.)

But he had a schoolhouse, and it had been a schoolhouse in which he had met Mrs. Ford when they were children, and so they bought the schoolhouse and moved it out there, and then of course they had to have children to put in it, so he arranged, I suppose through the personnel department, to have little boys and girls in like number, just the same age, and they must be very bright, have done well in first grade. They started them in his school at second grade. So they easily found such children as children of employees, because of course it was very nice, it disposed of the problem of any expense about education, and they were fed a wonderful lunch and delivered back home in a car so there was never any problem about the children. So he had these bright little children, and took them up through the grades. And when the organ came, he said to Hanert, "Well, we can have square dancing and round dancing and so on. We can dismiss the children from school, and they can all come over here and play, and you play the organ." And Mr. Ford himself started to do some funny kind of dancing that he did, and a wonderful time was had by all.

Then my people went on to New York to give the demonstration. But meanwhile, the Ford people began calling me and said, "Mr. Ford so hopes that you would come out and he would like to talk to you personally about your organ!"

And I said, "All Right, I will come." From Chicago to Detroit is one of these trips where you got on the train about midnight and arrived there at seven-thirty in the morning. So I went to Detroit and when the train pulled in there were Ford men. He'd sent quite a few so there'd be no difficulty about finding me, and my two friends, the Ford engineers were there. And they said, "We'd like to drive you out to Dearborn but it's so early, we'll take you to the inn at Dearborn, and you can have anything you like for breakfast." So we did. Then they said, "Mr. Ford has come - he comes early in the morning and he's there and he's waiting to see you."

So we drove to an enormous building, and there was Henry Ford standing on the pavement in front of their engineering building ready to receive me. He immediately came forward and said, "Oh, Mr. Hammond, I'm so glad to meet you, and I just want to talk to you about your wonderful invention."

So we went in, and he said, "I supposed you realize it- I don't know whether you do or not- but you have in that organ a thing that is going to sweep the country, and they will sell and sell and sell and you will become a very wealthy man- but meanwhile I would like to help you. You know, we have men here who can do anything. I have tool makers that can make any kind of tools, I have designers who can design things, and modernize it if you haven't got the best design for the purpose- I have people who can do everything.

"And, of course," he said, "I have money. Now, if you want any kind of money, I am willing to loan you most any amount you would possibly need, and I won't charge you any interest. It would just be my appreciation and desire to help you. Now, if you want these people to work in your factory in Chicago, I will send these men, and will put them up in hotels in Chicago and they will work for you but I will pay their salaries.

It brought tears to my eyes. I kept saying, "Why, Mr. Ford, it's unbelievable. I've never heard of anybody like that. But it isn't really necessary, we have actually what we need. We can do it. Perhaps you've never paid attention to the Hammond clock- I don't suppose you have. But I just happened to put in my briefcase a couple of Hammond clocks. It comes apart this way. We have a production cost of so much, (it was very little) and they sold very fast."

And he looked it all over and said, "Why yes, that looks to me like a very good design, why gracious I didn't know that you had capabilities like that."

And I said, "I just don't want you to think I'm just helpless, but I think you're so gracious, and what you offered is just marvelous."

And he said, "Another thing I'd like is, I'd like as soon as your able, to have you send me six of your organs. I have a pipe organ in my house, and I'd like to put one of yours in my house, and then I'd like one for the Stephen Foster home. And the others around here in different places. I'd like to take the first six that you make."

And I said, "I'm not sure that I can promise you that, because this show that I'm going to do is a very strange arrangement." They had begun to demonstrate the organ in New York while I was in Chicago and I couldn't be there, and by that time the sales manager and Pedmond were there watching what was going on. And the excitement that developed about this thing was wonderful- and everybody wanted to buy an organ right away and everybody wanted to get the first one.

(The Exposition had gotten off to a wing-ding start when President Roosevelt pressed a gold telegraph key in the White House which sent an electrical impulse to Rockefeller Center that set off 120 flashbulbs, turned on 50 floodlights, started a siren going, dropped an American flag and turned on the current in the first Hammond organ.)

edmond said, "There's so much going on here, I can hardly tell you about it, but the famous people are in here and this organ plays all the time, and the fellow playing it right now is the chief organist of St. Patrick's Cathedral, and it's very hard to get him off the bench. Everybody wants to be the first to buy an organ, and you realize that there's tremendous publicity value in who gets the first organ."

I said, "Well now, like who? Name people that I might know."

Well, among the people ne named was George Gershwin. "He wants to buy one right away...wants to pay the money, cash, and take it home!" And he had Sigmund Romberg and Melchior. They were all people that you'd recognize either from show business or from some popular angle. So who should we give first place to?

So I said, "Well the man I think of as a real musical genius is George Gershwin, so I would like the first one to go to Gershwin- and so it did. Then another man who is very well known was Sigmund Romberg- and I said he could have the second one. Because I knew these things would be played in public by these composers. Then quite a long way down I said, "Well, Mr. Ford has been incredible about this thing, and he wants the first six, but we don't want to give him the first six, but I'll tell him we'll give him six as quick as we can." Anyhow, we had eight or ten organs sold and delivered- though we could only make about two a day. There was a tremendous amount of work in assembling it- the Hammond organ has, believe it or not, 17,000 pieces- a lot to be put together by girls- and the wiring is so complicated- if you make one mistake in the wiring then when you put the organ all together it doesn't work. Then you have to fish through all the wiring to find out where the mistake was. Eventually we got to be able to knock 'em out faster.

ut that was the beginning of the Hammond organ and I knew then instinctively that we were never going to have any more trouble about anything. And all this business about the bank and their $400,000 that's nothing. If I explained that to Mr. Ford, he'd say, "Oh, is that so? Well here's $400,000" and he'd just write a check and pay the bank. But, as you know, the minute you can pay a bank, they don't want to be paid, they want to have the loan out and charge you interest.

Chapter XV - And How it Grew    Index

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