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MMD > Archives > December 2006 > 2006.12.24 > 03Prev  Next

Mechanical Music in Faraway Places
By Matthew Caulfield

Each year at Christmas-time I receive a card and calendar from
collector and MMD subscriber Alan Brehaut in New Zealand.  It doesn't
seem like Christmas any longer until that letter comes from Down Under.
Alan always encloses a spectacularly beautiful calendar showing the
breathtaking landscape of his country, hoping, I suppose, that my wife
and I will be impelled to visit.  Keep it up, Alan... you've almost got

When one thinks of mechanical music, one doesn't think of areas outside
of Europe and America.  But that doesn't mean there aren't enthusiastic
collectors all over the world.  Alan writes that he recently acquired
a Link AX orchestrion from the U.S. and a Dutch street organ, "De Lolita."
If his Lolita is anything like Kevin Sheehan's "Das Eichhörnchen," made
for Kevin by Elbert Pluer, I can understand why that is his favorite
new machine.   It is amazing to imagine shipping such large instruments
half way around the world.

When the modern interest in mechanical music history and collecting
began afresh after World War II, it was a case of a few isolated
pioneers working alone and unrecognized at first.  One thinks of Eric
Cockayne in the U.K., Q. David Bowers in the U.S.  As books got written
by such researchers and published by specialty presses like Harvey
Roehl's Vestal Press, the desire grew to own or at least to hear these
old marvels.  Fortunes were made by those who were able to ferret out
forgotten instruments or whole barns full of them, like the fabled
Heller Hoard.

True, there were operating instruments here and there before this
revival of interest -- Svoboda's Nickelodeon Tavern comes to mind --
but they were known largely only to locals.  It took writers,
publishers, and dealers to start the fire going hot and bright.

Today that fire is fed, and furiously fanned, by the Internet and media
like our very own Mechanical Music Digest.  Just this month Jack Conway
was able to identify nine out of the eighteen APP mystery rolls in his
collection, through a chain of contacts facilitated by the MMD.  You
simply cannot beat the Internet and the MMD as the way to find answers
to questions or to get opinions on any aspect of the mechanical music
field.  Much of this discussion takes place online and is preserved in
the MMD archives, but additional exchange of information takes place
off-line, one-on-one, using leads gotten from the daily digests.

My biggest regret as a Wurlitzer historian is that the Internet and
the MMD didn't exist when Farny Wurlitzer, Ross R. Davis, Jack Schott,
Ralph Tussing, Sylvia Schultz, W. Meakin Jones, and other names were
still alive to share information.  When they were alive, I was too
young and ignorant to ask them the right questions, and the only way
of communicating was by mail.  I have a letter from Farny Wurlitzer,
politely informing me that Wurlitzer was out of the music roll business
and that T.R.T. Maunfacturing Company was the place to contact.  From
Ralph Tussing I got lists of available rolls, but no information; Ralph
was no typist.

But enough of that.  My point is that, through Jody Kravitz's
Mechanical Music Digest and the unflagging editorship of Robbie Rhodes,
I can now be in instant contact with almost anybody in the world who
shares my interest in mechanical music, and I am grateful almost daily
for that.  Mechanical Music Digest was begun April 17, 1995, as the
Automatic Music Mailing List.

Thank you, Jody, Robbie, and fellow subscribers, and Merry Christmas
to you all!

Matthew Caulfield
Irondequoit, New York

P.S.: Historical:  The MMD was begun by Jody Kravitz alone, at the
suggestion of Terry Smythe, and the first digest went out on April 17,
1995, to a total of 51 people.   When did Robbie become full-time

 [ I was part-time "Relief Editor" beginning with 96.08.16 MMDigest
 [ and I assumed duties as full-time editor with MMDigest 980101,
 [ on New Years Day!  -- Robbie

(Message sent Sun 24 Dec 2006, 19:46:41 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  Faraway, Mechanical, Music, Places

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