Greetings, potential Hammond organ owners. This may seem like a long story, but to a Hammond B3 devotee I think you'll find it's worth the read.
Does this sound familiar?
When was the last time you bought a car from a dealership? When's the last time you bought a house? Think back on the experience. You're all excited about the purchase, you're bubbling with anticipation of getting behind the wheel or your new car that is just what you wanted or pulling into the driveway of your new home. Enter the "joy patrol!" The people who just have to suck the fun right out of the experience. For the car purchase, it's the sales manager - you know him (and it's always a "him") - the person in the office somewhere out of sight who really makes the price decisions. For the home purchase, enter the "house closing" meeting - the one where the figures just aren't right somewhere or some document is missing that ruins the joy of the moment. If you're like me, you'd rather take a beating than deal with either of those situations and the personalities involved.
Well once and a great while,
you experience something so enjoyable that you must tell as many people as you can. So here's one that will restore your faith in how a business transaction can be.
I told Jim Huss halfway through my organ purchase, "Once this is done, if you would like a written testimonial for your Website on how excellent your service and support has been in this purchase, Iâ€™d be thrilled to write something up for you. I have never experienced a company or someone like yourself who takes as much personal interest in a customer's purchase and ensuring they get the what they want as you and Keyboard Exchange have done. This has been one of the most rewarding and enjoyable large item purchases I've ever experienced. If car dealers did this, people would stick with them for life.
Jim's reply: Wow, Your last paragraph is a testimonial. You will not need to write one, it is already written. Thanks very much for your kind words... BUT, lets wait until your organ is delivered and our job is finished before we publish anything on the Website. We will be sure to "stay on our toes."
OK, the job is finished! My organ is sitting in my family room, but where to start? In 1977 I bought one of the last Hammond B3's made for $5000, brand new. That included a Leslie 122 sound cabinet. I'd always wanted to have the same organ used by all my favorite bands of the 60's and 70's - Deep Purple, Billy Preston, Yes, Jethro Tull, Bob Seger, and for many of us, the band that made the B3 famous, Procol Harum (A Whiter Shade of Pale). Wouldn't you know it, I gave the organ up in a divorce making the stupid decision to take an upright piano instead of the B3.
Well, here it is, May 2004, 27 years later. I'm watching American Idol and it's Elton John night. It took me right back to the 70s and that's all it took for me to decide to get back into my music and start searching to see if I could possibly locate a B3 on the Internet that someone might be willing to sell. To my delight, I don't just find individuals selling some pretty worn organs out there, but up pops Keyboard Exchange International - a company that buys, restores and sells the very instruments I'm hoping to find. There they were, Hammond B3's, C3, A-100s, and more, along with Leslie sound cabinets. I flipped, then looked at what well kept and fully restored B3's go for today. There's an old comment guys from the 50's say in jest now and then that popped back into my head - "I'd be a millionaire but my mother threw away my baseball card and comic book collection!" That's the feeling I had when I realized that if I'd kept the B3 it would be worth BIG BUCKS today given the way I took care of it. If I could only go back in time and change that decision.
After kicking myself for ever choosing that upright piano over the B3, I started looking at the site and was thrilled to learn that the only difference between the B3 and the C3 was the full cabinet instead of the four spindle legs of the B3. The videos on Jim's sight told me everything I needed to know about the C3, how they restore them, and the inventory they had at the time.
It didn't take long for me to e-mail Jim asking about the organs I saw. That is when my wonderful experience with Jim and his company began. We traded e-mail after e-mail as I researched options within my budget and asked question after question to gain adequate understanding of what I was looking for in an organ. This was going to be a big purchase for me and I had to make sure I had all the facts necessary to make the right decision.
Below are the photos Jim sent along with excerpts from his email's. I share them because if you pay attention to the "conversation" sequence, you see how Jim cares as much about your instrument as you do and goes out of his way to make sure you get exactly what you expect.
Jim: "We have an excellent C3 in walnut finish, one owner instrument that just arrived this week...a real beauty! Hammond C3 pictures prior to detailing or service."
Jim: "Leslie speaker possible options for C3. I removed the back of the organ and set it next to some available Leslie's for color matching. That is one way to select your Leslie and then check for best sounding Leslie. ( All sound great when we restore them!)"
Jim: "We set up the C3 for two 145's on Friday. We can change it back if necessary. I will send you some pictures of the two Leslie's that we have selected. I also have another 145 that I have purchased that is expected to arrive soon. The pictures indicate that it is MINT condition and I had planned to substitute it, if it matches and arrives in time for the switch."
Jim: "The "MINT" 145 has arrived and is in excellent, perhaps not MINT condition. It has a few flaws but overall excellent for its age. We have serviced the newly arrived 145 and pictures are attached for your inspection. The color is a bit different than the other 145 but just by a shade. Both are excellent. It will be difficult to get two 145's that are exactly the same and this is the best I can do at this time for shorter Leslie's. What do you think? Are these close enough in color and wood tone? Once you have them separated, I don't think you will notice as much. Wood is wood and there are always some variations. It is your choice. I think we are as close as we may get with these two."
Jim: I think the 122's are the better color match to the organ and they match each other. Let me know if you agree."
Hammond C3 with Leslie 145
Hammond C3 with Leslie 145
Hammond C3 with Leslie 122
Hammond C3 with Leslie 122
Jim:"The foot switch is installed and very smooth and has an easy touch. It is a heavy duty metal switch with a softer than expected touch. The organ was tested carefully after replacing the internal AC wire. After so many years the original factory AC wire is dry rotted on all these organs but not everyone realizes the importance of replacement as the problem is not so obvious.
