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MMD > Archives > October 1997 > 1997.10.15 > 07Prev  Next

Band Organs at County Fair
By Sam Harris

Just wanted to share with you what I saw last week at the Pitt county, NC.

Louis May, who I think is a member of Amica, is in charge of entertainment
at the fair. He lives in Washington NC. He has a Wurlitzer Carousel Queen,
that is housed in a metal trailer. His organ sounded very good. Now you
must understand I have not had the privilege to hear a lot of organs, but I
do have an ear to tell when something is not right and to me this organ
sounded right. The organ was located in the middle of the fair where the
food court was. The organ was right in front of all the eating tables and
it was great to hear the music while you ate. Louis was gracious enough to
allow me to video the inside of the organ. I was able to watch the roll
mech. change to the 2nd roll while rewinding the 1st. Here is the
information displayed in front of the organ.

The Carousel Organ is an old-time Carnival merry-go-round Band Organ, built
in Tonawanda, NY.-October, 1916. Found almost junked in 1972. It is now
fully restored and playing it's genuine old-time Carnival Band Organ Music.
The great music of the Midway!! The organ has a total of 156 Violin,
Clarinet, Trombone, Trumpet, Tuba and Piccolo pipes, 16 bells, a bass drum,
snare drum and 2 cymbals. The entire system is powered by a 3/4 H. P.

I could see the bells which were actually a xylophone. It was very loud but
the tone was pleasing.

There was another LARGE organ from Danville VA. It belonged to James
Parrish and his widow continues to travel with the organ. Here is the
writing found on the trailer.

Bruder Organ. This 96 key band organ was built in Germany and put into
service around the turn of the century. Housed in the original gypsy wagon
made of rosewood, this organ has about 427 pipes and 925 valves. Lights
were added during the restoration to enhance the beauty of the hand carved
bandleader, cherubs and wood work. Hand made iron work is another example
of the superb German craftsmanship displayed here. The 5 mural on the front
are hand painted on canvas depicting Austrian-German countryside's. The
undercarriage was also added  during restoration for greater mobility,
however, we do not know as to when the electric motors were installed, but
it was done in this country. The bandwagon, when made, was pulled over the
road by a team of horses. A man turned a crank which provided air pressure
for the bellows, and carried the book music through a machine called a
tracker bar. We do not know when it was brought to this country. It was
acquired by James E Strates shows and played the eastern seaboard for
sometime. Early in 1975 it was acquired by James H. Parrish of Danville,
VA. It has taken 5 years of meticulous work to restore it to it's nearly
original condition.

This organ was not in the same shape as the Wurlitzer. I would say that
most of the pipes sounded but there were times when it was evident notes
were missed and some were slow.  There was a Bandleader that moved his hand
with the bass drum. There was a cherub on either side of him. The one on
the left played a horn in sync with a certain rank of pipes and the one on
the right played a stringed instrument which looked kinda like a guitar in
sync with the snare drum. Mrs. Parrish told me there used to be 2 more
cherubs but they were stolen and now she has placed baskets of artificial
flowers in their place. The original book music and mechanism is intact but
the organ was converted to play the Wurlitzer Military style rolls. I can't
remember the roll number. It had the standard dual tracker bars. I was able
to take the $1.00 tour and use my video camera. It was a very, very
exciting time for me. I have been driving my wife crazy playing the video
over and over. I just can't help it, I want one so bad I can't stand it.
Mrs. Parrish is now remarried and she was very nice to talk with. She
allowed me to watch as she changed a number of rolls. Dispite the fact that
some notes were missed the organ was a delight and I told her she was a
very lucky person to be able to share this wonderful instrument with

The fair is gone and so is the music. I miss it but I do have my video
unless my wife "accidentally!!" tapes over it.

The North Carolina State Fair is going on in Raleigh and I plan to go over
one day, video camera in hand, searching for more wonderful instruments to
"video collect" the collection a poor man can afford :->

Finally I am curious as to if any of you have ever seen these organs and
what are you impressions of them. Also how many of you get the chance to
display your organs at a fair. What's a fair with out one of our organs?

Sam Harris
3742 Old Creek Road
Greenville, NC.  27834

(Message sent Wed 15 Oct 1997, 03:50:51 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Band, County, Fair, Organs

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