I have known Rich Olsen for over 10 years, since he first appeared on
the arranging scene doing Wurlitzer band organ style 165 "lost tunes"
as if Wurlitzer had done them. About the same time, Matthew Caulfield
began working with Rich to produce new Wurlitzer band organ rolls.
Rich was a brilliant, reincarnated Wurlitzer band organ arranger
who always graciously accepted my suggestions and recommendations.
He always humbly underplayed his musical genius due to his quiet,
unassuming style, never wanting to be out front. Even so, word of his
artistry spread and soon he was arranging more Wurlitzer band organ
rolls of many styles, doing custom arranging, even doing large scale
Marenghi organ arranging.
He produced numerous Violano Virtuoso contemporary MIDI tunes, allowing
the Violano to do things nobody thought it could do! At the time of
his death, he had a steady stream of band organ arranging work and was
working with others on a project to do Wurlitzer APP, A, and G roll
Rich Olsen grew up in San Diego, California. He was first bitten by
the carousel and band organ bug while working at the Belmont Park,
Mission Beach carousel in San Diego. Shortly thereafter, he became
a professional drummer travelling with Country and Western and Rock
bands throughout the country and the world for over 20 years.
He discovered arranging late in life, finally returning to his first
love and plunging seriously into the Wurlitzer band organ arena where
he made it his specialty to find Wurlitzer 165 roll listings in the
Wurlitzer catalog of great tunes but where the rolls were no longer
known to exist. He created a virtual set of Wurlitzer band organ sound
samples so he could arrange a tune, code it with the sound samples, and
the listener was rewarded with a lost tune sounding as if it were
played on a real Wurlitzer 165 organ.
Over the last couple years, Rich had been fighting a couple of health
issues, the most recent and serious was an outbreak of facial skin
cancer. Yet he never slowed down and he moved from San Diego to
Turlock, California, where he was able to collaborate with others and
have good medical care. In my most recent conversation with him, only
ten days ago, he was very engaged with what he was doing and his only
expressed concern was staying current on all the arranging demands.
Rich's passing is a deep personal loss to me, his friends, and the
mechanical music world. His sheer musical genius produced a wonder
of great listening for many people in the past and for years to come.
Here is his very last band organ arrangement for a Verbeeck 112-key
concert organ, completed only a few days before his passing:
Princeton, New Jersey
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