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MMD > Archives > August 2012 > 2012.08.31 > 05Prev  Next

Wurlitzer 165 Heard on "Catch The Brass Ring"
By Matthew Caulfield

Jim Neher agreed in yesterday's MMD with Dave Haibach's assessment
of the quality of the recording on Klavier's "Catch The Brass Ring."
A bit of background on that recording might be in order here.

We now know that Klavier issued two cassettes and CD's with that title:
"Catch The Brass Ring, v. 1" (1975) and "Catch The Brass Ring, v. 2"
(1978), both recorded at the same session from Wurlitzer 165 band organ
serial #3358, then owned by John Malone (Play-Rite Music, Inc.), who
had acquired it from Sunnyside Park, Toronto, after the park closed
circa 1957.

Sunnyside's Wurlitzer 165 was installed in 1921 on the park's Prior &
Church Racing Derby, not on a carousel, as you might expect.  The organ
is now in the Arnold Chase collection, West Hartford, Conn.  When John
acquired the organ it was in many pieces, and it took him many years to
restore it to mint condition.

The tympani clearly heard on the Klavier recordings was not a factory
original but a retrofit by John.  John also equipped the organ with
auxiliary roll frames so that it could play Wurlitzer 125 and Wurlitzer
150 rolls as well as style 165 rolls.   That was a useful addition,
because John and his mother, Jeanne Malone, used the organ for
auditioning and testing Wurlitzer rolls of all three styles sent to
Play-Rite for recutting.  It is interesting to hear a Style 150 band
organ roll playing on the 165 organ, because the additional pipe ranks
of the 165 enhance the sound of the 150 music, making it richer and

The recording of the Malone organ was done in Oakland, although
I cannot say in exactly what building.  Dan Robinson's comprehensive
article on existing Wurlitzer 165 band organs, published in v. 54,
no. 3 (May/June 2008), of the MBSI's "Mechanical Music," says that it
was recorded in the Oakland Coliseum.  But John Malone told me, when
I asked him for details of the recording, that it was done in the
basement of a museum.  John had trucked his band organ to Oakland as
part of a celebration of that museum's opening.

The organ was placed in the museum's concrete basement, which had no
sound-deadening save for the carpeting on the floor.  John left the
organ there for three days, and he was so impressed by the acoustics
that he convinced his then-partner Harold Powell (Klavier Records) to
do the recording there in Oakland rather than later at the Malone
residence, where the organ played in the large living room of the

In 2006, after his mother's death in 2005, John Malone sold the organ
to Arnold Chase.  Somewhat regretting having let the organ go after
hearing Rich Olsen's new arrangements for the 165, John commissioned
Belgian organ builder Johnny Verbeeck to make him a 165 replica like
Johnny did for Seabreeze Park.

Several years after the issue of the two recordings "Catch The Brass
Ring," Klavier issued a third recording, "Catch Another Brass Ring,"
this time recorded, as Klavier says in the accompanying leaflet to the
CD (c1990), "... from a Wurlitzer Model 165 Band Organ in a prominent
Midwest collection."  We believe that this is the Wurlitzer 165, serial
#3378, in the Gilson collection, Middleton, Wisconsin.  That organ too
has a tympani action, but one factory-installed before the organ left
the Wurlitzer factory in 1921.  The Gilson 165 is the only one ever so
equipped by Wurlitzer, as testified by the company's Shipping Dock

Matthew Caulfield
Irondequoit, New York

(Message sent Fri 31 Aug 2012, 15:38:57 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  165, Brass, Catch, Heard, Ring, Wurlitzer

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