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MMD > Archives > December 2002 > 2002.12.21 > 02Prev  Next

Johnson Style 163 Band Organ in Salem, Oregon
By Bill Luca

The decibel debacle

Regarding Glenn Morris' posting on the Johnson 163 band organ in
Salem, Oregon [021208 MMDigest].  As I have been outspoken before,
probably due to advancing age on my part, please indulge another
semi-rant.  I am very surprised that Johnson has not made a response
to this (unless I have missed it) considering the technician's opinion
that components of the organ were crudely designed.

But I'm wondering, did anyone in the purchasing office of this
carousel not at least make an excursion to Johnson's organ factory
to hear what this machine would sound like before buying it?  It would
appear that they would have wanted a Wurlitzer 105 clone.  The
instrument that was purchased appears to be the biggest and loudest
machine that Johnson manufactures.

The organ is modeled upon the Wurlitzer 164 brass trumpet organ.
I recall (fondly) seeing such an instrument displayed by Mr. Paul
Torin.  Mr. Torin told me that some people asked if it had a volume
control.  He replied that it had one volume setting -- loud!

I also recall people running around with decibel meters and threatening
lawsuits at the Crescent Park Ruth 38 organ at Crescent Park, RI, even
though the instrument had played without complaint since 1895.  Now,
they are talking about boxing its frontage with Plexiglas, and adding
Plexiglas yet in front of that.  I should think the next step would be
to brick the organ behind cinderblock and present a digital image of

The notion of buying such an organ and then muffling or disconnecting
it and using canned music is rather sad.  Perhaps the glass structure
of the building attenuates the timbre of the brass trumpets and

But the protestations of the 'pierced' employees should not justify
the systematic dissection of this impressive machine.  If it is not
as churchy as a Gavioli, that would indicate it accurately replicates
Wurlitzer's 164 organ.  The technician's assurance that he can
guarantee a good home for the organ, should the turmoil continue,
leaves little doubt to me where that home will be.  I would be very
happy to give it a home myself.

Bill Luca
Salem, Mass.

(Message sent Sat 21 Dec 2002, 07:19:22 GMT, from time zone GMT-0500.)

Key Words in Subject:  163, Band, Johnson, Oregon, Organ, Salem, Style

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