This page is sponsored and paid for by Vintage Hammond Church Organs of Houston, TX & Atlanta, GA

Click on logo to Visit Vintage Hammond

Chapter XV - And How it Grew

eopold, Stokowski, Walter Damrosch, Sir Thomas Beecham, Roger Wolfe Kahn, Rudy Vallee, Lawrence Welk- all were among the early purchasers. It was harder to make and deliver the $1250 organs than it was to sell them. They were demonstrated at skating rinks and race tracks. Emory Penny, the sales manager, went out to Kansas City, and a big music dealer there who hadn't wanted to look at the organ wanted to order 100 'and pay cash now' after he'd seen it. In general, Steinway dealers became Hammond organ dealers, too, and the new organ became very widely available in a rather short time. In the first year, more than 1400 were sold- more than all other organs of all kinds, both in numbers and in money paid. And the sales kept climbing.

They started playing it on the air, and there was a fellow named Milt Herth. It was just connected to the wires directly and he just sat there going enh- enh- ee- ee and making it into sort of a percusison instrument and it was the damdest sounding thing, and it just made me boil to hear, and I thought, if that's what they're going to do with this organ..... because you COULD make it sound very well. The way you made it sound very well was if you could put it in a reverberant place: if you put it in a stone church it would sound just wonderful. Or a skilled organist could make it sound well with the creep around technique. Actually in the long run, Herth did very successfully with the Hammond organ- he made money and became well known. I think the Hammond organ gave him a great lift, but I think if he were asked about it he would probably say, "Oh yes, well I was the one that popularied it in the beginning and the Hammond organ owes me a great deal."

As a matter of fact, when Herth was taxed about the staccato way he played, he said, "If I played like everyone else, I couldn't make a name for myself."

But Hammond thought he'd just got to do something about this, so he started in working on what is artificial reverberation, "and its a very touch nut to crack when you first start. A great exposition was held in San Francisco and Henry Ford had a big building in it and said he'd like to build an ampitheater and put in a Hammond organ with great power. So I built a bank of speakers piled up ten or twelve feet high, which produced colossal power. We had an organ console half way out in the amphitheater so they could see the organist playing. Down in the building was a little hard-walled room with a speaker and a mike. We got the reverberation from that room and brought it upstairs and amplified it. Ford thought it was the berries."

But obviously not every place you put a Hammond organ has a hard-walled room handy to build up reverberations in. Something more practical had to be found. Hammond finally discovered that sound will travel along a coiled spring, and come right back to its source, in high fidelity, at only forty feet per second. When he placed these coils (with their lower end in oil-filled tubes) in speaker cabinets, it produced at the source the artificial reverbation the organ needed. Hammond demonstrated these coils before the Acoustical Society in Chicago. He had a microphone and speakers hitched to one end of a long coil of wire, and he astonished the audience when he spoke the words, "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their party-" and just after he had said them, he threw the switch and suddenly the words returned, loud and clear, having traveled the length of the coil and back. From 1939 on, artificial reverberation was available for Hammond organs.

Later, Hammond sold these coiled spring reverberators to RCA for use in transoceanic telephone conversations. They saved RCA a lot of money in power. That blast of power which is required to transmit your voice across the ocean is very expensive: it's desireable to have it turned on only when you're actually speaking. Your voice was thus fed into the coil, and turned off as soon as it was finished.

But before artificial reverberation was developed, the pipe organ people launched an attack against their new competition. In 1935 the advertising department had issued some publicity which made over-enthusiastic claims, to the effect that the new organ could duplicate all tone colors and harmonics an expensive pipe organ would use. Now this, of course, was an exaggeration, because, as we have seen, Hammond had found that it wasnt practicable to include all the upper harmonics in his synthesized tones. This bit of puffing was never republished, but it was to cause embarrassment later. The cheapest pipe organ cost at least $4,000; the new Hammond organ went for only $1,250., and was selling like hot cakes, while sales of pipe organs were still faltering in the Depression doldrums. The new competition hurt, and the pipe organ champions seized upon the 1935 exaggerated claims as evidence of unfair competition.

