The 50 States Project, or: Why I can never show my face in Chicopee, MA

This quarantine situation has somehow both stifled my will to do anything and also jump-started a long-dormant creativity. Some days I don’t want to get out of bed, some days I do the best work I’ve done in over a decade. LA comedian Rama Vallury and I have found ourselves in a songwriting partnership that went back to his days as half of the comedy duo George & Vallury, writing songs for their sketch comedy shows at the Second City.

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Shop Update: The Wild, The Innocent, and the C-3 Shuffle

At the end of January I caught a wave of impulsivity. One night after a gig with Bobby Bluehouse I decided that my current road organ, the chopped C-2, was good, but not great, as a live rig. It lacked the responsive key feel and screaming, spitting fury of my other organ, the “studio” A-100. That thing will just cut your coolyans off. That one, I felt, should really be for live use. But the chop wouldn’t be ideal for my recording purposes, owing to its clunky ratcheting drawbars that make smooth timbral transitions nigh on impossible–something that would be very noticeable on a record. Yes, I could always swap out the drawbar rail, but good luck finding a good set of smooth drawbars for less than a car payment, if at all, and the money and time spent on the conversion would be better spent on a -3 series organ, I believe. It was time to do the organ shuffle.

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Shop Update: Tallboy Leslie at last fully operational

Tonight I put the finishing touches on the internal restoration and modification of the Leslie 31H, with the completion of the lower motor reconfiguration scheme. It is now a proper two-speed cabinet, using classic two-speed motor stacks and not the—in my opinion, hacky—electronic two-speed conversion kits that are easier but don’t have the right speed and acceleration characteristics. See the video below for a demonstration. Cabinet cosmetic restoration to be completed.

All Ages Record takes dose of high art, Tall Leslie makes recorded debut, also please stop sharing that “the bee is declared the most important creature” article

Last week, my old friend and Boston’s hardest-working soprano Shannon Rose McAuliffe JetBlew into Tinseltown to lend her trained larynx to the digital wax of the All Ages Record (still as yet unnamed). Since the rest of the album will be performed by a bunch of “far out” ne’er-do-well rock and rollers on the hep “mod scene,” having a true classical musician on board adds a whole different dimension to the project that I could only otherwise dream of. It’s been a long time since I crapped out a Bach Invention at the West Tisbury Congregational Church. On one track, her voice serves as the counterpoint to that of coquettish crooner and known oaf Sean George, whom I’ve been writing and performing music with since before iPods.* His barrel-chested bellow contrasted with her lilting melisma is just a delight, if I do say. This record will have everything: insistent groove, cerebral weirdness, electric disco, folky-dolky sensibility, operatic moments, tender balladry.

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Shop Update: Will it go ’round in circles? Talljack Leslie 31H rotor reconfig

After the amplifier rebuild/modifications, the trickiest part of the Leslie 31H project has been figuring out the most elegant way to reconfigure the rotors so that they’ll work with two-speed motor stacks. Here’s what I came up with.

Shop Update: Leslie 31H Tall-lady amp rebuild complete, I get sound out of it at last

Among the metric plethora of other crap I’m working on or involved with, I’ve been slowly, fitfully working on the grand Leslie 31H tallboy. I finally finished rebuilding the amplifier, but not without a couple of snags along the way. Thanks to the eminent wisdom of Trek II’s Michael Smokowicz, the final word on matters Hammond and Leslie, I got them sorted out and the cabinet is now producing its barrel-chested roar once again. See the video for an explanation. Next comes the mechanical and cosmetic side of things.

Shop Update: To every Hammond BC, turn! Turn! Turn! There is a chorus generator, turn! Turn! Turn!

Further to the recent treatise on my descent into gooberdom, I brought home a supremely junked Hammond BC from a dusty field in Ojai for a song. It’s just about useless, but for its precious chorus generator that I will use in the restoration of another, chorus-generatorless BC. But will this donor generator even turn? I break out the widowmaker and give myself over to the whims of the goddess Fortune.

What the All Ages Record is all about

I still don’t know what to call this thing, but I do think it’s a decent idea. In 2017, someone–my sister, a client, HAARP waves, I don’t remember who–gave me the idea to put together a record. On this record would be music. Music for everyone. Music for All Ages. Whimsical and light enough for children, interesting and intelligent enough for unchildren. I would take songs that I particularly enjoyed as a kid and rearrange them in my own style. I raised money to buy decent recording gear and pay some session cats, and began. As of this writing, the work is ongoing.

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The Gonzo Leslie: A modern discourse in subtle savagery

There’s little hope once I get something in my head. In late 2018, I got it in there that I needed an upgrade to my live Leslie situation. For us foolhardy organists still trotting out the big iron on a Wednesday night dues-payer, it’s a tale as old as 4/4 time. My existing 147 was a good cabinet, but was getting lost in the mix onstage. It was also my only Leslie at the time. I wanted a dedicated “road” cabinet, designed specifically for such. The off-the-shelf options were cost prohibitive, and lackluster–to me–in their specifications. While many of my more well-heeled compatriots would rather log on to Sweetwater and take Todd Rundgren’s 1972 advice to “just throw money,” being of simple means (read: po’) forces one to get creative; so does being exceptionally demanding of one’s gear. So does the desire simply to experiment. The only solution was to build what I needed. It would be as loud and clean as practically possible, giving more than enough headroom for any situation. And it would hook up just like a regular 147. Thus, the Gonzo Leslie was born. It thumbs its witchy nose at purists and the status quo. This is what it’s all about.

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