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MMD > Archives > June 2013 > 2013.06.23 > 01Prev  Next

Restore North America's Carousel Organs
By Mikey Mills

"Adopt an Instrument"

For years, I've been trying to get public venues to take care of
their music machines, but they almost always come up with some excuse
that does not directly say they don't want to spend the money, but
it's true.

When they say, "There is no one to maintain them," I refer them to
local restorers -- but there's no response back from the place -- and
when they complain about the music rolls, I mention MIDI -- but no
reply comes back.  It's a simple 'money' issue and, while none of us
here believe it's right, it's happening.

I finally decided the only way to get these music machines restored is
to raise money for the restoration.  I'm writing here to get feedback
on everyone's opinion, along with suggestions for instruments to raise
money for.

I've been planning this for a few months now, and have very high hopes
for how this can turn out, as I sincerely believe that these
instruments will be restored, and I refuse to stop until that happens.

I am hoping to get an amusement park company aboard, Cedar Fair, which
for a long time I've pushed them to restore their instruments.  Prior
to about a decade ago they actually did have a fairly good record of
keeping their mechanical instruments playing well, at least the ones
that people saw, but that ended somewhere in the early 2000s when the
budget was, if not completely cut, significantly lowered.

The idea of this is not to 'snatch' these instruments from the venues,
but instead, to have these restored to play for the general public

Seeing these in public venues are how we got interested in the first
place.  I don't know of many people who get interested by hearing a
recording or viewing a video on YouTube, so it's about hearing them
live -- and seeing the music roll run and the percussion move -- as the
truth is many people don't have a clue on what a 'music machine' is
and, if they do, they normally don't know what they sound like.

It's not just about getting these instruments heard again though I would
very much like to have these preserved.  For example, I have no idea on
how the mechanism, pipes, and pneumatics of Kings Island's Wurlitzer
157 band organ are holding up just sitting in storage, but I can see
the facade, and already a carving is missing which was there just a few
months before, and so I believe it is becoming more and more imperative
to have these instruments restored, as a music machine restored now can
be kept more original than a basket-case in 20 years.

I've read stories and stories of music machines practically having to
be replaced during restoration because of just sitting there, and I
firmly believe that an original instrument not only adds to its value,
but also its charm.

I'm planning to do the funding through an on-line web site called
'Kickstarter'.  It's been proven effective for many projects, and is
a very user-friendly fundraising web site.  With the money raised,
I would direct every cent raised to the restorer to have it restored,
and when done, returned to the venue to play for hopefully a long time.

Speaking of after the restoration, further maintenance would hopefully
be funded by the venue, as a restored music machine always brings in
money if properly displayed, or more specifically, 'nickels'.  Selling
CDs can be another option to raising money for future maintenance, if
the music machine doesn't take nickels of course.  Again, if the CD is
properly advertised, ideally near the instrument, it would for sure

Another side project this could result in is the preservation of rolls.
It is rumored that Cedar Fair, the company I contacted about this, has
quite a few music rolls, and here's to hoping that some of them are the
'missing' rolls to be able to be re-cut.  I especially suspect Cedar
Fair owning these as, specifically, the band organs they own have been
said to have had a missing roll, at least at one time.

Kings Island's Wurlitzer 157, when in Paul Eakins' collection, had
roll 6524 recorded, which had a song, "Los Matrimonios, Salvavidas",
on a roll that is missing on other existing rolls, and knowing how many
band organs Cedar Fair owns, who's to say that there aren't other rolls
laying around previously undiscovered?  Knotts Berry Farm also owns a
157 that reportedly has not played in at least 20 years and has a roll
cabinet next it, still sitting there.  I can't help but wonder if there
are other missing rolls in their collection.

This applies to all the public venues, really; I would like to get as
many places on board as possible, as these instruments need to play
again, and to tell the truth, could a place refuse to accept money to
restore their historic music machines?

Mikey Mills 

(Message sent Sun 23 Jun 2013, 02:32:04 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  America's, Carousel, North, Organs, Restore

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