"While the Hammond organ is played like a pipe organ, it is not made in imitation of one; it is a new musical instrument with a voice of its own.", Hammond had announced when the electric organ was produced. Many claimed that this "voice of its own" was recognizable on the sounding of the first note. Purists asserted that the Hammond wasn't an organ at all, and shouldn't be called one. Finally the protagonists for the pipe organs succeeded in persuading the Federal Trade Commission that the Hammond Clock Company was guilty of unfair trade practices.

As the Hammond Company refused to stop calling its new product an organ, the FTC attempted to prove its charges in a series of hearings and force the Company into line. An English music editor wrote that Hammond's replies on the stand seemed more like the address of a lecturer to University students than the answers of a manufacturer or inventor. Hammond suggested a rather unique test, which the Commission proceeded to carry through. A Hammond organ and tone cabinets worth $2,640 altogether were temporarily installed in the University of Chicago Chapel, which had a $75,000 Skinner pipe organ, one of the finest pipe organs in the Middle West. The Hammond tone cabinets were concealed among the organ pipes. A "jury" was brought together to find out whether it was so easy to distinguish the voice of a Hammond from the voice of an expensive pipe organ. Nine eminent Chicago musicians, most of them organists, who were subpoenaed by the Commission for the occasion, formed one part of the jury. Fifteen university students, who had volunteeered, formed the other part. The Federal Trade Commission and lawyers were there too, of course.

The two organ consoles were hidden from the jury by screens. Of thirty short selections of organ music by Bach, Cesar Frank, Guilmant, Widor, and others, half were played on the Skinner organ, and half on the Hammond, but the members of the jury couldn't see which was being played; they wrote down on a card which one they thought was producing the music each time.

As the majestic chords of "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" rolled through the Chapel, someone whispered to Hammond, "Aren't you nervous?"
"Not as nervous as the experts," he answered.

After the classical selections, sets of harmonics labelled "Jack" or "Jill" were played and again the jury tried to figure out and record which organ was playing.

When it was all over and the tallies were tabulated, it turned out that the university students had been right exactly half the time and wrong exactly half the time. The experts did somewhat better- yet their guesses were wrong anywhere from 10% to 90% of the time! This was pretty overwhelming evidence that in the hands of a conventional organ player, the Hammond could sound very much like the one with pipes - despite the way it sounded in Milt Herth's broadcasts!

After interminable hearings, in one of which pipe organ music was likened to a tomato by one of its champions, the Federal Trade Commission finally issued its order the following year. The order tacitly granted Hammond the right to continue to call his new instrument an organ- that was the main issue. It forbade further claims that the Hammond could duplicate all the harmonics and tone colors of a pipe organ, etc. (This had not been done since 1935), and further claims that the Hammond organ could produce an "infinite variety of tones." The Hammond Company had conceded that its organ could produce only some 253,000,000 and willingly restricted its claims to 253 million tones from then on. And it continued to state that the Hammond produced fine and beautiful organ music. After the test in the Chapel, that seemed established beyond serious dispute.

It was in this year that Hammond applied for a patent, issued two years later, for a method of broadcasting organ music using a microphone along with signals taken electrically from the organ. And the Hammond Company sold sets of tone generators to Western Union to send messages over its lines on different frequencies, which greatly increased the amount of communications each line could handle. A seperate message could be sent by each of the 91 frequencies from the tone generator- all at the same time!

