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Robot Band
From: (Rick Cooley)
Date: Mon, 9 Feb 1998 21:12:34 EST

Subject: Kudos to Ron Schmuck and S. K. Goodman

Hi MMD Subscribers.  Occasionally during 1997, there was a thread
started to verbally reward those in the business who had provided
outstanding services for their friends or clients, in the field of
mechanical music.  I don't suspect that there was to be an overall
winner(s) but, if I may be so bold, let me nominate two landslide
"winners" for the first ever award for "Outstanding Achievement in
the field of Mechanical Music, 1997."

But first, I need to set the scene...

After 25 years of negotiating with Walt Bellm and his museum in
Florida,  I was finally allowed to purchase his 3-figure life-size
Robot Band.  One robot actually plays a set of drums; the middle robot
(a lady) simulates playing a player piano while a third figure had a
full 120-bass accordion.

The band had been Walt's pride and joy since 1972 when I first saw it
operate in his museum.  It was produced by the Blessing families, just
after the turn of this century.  It was imported in the 1950's by Lewis
Graham and used in his 7-trailer caravan of wonderful mechanical music
items, which were displayed between Washington D.C., and Maine.  I have
a copy of a November 3, 1957 New York Times article showing the Robot
Band as it played in front of the Museum of History and Technology,
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.  (Thanks to Art Reblitz for
providing this valuable, historical information.)

When we acquired the Robot Band in 1995, it was worn out from years of
constant playing for tens of thousands of museum visitors who kept
feeding it's coin slot.  Even though our shop had completed many large
machine restorations, we did not know where to begin.  That is when we
met two *world-class* restorers/technician/arrangers on the MMD:  Ron
Schmuck and Stephen Kent Goodman.

Ron Schmuck of the Great Canadian Nickelodeon Company

At one time, I believed that if we could not restore one of our
machines, no one in their right mind would dare try.  However, in May,
1997, the Band was safely in the Shops of Ron Schmuck, a subscriber
that we first met on the MMD.  The Band was returned on February 3rd,
1998 and the transformation was remarkable.

The finished piece measures 18 feet wide, 12 feet high and nearly 6
feet deep.  The top is a magnificent art glass panel filled with
cut-glass jewels and five beautiful musical instruments in art glass.
It has two large street lights (12 feet high) on the corners, filled
with 10" globes.  A German "beer garden" encloses the band on the back
and top which is then interlaced with beautiful carvings.  Ron's wife
researched the proper clothing and outfitted the three figures with
very authentic new clothing.

The entire Band was rebuilt (including extensive work on the player
piano).  A MIDI system was added to compliment the roll system which
was original to the instrument.  Everything lost from the band during
many years of use was carefully replaced to maintain as much of the
original look as possible.  The final product was absolutely amazing.
(The Band will be described and shown in the April Issue of the MBSI
Technical Journal, for those folks who are lucky enough to be members
of the MBSI.)

Stephen Kent Goodman, Mechanical Music Arranger Extraordinaire

As magnificent as the rebuild on the Robot Band was in Canada, I only
had two tunes for the roll playing mechanism which lasted about 7
minutes.  The mechanisms for the Robot Band are extremely complicated
with up to 50 other functions going on at the same time, not counting
the nearly full range accordion and piano.

Some of the arrangers I contacted promised music by the year 2005.
Others, when they realized the scope of what was needed stated,
"That is out of my league," and politely declined.  About that time
I responded to a MMD request from Stephen who was looking for rolls for
an extremely rare orchestrion, a Berry-Wood AOW, that he had recently
acquired.  I knew that there was one in the Franklin, PA, Music Machine
Museum that was previously owned by Jake DeBence.  Stephen checked it
out and found some of the information he needed.

Initially, I had no idea who Stephen Kent Goodman was but soon I was
sharing the story of my rare machine and the problem with more music.
After asking around about this guy, Stephen, I soon realized that he
has more credits to his name in mechanical music than at the end of a
Star Wars movie.  (You may recall that it took about 10 minutes to
finally scroll by on the screen.)

Stephen assured me that if anyone could do it, he could "do it better
with greater customer satisfaction and at a very fair price".  Without
more music, the Robot Band is worthless.  With more music, the Band is

We now have 5 hours of the most amazing music ever created by any
arranger, anywhere, any time.  When the player piano performs, the arms
and hands of the female robot follow the playing notes almost perfectly
(extremely complicated maneuvers).  The drummer robot can perform the
most complicated drum sequences with absolute precision on bass drum,
snare drum, rhythm and crash cymbal, Indian block and triangle.  With
flute pipes built into his chest, he can whistle along with any of the
tunes.  The accordionist robot plays 41 notes as his keyboard hand
flies up and down while his body sways to the music.  Each figure moves
its head, eyes, brows, arms, hands, etc., as they perform antics that
will have you rolling in the aisles.

Both Ron and Stephen completed their work in magnificent style and in
record time.  (I am a very obnoxious, "pushy" client but they responded
as true professionals.)

Therefore, I nominate Ronald Schmuck and Stephen Kent Goodman for the
"First Annual Mechanical Music Digest Award of Excellence"

I have submitted a picture of the nearly completed Robot Band which,
perhaps can be posted (for awhile) in the Archives.  In that way, you
can add your support to the fine work done by my two candidates.  All
consideration would be appreciated.

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Respectfully submitted,

Rick Cooley

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