Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Evolution of an Organist

I used to hate organ.

Classical, jazz, theatre, whatever. Hated it.

I started out playing piano in 3rd grade, so I had initially felt a kinship with the organ because of the similar keyboard pattern both instruments share.

My first experience with an organ was with my grandparent's Baldwin organ. I didn't know much about different brands of organs, I was only in 3rd grade.

It was a small organ, short foot pedals, and a thin sound. It had one of those buttons that you could push and rhythms resembling that of a drummer would start to play.

Among the different styles of beats you could get out of it, included 'foxtrot', 'swing' and 'waltz'.

Now I don't remember what I was listening to as a little kid, but most Top 40 music at the time was using an organ-Stevie Winwood, Eric Clapton, The Eagles, etc.

All I knew is that my grandparent's organ did not sound like the organ that I was hearing on the radio in all those bands. I figured there was some kind of way to voice the chords and set up the sound differently than one would on piano, so that it would sound the way that it was supposed to. Whatever it was I was supposed to do, I didn't know how to do it, and I assumed that it was for people more talented that I.

Several things continued to happen throughout my life that slowly changed my mind. The week before my sophomore year in college I left to go visit the next and last girl that I was to date for the remaining time at my first college of choice.

The trip and the relationship were both disastrous, but heading into Boston, a fellow passenger heard the above story and my disdain for the organ. He protested that I had never heard a Hammond organ. I didn't care, that was the 80s, and synthesizers were all the rage. Professional musicians were selling their once glorious Hammond organs for a few hundred dollars so they could get a synthesizer, and I wanted one myself.

I never knew who this man was, because gigs for Hammond players were pretty thin at this time. He must have been a talented and committed player.

After moving to Austin in 1993, I visited the world's famous blues club Antone's, and there again was a organist putting down some funky sounds with a blues band.

Impressed I was for sure, but again, felt that such ability was outside of my talents.

To be continued....


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