Once Hammond played the part of Rumpelstiltskin. The latter, if you remember, was a mysterious little magician who had saved the Princess's life and was entitled to claim her first-born son. When she begged off, he said, "If you can guess my name, you may keep your son." Searching for new uses of his wonderful synchronous electric motor, Hammond designed an exceedingly simple turntable to play records on. Hammond made these and later RCA made thousands of them. No royalteis were paid for these; instead RCA agreed that they would not claim that any of the Hammond amplifiers or other devices were infringements of RCA patents- something that had been a big worry to Hammond. Both sides were well pleased with this arrangement. However, in the meantime, Hammond's patent search unearthed a strange and impractical invention on the basis of which claims could be made against his turntable motor, which RCA was now using. The other invention had nothing to do wiht a phonograph; in fact, the two were so different that very few people would see any connection, but a claim could be made. The prior patent had only about two years to go before it ran out, and its inventor in the meanwhile would probably never realize that his patent was being infringed by a record player. If he did know he'd be in a position to ask a very stiff sum for a license. Hammond decided to negotiate incognito for a very inexpensive license. His patent attorney got in touch with the other man's patent attorney and the laywers got their clients on the same phone line. The other inventor didn't know whom he was talking to.

In this unique conversation Hammond said, "I'll offer you $2,000 for a license to use your patent. But if you can guess the use to which I am putting this license, and write in it, 'This licenses you except for such and such a use;, then the license will be invalid for that use. It's something like the story of Rumpelstiltskin; if you can name the use I'm putting this to, you'll get a big reward."

Well the other man accepted the lease on that basis, but he never could guess the use to which Hammond was putting the license. Rumpelstiltskin Hammond won out.

"Meantime, I had decided that the next thing was to see if we couldn't develop an electronic piano. And of course it would have to have touch response, and it would have to have everything- would have to be able to do anything that a Steinway grand piano could do. So ambitious was I that I started out very soon by renting a Steinway concert grand, of which there were only about four or five in Chicago. Well, I appealed to our dealer, who is also a Steinway dealer, for a concert grand- they're about eleven feet long- a tremendous instrument. And we had that in the room, and I said all the time, now this is the thing that we have to equal."

"The principle on which it operated is extremely interesting. Under every key there was a little finger, and there were little pieces of brass, like the bridge of a violin. Now, when you touched down on the key, owing to this little finger and the little pieces of brass attached at different points, the velocity at which you pressed the key would determine the loudness of the note- which is as it is in the piano. For each note there was a vacuum tube which was the controller of the envelope of the sound of the note. Now that vacuum tube was connected to a source of voltage, and when you pressed the key, the voltage on that vacuum tube would depend on how fast you pressed the key. If you pressed it down slowly, you'd get no sound at all- of course that happens on the piano. Well, anyhow, we were able to duplicate a piano in the most startling way. A famous symphony conductor that I came to know well used to stop everytime he'd go back and forth from the Coast, he was so interested in what we were doing. And he would never be quoted, but he was willing to undertake all kinds of tests to see whether he could tell this "piano" from another. So in a room that was apart from our big place, but which was a good-sized room and acoustically all right for piano, we had one of our funny things, all built up with vacuum tubes and all kinds of equipment, and we had a concert grand Steinway. And then we had two players with good technique. Well, we had each play, say, 30 or 40 bars of Mozart on one piano, and then switch to the other. And the symphony conductor would sit there and listen (where he couldn't see which instrument was playing) and he finally got on a basis at which he said, 'Larry, honestly I can't tell.'

Well you don't realize the tremendous volume of sound a concert piano can make- you needed the most fantastic amount of speaker equipment, just to be able to handle the instantaneous volume. Now, I think the price of a concert grand Steinway at that time was around $7,000. Well, when we got to figuring up what our piano would cost to produce, the lowest number you could think of came out to about $25,000. So what were you going to do with a $25,000 imitation of a $7,000 product? The whole thing broke up as far as I was concerned, in gales of laughter because of what a silly thing we had accomplished. It was a marvellous thing - but what of it? Also, a regular piano is a very reliable device. You rarely, if ever, break a string. Outside of the need for tuning it, the only thing that ever goes wrong is if the sustaining pedal sticks."

Hammond can tell you more about the piano than you'd believe any one person would know.

In 1938 a roll player organ was produced- like a player piano. but its price of $2,000 was more than people wanted to pay for an automatic organ so it was discontinued.

