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MMD > Archives > March 2009 > 2009.03.09 > 01Prev  Next

Wurlitzer 155 "Monster" & 160 "Mammoth" Organs
By Dan Robinson

Vic Searle asked about the Wurlitzer Style 155 "Monster" band organ
(090308 MMD).  This early organ (two of the three surviving examples
were actually built by DeKleist) plays its own 100-key Style 155 roll.

The earliest "Monster" is the one for which Marty Roenigk is seeking
more rolls (090307 MMD).  The organ, built by DeKleist in 1905 and
formerly owned by Gordon Forcier, had been playing 87-key B.A.B. rolls
(another rare roll) but Marty has since returned it to playing the
original Style 155 rolls.

The "Monster" formerly owned by Dr. Bill Black (Carrousel Music) is
now owned by Dr. Bob Gilson, Middleton, Wisconsin.  I believe this
organ, built by DeKleist about 1907, has always played Style 155 rolls;
it can also play Style 165 rolls on an auxiliary tracker which was
added by the late Mike Kitner.

The third "Monster" plays publicly for the beautiful Philadelphia
Toboggan Co. carousel #6 (1905) in Kit Carson County, Burlington,
Colorado.  This organ, built by Wurlitzer in 1909, played Style 165
rolls for decades.  In 1998 Art Reblitz, who had restored the organ
in 1976, returned it to playing Style 155 rolls.

Only about 17 original Style 155 rolls survive.  I believe they are
all with the now-Gilson organ.  They were recut for the Burlington
organ in 1998 when they were owned by Dr. Black.  Tim Westman,
Woodsville, New Hampshire, scanned them to MIDI files, Art Reblitz
edited them and newly arranged a few tunes, and the rolls were cut
by Thomas Jansen in Germany (ref. Art's article on the Burlington
carousel, organ and museum, MBSI's "Mechanical Music," March/April
2008).  Marty Roenigk says he has about a dozen rolls, so perhaps
the few he doesn't have could be recut again.

The "Monster" is understandably sometimes confused with the "Mammoth,"
which is the Style 160.  Just two of these organs are known to exist.
Both were converted to play Style 165 rolls.  One played at the
troubled Joyland Amusement Park, Wichita, Kansas; the future of the
organ and the park remains uncertain.  The other "Mammoth," formerly
owned by Marty Roenigk, and now owned by Don Nielson, Norristown,
Pennsylvania, has been returned to its original roll scale, but it
must be playing all new arrangements since no original 122-key Style
160 rolls exist.

Vic Searle also mentioned the later Wurlitzer Style 180.  Three of
these organs are known to exist.  The one formerly owned by the
late Jim Wells, and now owned by Jasper Sanfilippo, Barrington Hills,
Illinois, is the only one playing the original Style 180 rolls.  The
nine surviving rolls were recut by Mike Kitner; Art Reblitz also
arranged a couple of tunes for the then-Wells organ.

The 180 owned by Alan Bies, Houston, Texas, was factory-converted to
Caliola rolls, as was the partially complete 180 that is part of the
Bovey collection at Virginia City, Montana.

Dan Robinson
Rochester, New York

(Message sent Mon 9 Mar 2009, 23:23:05 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  155, 160, Mammoth, Monster, Organs, Wurlitzer

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