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In the early 1930s, inventor Laurens Hammond (1895–1973) was looking for different applications for a 60-cycle motor he had designed for his clock factory. Although he wasn’t a musician, Hammond was attracted by the idea to build a genuine electric musical instrument. Hammond had a degree in mechanical engineering and had developed great skill in mechanical design. In his lab, Hammond and his assistants designed and built an electromechanical organ…The basic components of the organ were tone wheels and electromagnetic pick-ups, and the instrument is acknowledged as being of excellent mechanical design for its time.

The Hammond Organ

Laurens HammondHammond filed a patent for the tone wheel organ in 1934, and one year later he introduced the first Hammond organ, the Model A (shown in picture). In the patent, Hammond catalogues the numerous objects that contribute to the complete design. He lists 29 different features. Among them you can find, for example, feature number 17, which states, “To provide an instrument of the type which is relatively light in weight and is portable.” Wonder what roadies around the world have to say about that!

The patent is the backbone of the whole organ line made by Hammond until 1974. The Model A was very expensive at the time, yet the sales were impressive. The company grew steadily and, over time new models were released. Laurens Hammond was correct from the start to have focused his market for the instrument on churches. He saw a great potential there in sales, and many organ models had cabinets designed to fit the various religious services. Despite all new models, they had more or less the same tone-wheel concept, but with different styles of cabinets, pedal board,speaker configuaration, and amplification. Hammond and his team continued to experiment with different ways to deepen the sound, adding effects such as tremolo and chorus.

In 1954, Hammond introduced the B-3 model to the market. It became the best seller of all Hammond organs. One of the secrets to the B-3’s success was its sound, thanks to the integration of the newly developed chorus and tremolo features, as well as the introduction of the percussion feature and reverberation. All this combined gave musicians a vast array of new and exciting sound to play with at the time. The B-3 is still a very popular instrument and still extensively used around the world.