What had been achieved in the electronic piano spurred Hammond on to produce, with Hanert's assistance, an instrument that would achieve all the sounds of an orchestra from notes generated by vacuum tubes. This extraordinary development, called the Novachord, was put on sale in 1939 and made quite a furor at the time. The name actually appeared in one edition of Webster's dictionary, as Hammond's invention.

Hammond summed up the purpose of Novachord for Popular Mechanics:

"An artist who is going to paint a picture buys a canvas and a box of pure color paints. The canvas has no lines on it, and he mixes every shade of color himself. What he paints is entirely his own doing. He would scorn any offer of mixed paints such as the "flesh pink" or "sunset red." The musician, on the other hand, has never been able to get musical instruments which were not "voiced" by the maker of the instrument, and the musician must be satisfied with it- or buy some other builder's fine tone. This is simply the "flesh pink" idea in a different form, and for this reason the composer has never enjoyed the freedom of the painter.

Naturally too much freedom may not produce the best results immediately. An instrument which is flexible enough to allow the musician to explore new possibilities in beautiful tone colors will also permit him to blunder into horrid noises. This, however, is the exact way in which art makes progress."

Despite all the enthusiasm when it was introduced, Novachord didn't sell very well. It was so complex that it had to be rather expensive. And almost nobody knew how to play an instrument that wasn't just an organ, but would reproduce all the sounds of the orchestra. Probably it was before its time. But it's interesting that there were some twenty-two in London at the time of the blitz, and they were in fantastic demand in bomb shelter night clubs!

When we started to put out Novachord we thought we'd sell them locally so we'd learn what kind of servicing they needed --- we'd let the dealer sell them, but we were going to sell them also -- and we opened some kind of a studio where we could sell instruments in Chicago, and so we needed a serviceman for that.

Well the thing was full of vacuum tubes. It operated on a principle later used by Baldwin and others. It had twelve oscillators, which were up high. those frequencies are much more stable. Those twelve frequencies were always divided by two, so you had octaves, and went right down to the bass.

I said to my people, now to get this thing serviced we need somebody- a radio set man- to go out to a person's house and find out that their tube is dead- like a radio- that's the kind of man we need to hire, and he should go through all the factory training, so he knows all about servicing Novachords. A young radio man was found. When he got to the factory he said to the manager, "What are all those keys; do they have names?" and the manager had to make out a little chart and say this is A and this is B flat and so on and give him a set of rules so that he could at least know something about that. So he came to work- except that there weren't very many calls for him so he just sat around there.

Then he said to the service manager, "This thing is very interesting to me." In his family (I found out later, for I took a tremendous interest in this guy) there had never been any piano and there'd never been anybody he knew personally that played any kind of a keyboard instrument. The whole business of a keyboard instrument as far as he was concerned was a brand new idea. So he said, would there be any harm, while I'm just sitting around here, if I connected up the organ to play very softly so it wouldn't bother anybody? I would just like to experiment with it." whereupon he just started to fool around on the keyboard. He'd never had any harmony, never anything of any kind. He began that way. How it sounded was kind of pleasant. He didn't do any silly busienss. He started right in. Before long he could play by ear any current tune that was around. And then he began to play slightly louder, because the people around down in that part of the plant kind of enjoyed the fellow. Well then when it came to lunch time, they would all break into "Let's get him to play!" And he would play requests. And he would just sit there and play anything that anybody asked for, I mean that was a current song. He played loud, so everybody could hear it then, and it was just fantastic what he had learned to do on that organ in just a few months with no training.

Well, once he felt he could do all these things, he went down and applied to the musicians' union to become a union organist. They gave him an examination, and he passed it easily, and in no time at all he had a union license. He became so professional and so much in demand- his first job was just in a bar, but in no time at all he was playing in the big time- he just made money very fast. He apologized to me for leaving us, but really he could make more money in no time. He just took off. But i thought it was such an extraordinary thing- the speed with which he learned this. (For those that think that the environment is more important than heredity, this story is something to ponder.)

He wasn't a person like Hanert. Hanert would go off into fancy Bach- he had a doctorate in music. He'd lived in Milwaukee. His father was a German, who said, "You must have piano lessons," and got a teacher, and the whole thing fell apart so that the teacher told the man, "Your son has no ability with the piano; he'll never play."

