Band organs have their own personalities. Of course Ruths sound
different from Bruders, and Bruders different from Gaviolis, and
Gaviolis different from Wurlitzers. But even within a make and model,
there are distinct differences between one organ and another of the
I have heard all but two of the Wurlitzer 165's; they all sound similar
but never exactly the same. How much of that is due to building
acoustics and how much to the organ itself is hard to say. Steve
Lanick always made his Wurlitzer-replica pipes out of well-seasoned old
barn wood, saying that organ pipes made out of new lumber were never
going to sound like those in an organ made back in the early days, when
lumber was seasoned more carefully.
Over time I have received tape cassettes from Ray Siou -- as I am
sure many others who ordered rolls from Ray have -- containing music
recorded from various roll-playing organs, including Ray's own "church
pipe" organ. One of them is someone's Marr & Colton theater organ
playing 165 and APP rolls. The organ has a piano connected to it, and
when it belts out a march such as E.T. Paull's "The Triumphant Banner,"
it makes a very mighty sound. Not exactly like a band organ, but
extremely satisfactory, rich, and rousing.
The sounds on those various tapes tells me that you can make a pretty
good "band organ" from a carefully chosen set of pipe organ pipes,
particularly if you stick to wood ones. But I think you'd have to
know a little about the character of a given organ rank and how its
character blends with that of the ranks it is paired with in order to
come up with a selection of ranks that produces the overall sound that
you want, whether or not that sound is imitative of any other organ or
of real orchestral instruments.
The only violin pipes I've heard on a mechanical musical instrument
that I could say sound anything like a real violin are those on Harvey
Roehl's little North Tonawanda Musical Instrument Works' Model L coin
piano. But as Robert Linnstaedt says to Mark Elbasani, such a fragile
sound on a band organ probably wouldn't work.
The new organ at Rye Playland, replacing their 165-roll-playing
Gavioli, was made by Gavin McDonough out of ranks taken from old
church or theater organs, including at least one metal (zinc?) rank.
Stinson organs are made entirely out of new lumber, which may partly
account for their distinctly Stinson sound.
The new Seabreeze replica Wurlitzer 165, made by Johnny Verbeeck,
was very closely patterned after an original 165 -- Johnny took
measurements from Bob Gilson's 165 -- and most people don't notice
any difference in sound from the real 165 that it replaces. Yet, it
is slightly different: a tad louder, less mellow, and some one-step/
two-step rolls sound (to me at least) harsher than they did on the old
organ or on the Glen Echo 165. Again, since the M-G-R building is new
(built with newly seasoned lumber too), building acoustics may figure
[ Would lower pipe pressure help it sound mellower? -- Robbie