02 November 2009

The Mighty Hammond B3

A recent article in The Guardian by David McNamee on the Hammond organ made us nostalgic for the sound of the model B3, which was produced by the Hammond Organ Company from 1954 to 1974. Its influence on jazz, gospel and rock 'n roll is an indelible mark, and so TNOP got to thinking about the famous sound authored by some of our favorite B3 players and some tunes that prominently feature the instrument.

Interestingly enough, we were informed by TNOP friend (and fine keyboardist in his own right) Dave Buettner that the distinctive sound of the B3 is aided by a rotating speaker cabinet that replaces the Hammond manufactured speaker. The swapped out piece came to be known as the Leslie speaker (after its inventor, Donald Leslie). The Leslie created a characteristic sound due to the constantly changing pitch shifts created by moving sound sources; rotating the speaker at different speeds creates different sounds in conjunction with the pre-set keys of the Hammond.

But from a rock 'n roll perspective, credit has to be given to the true godfather of the instrument, Jimmy Smith (pictured above). Although a master jazz musician, his influence is directly cited by most players of the B3, or is clearly evident in most of the songs listed below [with featured organist in brackets]. Go seek them out and make yourself a B3 mixtape:

Jimmy Smith, "The Sermon"
Deep Purple, "Hush" [Jon Lord]
Spencer Davis Group, "Gimme Some Lovin'" [Stevie Winwood]
Frank Sinatra, "That's Life" [Ronnie Barron]
The Allman Brothers Band, "Dreams" [Gregg Allman]
Procol Harem, "A Whiter Shade of Pale" [Gary Brooker]
Booker T. & The M.G.'s, "Green Onions" and "Time Is Tight" [Booker T. Jones]
Billy Preston, "Outa-Space"
The Small Faces, "Itchycoo Park" [Ian McLagen]
Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, "Kitty's Back" and "Hungry Heart" [Danny Federici]
Led Zeppelin, "Your Time Is Gonna Come" [John Paul Jones]
Brian Auger's Oblivion Express, "Happiness Is Just Around The Bend" [Brian Auger]

Watch the master, Jimmy Smith, in action performing "The Sermon" in 1964.

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