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Hammond S-100 Chord Organ
(click on the image above to see a detailed explanation of each Hammond Chord Organ feature)
(keep scrolling down to see lots more stuff)
Mini faq (scroll down to read even more fascinating stuff):
What hidden dangers should I be aware of? | How much is it worth? | How do I turn it on? | What do all those buttons and knobs do? | How do I fix it? | Where do I find music for it? | What's this stuff? | More Hammond Links | Hammond Mailing Lists | Goofy Hammond Organ Stuff | Model S-6 Schematics | Hammond and Leslie patents | Hammond Chord Organ Tubes
Everyone from George Harrison to Don Ho has doodled on a Hammond Chord Organ. See the details of Other People's Chord Organs
The Hammond Organ Company of Chicago produced its famous tonewheel organs for nearly forty years. When coupled with a Leslie rotating speaker, the Hammond B-3 is still the standard for rock, jazz, gospel, reggae, country...almost any muscial genre not requiring an actual pipe organ. (See my Hammond Links page for more information on the care and feeding and buying and selling of Hammonds.)
A Hammond B-3 weighs nearly 500 pounds, and doesn't include any internal speakers. To actually get sound out, you need to hook up a Leslie or one of the much-maligned Hammond Tone Cabinets. Hammond also produced more self-contained models like the A-100, which had internal speakers, and various spinet models, such as L-series and M-series, which have fewer keys and pedals than the full-blown "console" models like the B-3 or A-100.
All of the tonewheel Hammonds were serious musical instruments, meaning they were a lot harder to play than a phonograph record. Even the spinet organs were heavy, bulky, and fairly expensive, so Hammonds never became quite as common as pianos.
In an effort to expand its market, Hammond produced a number of non-tonewheel products. The most successful was the Hammond Chord Organ, produced from the early 1950s to the late 1960s. The S-100 chord organ pictured above was the final model in the series, which included the original model S, the S-1, S-4, and probably the most common model, the S-6.
Unlike the tonewheel Hammonds, the chord organ contained no motors or other moving parts, and never required oiling. All the tones were generated electronically, using tubes (or perhaps you say "valves") and coils.
The result was an instrument that was smaller and lighter than a piano or a tonewheel Hammond. The Hammond Chord Organ featured 96 accordion-style buttons, giving a selection of eight chords in each of the twelve keys of the scale. The instrument had two bass pedals, which played the root and fifth of the currently selected chord.
The Hammond Chord Organ also had a wide range of voicings available, selected through the black and white tone tablets above the keyboard.
The Hammond Chord Organ was easy to play, but didn't have the limitations of typical harmonium-style chord organs such as those made by Magnus and many others. As a result, Hammond had a hit on its hands. Hammond Chord Organ clubs sprang up across the country. Several publishers put out books of tunes arranged specially for Hammond Chord Organ. Hammond published a newsletter called "Chord Organ Comments", but there was also an independently published monthly magazine called "Chords" printed on high-quality paper. Each issue of "Chords" featured several arrangements plus articles on playing technique.
The biggest drawback of the Hammond Chord Organ is that it can go out of tune. (In a tonewheel Hammond, the gearlike tone wheels guarantee the instrument is permanently in tune.) My repair tips contain a link which describes the simple but time-consuming repair procedure.
Like all Hammonds, the Hammond Chord Organ seems to be almost indestructible. The power cord is definitely the Achilles heel -- it's likely to be cracked and crumbling, and should be replaced if so. This is not so bad, since it's been a good 30 years since chord organs were produced, and the oldest models are at least 50 years old.
I recently purchased a non-working Hammond Chord Organ for $50 through eBay. Someone had already cut off the power cord, probably because the insulation had cracked and crumbled. A new $5 power cord and two tubes from Triode Electronics (about $15) restored it to working condition.
Aside from the often dangerous power cord, please be aware the Hammonds in general weren't designed to contemporary safety standards. See my discussion: What hidden dangers should I be aware of? for more information. (Just for the record, I'm not getting rid of my old chord organ, despite its safety drawbacks.)
The perennial question is: How much is it worth? The short answer is the supply of Hammond Chord Organs probably far exceeds demand. Chord organs were pretty popular in their heyday, and like all Hammonds, they don't just self-destruct. Something like $100 is about the best you could expect for one in working condition.
Aside from the Chord Organ, there were other all-electronic Hammonds, like its predecessors, the Novachord and the Solovox, or its cousin the Extravoice. These instruments are scarcer than Chord Organs, and so theoretically more valuable.
There were also various solid-state Hammonds produced in later years, including some tonewheel organs with transistor amps. These instruments generally have a poor reputation among Hammond experts, who feel they did not improve on the classic Hammond sound, and have a lot more technical problems than the older instruments.
Disclaimer/privacy statement/disavowal of all knowledge: the information presented herein is undoubtedly riddled with factual errors (and incorrect HTML tags). This site is completely non-commercial, run strictly as a hobby, and no endorsement of any commercial sites is intended, and the author receives no consideration, financial or otherwise, from anyone for anything related to this site. The author promises to never try to violate the privacy of anyone who visits this site, believing it's better to leave violations of privacy to governments and large corporations, which have the necessary experience. The author is not at present trying to sell you anything, and is probably not interested in buying anything from you, either, but you never know. If you send the author an e-mail, he may eventually respond.
The author is pleased to retract his previous sniveling complaints about not showing up in Google and Altavista searches. Google, Altavista, and even Yahoo now list this as the top Hammond Chord Organ page on the Internet. (At long last, the pinnacle of fame has been achieved!)
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