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Pulling out all the stops April 30, 2007

Posted by daveintexas in guitarsrockandroll, stuff.

Most of you would recognize the distinctive sound of this instrument immediately, without really knowing why.  You’ve heard it all your life. 


The Hammond B3 Organ

Invented by Laurens Hammond in 1934, this instrument made its way into music history, gospel, blues, jazz, funk and rock.  The spectrum of American music for almost 80 years.  The list of artists who have recorded and performed with this amazing instrument is a long one… from Sam Brown, Count Basie and Eddie Baxter, to Jon Lord (Deep Purple), Rick Wright (Pink Floyd), Keith Emerson (ELP), Gregg Rolie (Santana, Journey), Rick Wakeman (Yes) and Gregg Allman… who hasn’t recorded on a B3 is probably a shorter list. 


What made it so unique?  The design was revolutionary, as they say.  Traditional organ engineering combined with electronics, the precursor to the synthesizer.  Two 61-key keyboards, or manuals, the upper (swell) and the lower (great), and a full two octave set of footpedals.  Waveforms are modified by pulling out the drawbars or stops, giving the keyboardist a way to create a unique sound.

But the sound you know the best is when this monster is hooked up to a Leslie speaker cabinet.  The B3 was designed to be used with an external speaker, and the Leslie made it famous.  Designed by Don Leslie, the speaker cabinet has a rotating horn over a stationary treble speaker, and a rotating baffle beneath a fixed bass woofer.  The speed of the horn and baffle can be adjusted to give it that “wah-wah-wah-wah-wah” sound.


Leslie 122 Speaker Cabinet

These two animals weigh about 400 pounds apiece.  I remember lugging one around from church to church in 1977 and I never complained about my Bassman again.  Super keyboardists like Wakeman and Emerson would be surrounded on a stage by rows of Moogs and electric pianos, and still insisted on dragging these brutes with them.  They loved them that much.


Rick Wright

What can a B3 do that’s sultry and sweet?

Glad you asked.



1. lauraw - April 30, 2007

One of my many music customers has built his entire business around Leslie Hammond. I have had the pleasure of packing some of that stuff.

It’s hard work, but the sweat is mostly fear-based.

2. Retired Geezer - April 30, 2007

I saw a band in a lounge in Vegas and I kept hearing the Leslie but nobody was playing a B3.

I finally figured it out, it was the Harmonica player who had some kind of magic box that did it for him.

I bought one but I can’t make it talk like he did.

It’s a DigiTech rp300a.

3. kevlarchick - May 1, 2007

Whew. Those forearms are enough to send me into a swoon. And there’s my boy Ritchie Blackmore.

4. daveintexas - May 1, 2007

I don’t blame you for being nervous Laura. A keyboardist we used to play with had a 1950-something B3 and a 6 foot Leslie, and he paid more for them 3 years ago than he did for his used truck.

Wouldn’t you have to build a crate or something for the Hammond? That thing is huge.

Geez, I gave up on modeling effects years ago. I basically need three things on an electric, distortion, fuzz and wah. Simple pleasures.

They look pretty young don’t they KC?

5. eddiebear - May 1, 2007

I don’t know a whole lot about the innerworkings of music, but anything that involves Deep Purple can’t be all bad.

I was wondering. I guess with this beast you don’t have to worry if it goes to 11.

6. daveintexas - May 1, 2007

We used to mic the Leslie and feed it into the main.

7. mesablue - May 1, 2007

Roland is making B3’s now, huh?

Those keyboard guys can just go out and buy their tone — we have to master ours.

It’s a blast playing a guitar through a real Leslie, btw.

8. daveintexas - May 1, 2007

Didn’t Fender make a Leslie type cabinet? I think I remember seeing one years ago.

9. lauraw - May 1, 2007

Fortunately Dave, it was all soft-pack work on rare fragile parts, not the whole assembled item.

But still. As far as I know, they ain’t making them anymore. Would really have sucked to lose one of those shipments.

10. daveintexas - May 1, 2007

They don’t make em anymore humpygal. Average price of one with a decent finish without a Leslie is around 9 grand.

11. carin - May 2, 2007

I can’t see Santana anymore w/o imagining him in that assclown Che shirt.

12. Dave in Texas - May 3, 2007

I put Carlos in the “less than harmful doofus” category. He’s one of those “we are the world” kind of dummies. Sweet. Not to smart. Can rip a tune off a Les Paul that makes me not care.

13. See-Dubya - May 5, 2007

Ask for this video for Father’s day:



I’m still not sure what it does that a smaller keyboard can’t, but I can’t deny that it sure does sound good.

14. daveintexas - May 6, 2007

Thanks See-dub (not sure why your comment got snared).

All the keyboardists I know just love that B3 sound. They swear it can’t be synthesized, not accurately.

15. Lost & Sound - January 11, 2008

Happy Birthday, Hammond Organ!

Laurens Hammond (1895 – 1973), the inventor of the Hammond Organ, was born on January the 11th. The Hammond organ was only one of his many inventions, but it’s the one that he still is remembered for today.
Besides the organ he invented a silent …

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