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Back "in the day," the two major brands of organs for rock bands were the cool but limited Vox Continental and Super Continental, and the less cool but far more capable Farfisa series. There were a couple of others, but these two ruled the roost.

My first organ was a Farfisa. We sold the family piano, my step-father's violin, and a bunch of other items, as well as using money I'd saved up, in order to buy it. All I could afford was a Rheem solid state amplifier. Rheem was, and remains, better known for making air conditioning units.

The Farfisa was great and capable, but had two major flaws: First, the massive power supply and spring reverb were housed in a separate unite, about the size of a shoe box, and very heavy. Although this allowed you to kick or slightly drop the the unit and get great reverb explosion sounds, it was also too easy and I had to replace the reverb several times.

The bigger problem, however, was the insane design of the keying structure. In the back of each key were several small hooks. When you pressed the key, the back of the key went up, like on a see-saw. Attached to each of the multiple hooks was a custom piece of plastic that had holes in each end. When the key was pressed the hook and loop would rise. This pulled up another set of hooks attached to the bottom of the loop. It was those hooks that would make electrical contacts creating the connection that made the sound.

Unfortunately, if you played fast or hard, the loops would come off the hooks, resulting in the sound of a note being constant whether you played it or note. Since each loop was associated with one of the switches that functioned as organ stops, the only way to stop the constant note from sounding was to turn off the stop/switch.

I took this in for repair several times. Finally, a kind repairman showed me what to do. From that time on I carried a screwdriver (to open the organ) and a needle-nosed pliers (to get in to the "guts" and re-attach the loop). I would often have to do this between sets.

Although the Farfisa was incredibly capable for making a wide variety of sounds, the quality of it depended upon the amplification. And that Rheem amp with 1 12-inch speaker and an early solid-state amp was horrible. So my next purchase was a massive Heathkit amplifier. It had two cabinets, each having two fifteen-inch speakers and a horn, along with a very powerful amp. I actually built in, including soldering all the parts on the circuit boards. With the bands I was in it blew everyone else away, and it frequently doubled as our group's PA.

To improve my sound, I sold the Heathkit and got a Leslie. After that, I went to a Hammond organ, trading in the Farfisa.


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