So the father said, "Well, that's too bad, and that's that. We terminate the lessons." But after awhile he met a boy who was taking some kind of a course in piano playing, where you learned to play a few chords by ear, and when you got so you could play a sort of a jazz popular at the time. He got started with that and he wanted his father to pay for the lessons after he'd done it for awhile but his father said, "Oh no, no- you had your chance and you didn't do it, and now if you want to learn to play, you can do whatever you please."

But in the meantime, Hanert got started with this funny system, and he found that he became immediately popular because he could play the piano with people of his age, and everybody would say, "Oh, play the piano!" And he began to do very well with that.

Well, he did so well with it that he could play request numbers and anything anybody would ask, by ear, and at that time there had just opened a big movie theater where he lived, with a big organ. He went up to the organist and said, "If you'll let me practice a bit when nothing is happening, I think I can demonstrate that I can play the organ well enough so that I can relieve you at times when you just want a break." And the organist thought that was fair enough. So in no time at all he learned the creep-around technique, which of course is the main thing, and he learned to play pedals, and he learned to play the organ so well that in time he was hired as the assistant organist and before he had finished high school he was earning $200 a week- a fantastic amount in those days, more than his father's income.

He got the idea that future organs would be electric, and, although he wasn't interested really so much in electrical things, he went to the University of Michigan and took up electronic communication theories- and he also entered the college of music. And by the time he finished college, he had a doctorate. I think it was music. And he was also a graduate electrical engineer. Well, what could be more marvellous than that? So he applied to a man who had already developed an experimental all-electronic organ. And when Hanert explained his qualifications, he was hired. He more or less put the organ together for this inventor. While he was doing that, he came to understand what the problems of building an electric organ were. And just at that time this patent of ours was issued, and he saw a copy, and he said, "Well that's a much better scheme than our scheme," so immediately he arrived at my place and said, "I read your patent, and I have the following qualifications. Do you have an organ that I could play on?"

And I said, Why yes, you certainly have the qualifications. Come up and play the organ."

He went up and sat down at this organ. It was quite a good instrument, though it didn't look like anything. Well, he sat down and just played this thing. I said, "Play Nola." He immediately jumped into Nola and played it just lickety-split. And I asked him to play "Tea for Two", and different things and he did, and then I said, "How about a little Bach?" Well, he took off on Bach and played all kinds of lovely Bach things, and I said, "Well, you're a fellow who can certainly help me but how much money do you want?" Because this was in the early days, he asked for a moderate amount. And I said, "Well, we're working on a better model of this- a production model- and you can work on that." So he did.

Well the funny part about the fellow was, he could play the organ just marvellously, but for a long time he had no inventive ideas, no construction ideas, at all. I kept thinking, well, this fellow's a marvellous player but he'll never be any help to me to really use his qulaifications. But he was a demonstrator, who went in and demonstrated for Henry Ford and at New York. And then, a few years later, he began to pick up as an inventor. And he thought of all kinds of things and was tremendously useful, and made many inventions for the company.

The first big thing he did was the Solovox, which was later imitated by others. It fastened onto pianos. You have to have a little keyboard and you have to have it close enough to the piano so that you can play notes on the piano and also thumb another note- or play the melody with your right hand and accompany it with the left hand on the piano. And it could produce all kinds of instrument sounds: it was from the very beginning something that was cascaded down from higher frequency by dividing by two. When we made Novachord, the system of dividing by two was a thing which I found out by experiment. It was sort of a narrow range: all the components had to be correct or it might not divide by two all the way down the scale.

Notes down below might quit. And then, as we went along with that, that scheme became an essential part of our tricks. And later on, when Hanert became an inventer, he made very much more sure-fire dividers. But the Solovox was largely his invention. And the Chord organ, which came after the war, was almost entirely his.

n 1939 perhaps at the height of his powers, Hammond at 44 was so healthy and vigorous that he looked younger. There was quiet power in his erect frame, six feet two and 197 pounds. His eyes, the eyes of a thinker were brown as was his hair, his suits, shoes and ties. "My civilian clothes," Hammond once admitted to me, "are more precisely alike than any uniform." The way an old Company employee put it, "He always wore brown suits; if they were new, you wouldn't know it."

