‘Ramblings from Home’
I remember my father’s grey column change Bedford Dormobile van swinging into Stonebridge Road one evening after his long day’s work at the council tip. You see, the song ‘My old man’s a Dustman’ has a very special connotation to me because my father drove the Bulldozer at the local landfill site, so technically, he was a dustman!!
Back in the day-long before computers and digital games systems….Long before automatic washing machines and dishwashers, a good rummage on the local tip was a treat. And, if you found a set of Silver Cross pram wheels or something of equal quality, you’d be the envy of our council estate neighbourhood.
I remember as if yesterday that night. The rear doors opening and staring into the back of the cavernous Bedford to see something that resembled a small lacquered coffin. Little did I know that this item was to shape my future and provide me with so much pleasure in the ensuing years. The midgets coffin was actually a Hohner reed organ that my father had scavenged from the local tip. Hohner, a German manufacturer went on to produce some iconic instruments including the Hohner Pianet, a ‘go-to’ instrument for Mr. Stevie Wonder!! Sadly Hohner now only makes Mouth Organs and Harmonicas and even that I think is under license and made in China now.
Oops, I digress. so, after putting the mystery item into the shed, I remember being ‘shooed’ away to await the big reveal. I also remember the argument that ensued between my parents, as father wanted the motor out of the ‘Hoover Constellation’, a strange pink and white orb that claimed to be a vacuum cleaner and floated on a cushion of air and was mother’s pride and joy. You see, the Hohner had been dumped because the motor inside had burned out and it was my father’s idea to put the vacuum motor into the Hohner, reverse the polarity of the motor to make it blow and install this into the Organ!!
Sporting a thick ear and after a huge portion of tongue pie after the altercation, my father decided on plan B and went to speak with a local electrical engineer to seek help. Within 24 hours, the Hohner was put across a chair in the lounge, next to the Ferguson Radiogram and plugged in. The lid was lifted to reveal a full 88 note keyboard. My father pushed the black toggle switch forward and a whining and wheezing noise could be heard. Push the knee lever which increased the volume and it started to resemble a Lancaster Bomber getting ready for take-off. I’m sure at full volume the lounge lights used to dim slightly…
My father had a piano at home when he was a boy so he had a basic knowledge of playing a tune… Those first few notes played on this Behemoth was to seal my fate and lead me into a life of music, organs, keyboards, pianos, and all associated things. Being purely classically voiced and around 10 different selections of drone to choose from, this thing sounded like a cattery at feeding time rather than a musical instrument.
After me mastering a few bars of Spanish Eyes by ear, the Hohner was traded in against our first true instrument, a Hammond VS200. Two manuals, 13 note pedalboard, and a Rhythm unit with 10 rhythm patterns compared with today’s average 500. The rhythm selection was made by pushing down the chosen pattern from the 10 selector buttons, 7 white and 3 at the end that were coloured red as opposed to white. The red ones were special as these were Latin!! Bossa Nova, Beguine and Rumba…..almost like a warning, these rhythm patterns are for only the brave!! I think my father signed his life away on a finance agreement over three years around 1970 for this Organ and I seem to remember £379 being the price.
I remember boarding the train at Marston Green on the outskirts of Birmingham and travelling into the city centre and along to Cranes of Birmingham who sold Hammond, Lowrey and also Philips….yes, the same guys that make light bulbs and electric toothbrushes!! The Manager there was Mr. Bowlham, Pencil moustache, brilliantine in his hair and a royal blue blazer with the Hammond logo on the breast pocket!! A proper gentleman with a soft voice and the distinct smell of Woodbine about his person.
These memories are what cemented my love of playing the organ. After starting my journey at 9 years of age, and now in my 59th year, I’ve been so lucky to sit at some wonderful instruments… even a Compton Theatre Organ in Cannock, Staffordshire (The Barn, still there) which is another story in itself. Over the years, organs have been replaced by the keyboard and organ production has diminished considerably and with only a tiny few manufacturers still producing, the choice is very limited. Well, that is until you begin to realise that all these beautiful instruments that were made, are still out there, putting smiles on faces and being thoroughly enjoyed.
I am so very fortunate today to be working for Whitley Bay Organs, as I get to play these wonderful instruments on a daily basis. Our stock of pre-loved Organs is probably one of the finest in the country. From all the famous names such as Hammond, Lowrey, Orla, Yamaha, Technics, Ringway, Wersi and even Roland Atelier, These organs are all on show at our Banbury showrooms. From early models such as a beautiful Technics U90 (circa 1980) right up to Wersi OAX series and Roland Atelier.
Whilst I enjoy playing our latest Yamaha keyboards and Clavinova that are also here on show, I love to get sat on a bench and snuggle up to an Orla Grande Theatre or even a Lowrey Prestige. There’s Yamaha EL 70’S, 90’S, Technics GN series, and we even have a Bohm Overture.
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With over 55 years of knowledge here between myself and Mr. David Cooper the owner, We are proud to be part of a small but very exciting group of enthusiasts. When you’ve been used to and taught on dual manuals and bass pedals, playing keyboard doesn’t suit everyone. I’m certainly not knocking the latest keyboards, I have a Yamaha SX900 upstairs in my home, along with my Hammond XHT100 in my garage!!!
Our Delivery crew are out on a daily basis delivering and installing organs from Lands End to John ‘O’ Groats and I guess will continue to do so for many years to come. Please take a look at our premium stock in pre-loved organs, all covered under a minimum of 12 months warranty, with delivery and telephone support if you should need it. Add the massive savings on these instruments from when new, it makes sense to have a look at our current stock and maybe grab yourselves a slice of nostalgia at a fraction of the cost when new.
We also have for those of you less adventurous, a wonderful selection of pre-loved keyboards too including a very rare Technics KN7000.
We’re a family business with a passion for what we do here. From the very basic keyboard designed for children right up to the top of the range of digital pianos from Yamaha plus all the preloved stock. If you want to make music as a hobby, there’s sure to be something here that will strike the right note.
And even during the recent Coronavirus crisis, we remain WELL ORGAN ISED.