Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Evolution of an Organist-Part II

So like, really, this is the 4th post, but it's Part II of the third post.

I just wanted you to know that I know that you know.

So now we take you back to our regular program, already in progress.

Shortly before I returned to grad school, I was in a band playing bass and keyboards, playing the leader's original compositions.

On one particular song, the leader suggested that I try an organ sound. I flinched, hemmed and hawed, but after trying other sounds to no success, I tried the suggested organ sound which I had on one of my synthesizers.

It was as if the heavens had opened up.

It wasn't how I played, it was just that sound and it was close enough for me to understand it.

About that time, Faces/Small Faces keyboardist Ian McLagan rolled into town with his Hammond organ. Ian has played with Rod Stewart, Bonnie Rait, and the Rolling Stones, as well as many others. I went to one of his first shows that was at La Zona Rosa, where his Hammond was set up.

Encouraged, I then quickly made friends with the organ salesman at Strait Music, and he showed me the basics on how to operate the features of a Hammond organ. That was at their old location of 5th street, and he told me I could come over anytime and play the organs they kept in the same room with the high dollar Steinways and the extended octave Bosendohfers.

One morning on my way to work I knew that if I was to pray for an organ that I would get one.

So I did.

I was thinking at the time that I could pick up a Hammond 'M' Series organ for a couple of hundred dollars. The organ would be comparable in size to the Baldwin that scarred me, but it would be closer to the Hammond sound that I wanted.

That morning I found a Hammond organ newsgroup on line, and put it out there that I wanted this particular organ. A reply from an individual in San Antonio not only offered me a better organ, but that if I could come pick it up it was mine, for nothing. I kept that for a while, and even used it in performances with the church I was working with.

Then, an enterprising individual told our church he needed a place to 'store' his Hammond C3 organ. Not surprisingly, I fell in love with the organ, and one day the music minister said that the owner was needing to get the organ back if we weren't going to buy it. He offered me the 1st refusal.

By this time Hammond organs of this type had become a bit more expensive than a few hundred dolllars.

Nevertheless, I didn't refuse it.

Then I had not one but two Hammond organs.

That looked pretty cool in my apartment.

I traded the first one in on studio time, some of the results which are on my band's website, www.neotrio.net.

I continue to haul this organ around all over Austin when we play. Many people see what I go through to make this happen, and they ask me things like, 'don't you wish you played flute?'

I always answer that it's a good problem to have, because at one time I didn't have a Hammond organ to carry around.

And to quote Red Young, an organist in Dallas(http://www.redhots.net/), 'It doesn't sound right if your back doesn't hurt.'

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....