He had personal charm mixed with reserve. He was always well groomed, was fond of working in shirt sleeves, but wearing his tie. He was an omnivorous reader who understood Einstein, whom he admired immensely. His favorite author was Shaw. He enjoyed watching professional baseball, and he and his wife liked to go to the theater and seldom missed a symphony concert. He loved symphony music, and had a penetrating appreciation. He walked for exercise, and did calisthenics. He took short vacations with his wife and daughters in his 47 foot cabin cruiser on Lake Michigan, and most every summer he took his wife to Europe on the Normandie, or the Queen Mary - usually to France, which they loved. By this time he owned and lived in a town house in Chicago's near Northside, where he always had several Siamese cats.

A cousin remembers him sitting on the stairs with a casting rod and a catnip mouse. If the cat got the mouse, he'd reel the cat in gradually. To preserve the furniture from feline vandalism, he designed cat scratching posts: square pieces of wood grooved or inset, with the grooves or cut outs filled with catnip. They were covered first with strong canvas, then with softer canvas. A cat liked that to scratch- better even than sofas and upholstered chairs. They took a cat on the boat with them. Mildred took care of the front end, Larry the rear end.

The Hammond's life was a quiet life; Hammond valued his privacy very much. They entertained sparingly within a small circle, went out little. Everything was, in fact, pretty much geared to his life as inventor and guiding genius of the Hammond Company, and his wife supported completely his need to be free to think about his work at any time and all times. They lived a very ordered life. He was a wonderful conversationalist and a marvellous reconteur. But his sister-in-law still pictures him at a Sunday dinner. "He'd have his clipboard and something on his mind, and practically not say a word- though he was always polite and gallant. He would carve, and say, 'My wife likes it rare', and serve her that; 'My daughter Polly likes it well-done', and so on, but whatever he was working on was all going through his mind. He would eat and carve but his mind was way off. He wouldn't say a word, but would listen to other people talking." "He was so interested in what was going on in his mind," says his niece, "That he would retire into the living room and think happily." But after he had finished something he'd been working on, he would talk for two hours about anything. In the meantime, if you could break through and get his attention, he was marvellous, but otherwise he might seem standoffish, if you didn't know him. When he had to socialize, he did it beautifully.

Besides their daughters, Polly, 13 and Peggy, 7, (in 1939) the Hammonds were bringing up Leonard and David Shepard, the orphaned sons of his sister Peggy, but the boys were away at boarding school most of the time. All four were extremely bright. They came by it naturally. but they had to behave in the Hammond household.

ntil she died in 1939, Hammond spent every Sunday afternoon with his mother. There was love, not strife, between Idea and Mildred and Hammond on his part was very fond of Mildred's mother whom he considered almost a saint. Idea once said to her, "I try so hard to be good, but you don't have to try; you ARE good."

In the spring of 1940, which was the 150th anniversary of the United States patent system, Hammond was named one of "America's Modern Pioneers" by the National Association of Manufacturers. And in October of that year at a reception at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, he was presented with the Institute's prestigious John Price Wetherill Medal, which is awarded once a year "for discovery or invention in the physical sciences or for new and important combinations of principles or methods already known."

Hammond had collected over the years a very competent staff of executives. Redmond and Hanert I have already mentioned and I have briefly mentioned George Stephens, the Chief Engineer.

e designed the product and he did it always very accurately and carefully and always had complete bills of materials and specifications. Stephens contributed a lot because as a designer he was very good; he also had a sense of decor; he made some very wonderful looking (we thought) Hammond clocks, which were very popular, designed from the artistic standpoint, and he made great contribusionts to the perfection of our equipment and the organ. And he was the person, from my point of view, who contributed the most to the technical part of the organ until you got into some of these inventions which Hanert made, which is something different. The things which Stephens did were not inventions exactly. They were very professional, accurate: keeping track of everything.

