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MMD > Archives > October 2010 > 2010.10.11 > 01Prev  Next

Joe Patton, Phantom of the Atlanta Fox
By Dean T. Smith

As you may know, in Atlanta is the Fabulous Fox Theater.  It is a
wonderful building built in the Moorish motif in the 20s, I think.

Over thirty years ago a man named Joe Patton took it upon himself to
rebuild the Mighty Moller Organ that had not played for many years.
This past week there was an update on Joe and the apartment he occupies
within the Fox.  Joe was given a life-long lease on the apartment for
his work on the organ.  But now that Joe is old and is having some
health problems, the owners of the Fox want to cancel the life-long
lease that Joe has had for over 30 years.

On a recent TV update, the camera scanned the apartment, and when
moving across the music holder on a grand piano, it captured a book
entitled "Rebuilding Player Pianos."  I don't know whether there are
any players there, but I would imagine so.

I was shown the Moller way back in 1959, and it was in terrible shape
and had been eaten by rats.  It took Joe many years to rebuild it.  I
was in the audience for its first performance, in the mid-80s I
believe.  I walked into the closed theater in 1959 as an eighteen year
old kid who had been playing the piano since the age of three.  I was
blown away and also saddened by the condition such an magnificent
instrument had allowed to reach.  I had played the then newly restored
Wurlitzer at the auditorium in Chattanooga and had developed a love of
those old organs.  I have also played the organs that were in the
Eastman Theater and the Masonic Temple in Rochester, N.Y., in the
1970s.  I am not an organist, but can get some music from them.

It is still up in the air as to what will happen to Joe Patton at the
Fox, but I think it says something about a man's love of musical
instruments to take the years to repair that one.

I have never met Joe but would love to.  It is just a shame that after
Joe saved the organ, and also on two occasions actually saved the 
building itself, to be treated this way.

It would help Joe to know that people all over the world appreciate
what he did.  I don't have the link to the Fox in Atlanta but a Google
search would turn up a lot of information.  I think Joe would
appreciate it if the owners of the Fox heard from music lovers from all
over the world in support of him.  Joe is in his late 80s and not in
good health and does not need this hassle at this point in his life.

My wife and I went to see the "Phantom of the Opera" at the Fox
recently, and Joe is called "The Phantom of the Fox."

Thanks for any words of support you can give.

Dean Smith

(Message sent Mon 11 Oct 2010, 02:12:00 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Atlanta, Fox, Joe, Patton, Phantom

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