We replace capacitors on the tone generator and line box to increase the brilliance and clarity. We oil all the moving parts, clean contacts, replace felts as necessary, regulate bass pedals and check and repair all functions. I really need to make a complete list of all that gets done because right now I am just talking off the top of my head. It would be a good idea to have a compete list of all that gets done. Bottom line, we strive for an instrument that sounds as good as we know how to make it sound. We want it to "feel" like new, look as close to new as possible, and sound GREAT.
I think that what gives us such consistent excellent results is the team of people that we have. We have a great staff and we restore about 100 plus instruments per year and have been doing it for 35 years. We stock all the parts necessary and we make sure not to cut corners on parts/material quality."
Jim: "Today (Saturday) we set up your C3 in our showroom with bass pedals, both Leslie's, and the 15 foot cables for final testing. (30 foot cables in bench) Everything is perfect and sounds really strong, clean, powerful and rich and crisp. There is a tone control on the tube preamp inside the organ that we usually jack up to Max treble. You can adjust this yourself if the organ is too bright. We also leave off the top back of the Leslie's to allow more highs to be heard. The factory is required to install these parts but they block about 20% of the highs.
I played the organ some and will leave it on for a few hours. We call this "burn in" time. Then I will play it again over the week end and continue this process to eliminate chance for a bad tube etc. (If we installed any new tubes, these actually need more testing and burn in time than vintage tubes).
Once the organ gets into your home, if everything is not perfect, there is sometimes a need to "reseat" the tubes. This just means secure them properly in their sockets. A few times we have had to do this after a long trip but only about 5% of the time. My son will do this for you if necessary.
I have enjoyed working for you on this project and trust that you will be pleased with our efforts. If there is something that needs adjustment let me know or any other questions. AND, we thank you very much for your business! Tuesday, before we blanket wrap the organ, my son Rodney will polish the wood with a commercial furniture polish. That will be the final detail before loading. Owners manuals, keys, Hammond oil are all ready to go also.
It arrives. Jim's son Rodney pulled up into the drive way at 10:30 AM after an all day drive from Orlando to and a stayover in Charlotte, 30 miles south of our home. I helped him unload it (an easy task), he connected everything, and we turned it on. To say it sounds remarkable is a gross understatement. You just can't imagine the difference twin Leslie's make!
So, here it is, my Hammond C3 and matching Leslie 122 sound cabinets.
We since then moved the Leslie's to theopposite end of the room.
In a word, Jim Huss and KEI are phenomenal!
I have never experienced a someone who takes as much personal interest in a customer's purchase and ensuring they get what they want as he and Keyboard Exchange did. Whether it was wood finishes, technical specifications, tone quality, performance, or mechanics, Jim knew the answers and made me completely confident that I was dealing with a professional in the field of Hammond organs and Leslie sound cabinets. It surely didn't hurt that he and I are close to the same age. When I told him that what I love to do is put on a CD and play along with the music in my rock band wanna-be fantasy, he knew exactly where I was coming from.
I even burned him a CD of my favorite 1970's"B3 band" tunes so he could hear just what I was wanting to do. We discussed using Leslie 122's vs. the shorter 145's. I was concerned that the shorter 145's, while better for decorating from my wife's point of view, would sacrifice sound from having a smaller cabinet. "Not the case," Jim assured me and provided detailed information on the comparison they'd done between 145's and 122's to ensure that was true.
I could go on and on about the experience, but I think I can best sum it up by saying this. If you are looking for an outstanding company and people to deal with in making your organ purchase, you need look no further than Jim Huss and his team at Keyboard Exchange International!
Mooresville, North Carolina
Post Delivery Technical note:
While checking out all the toggles and drawbar's after delivery, I found what I thought was a technical problem. I dropped Jim an email and his response may be educational for you as well. (See images below for reference)
With the percussion switch OFF, second set of drawbar's for the upper manual (used with the percussion effect) all produce the tone they normally produce. However, when the percussion toggle is ON, the 1 foot drawbar ceases to make it's normal high pitch tone plus the percussion effect and only the percussion effect sounds. Yet the rest of the drawbar's continue to make their normal tone as well as the percussion effect. The book states that when in the ON position, the percussion switch lowers the normal drawbar effects (and it does).
So either itâ's lowering the 1 foot drawbar (9th on in the set) so much my ears canâ€™t detect any of the normal high pitch of that 1?drawbar, or itâ€™s actually canceling out that drawbar. Iâ€™m not sure if anything is malfunctioning or not. What do you think? If you can still hear some of that high pitched bar with percussion on in your other organs, then mine is malfunctioning. However, if you, too fell like you lose all of the high pitch tone of the 1' when you put on percussion, then all is well. Please let me know."
Jim's immediate reply:
GOOD NEWS REPORT for you today! There is nothing wrong with your ear! ALL B3, C3 and A-100's do not play the 1 foot drawbar when the percussion is on! The percussion overrides the one foot drawbar when turned on. That is the factory design. (The circuits "share" a busrod). When we add percussion to a B2 or C2 with a retrofit unit, we retain the one foot drawbar and omit the harmonic one next to it. We had the factory change their design/instructions so that we could retain the pure one foot, but that does not relate to your situation with the C3. So, the good news for you is that your ear is perfect. The good news for both of us is that the organ is perfect! THAT makes me very happy. Please keep in touch with me in the coming months to let me know how you are doing. It has truly been a pleasure being of service to you. I wish you much musical enjoyment with your Hammond and Leslie's.