When it comes to salesmen that's a field in which I was never personally very much interested. I appreciated the performance of Emory Penny and the sales department, but it was never my cup of tea. Redmond was tremendously interested in the sales. He was genuinely sales manager in terms of his policies and what he did, and how he organized the sales; that was his main activity outside of operation of the personnel department.

Cedric Merrill, also a great friend of Hammond's was Treasurer. Stanley Sorenson, the young mail clerk who had dealt out 1,000 bridge hands in 1932 was now an officer of the Company- later he was to become President and then Chairman of the Board. John Volkober, who started as office boy in 1937 was to follow Sorenson as President.

Led by Hammond and this remarkably able group of executives, the Company which had changed its name to the Hammond Instrument Company in 1937- produced more and more models and more and more organs which needed very little maintenance.

The shares of Hammond Company stock which were bought originally for $25,000 (later increased by a public offering of $100,000) so grew in value that before Hammond retired, each share was paying more in every quarterly dividend than the original cost of the share, and the original shares which had cost $25,000 became worth a hundred million dollars.

The popularity of the Hammond organ had grown by leaps and bounds. By 1938 it was in 39 countries and over a thousand churches, with the number swelling faster every year, including the Cathedral of Mexico, largest church in the New World, and Canterbury Cathedral (By 1953 it was in over 35,000 churches; by 1965 over 50,000). By 1939 more Hammond organs had been sold than all other organs put together. Besides Gershwin and Stokowski, such eminent musicians as Toscanini, Deems Taylor, Hoffman and Mary Garden had expressed their enthusiasm for the new instrument. not only Milt Herth, but other well known entertainers such as Ethel Smith, Paul Whiteman, Jimmy Smith, Lenny Dee, Hal Shutz, Rosa Rio, Jackie Davis, Mildred Alexander, Eddie Layton, Alex Alexander, and Shay Torrent popularized Hammond's organ by their use of it.

Just consider Ethel Smith. She had studied the pipe organ, and was a piano accompanist but the first time she tried a Hammond organ she fell in love with it. Its instant response captivated her. "I found you could play all sorts of rhythms and get the most fabulous effects. I thought, this is my destiny- this is what I'm going to play." There was nobody to show her how, so she taught herself. She practiced and practiced developing her own style.

thel made the Hit Parade with the Latin song "Tico-Tico", which she brought back from Brazil, and she played it with such ferver that the Hammond Company had to employ two secretaries to answer the mail about her. Everybody wanted to play "Tico" like her. Five-feet-two and a half, red-haired, swaying with her music, she became a celebrity much sought after.

But in all those years she never met her instrument's reticent inventor. Laurens Hammond was only a legend to her. Until one New Years Eve at the Mayfair Room in Chicago. She hugged him, threw her arms around him and kissed him. "If it weren't for you, I might have wound up in an older profession than music," she told him.

Ethel, who finally has bought herself a marvellous large Hammond organ says she sometimes has to entertain on inferior makes. But after a lifetime career as an organist she doesn't like any other organ as well as the Hammond. (Some people think she is paid for such tributes. She says she wishes she were!)

As we have seen there were many other noted enthusiasts besides Ethel Smith. And thus because of its extraordinary new qualities, and the enthusiasm of so many prominent demonstrators the Hammond organ became very widespread in an astonishingly short time. So widespread that its voice- it has a kind of flutey sound- became better known among the general public thatn that of the pipe organ itself. People wanted the Hammond organ because it made the kind of music they were accustomed to and had come to like.

Chapter XVI - World War II    Index

ęCopyright 1974, Stuyvesant Barry All Rights Reserved May not be copied, published, used on anyone else's web pages or in any way without express written permission.

Hammond organs were manufactured in Europe and Canada under License from the American Hammond Organ Company in Chicago. Their models looked similar but were different in several respects. The best place to find a classic Hammond organ for your home or church is for quality pre-owned Hammond organs