The mighty Karn 'preacher's' organ


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60 Years ago when I was (never mind!) I bought my first keyboard - not much money but aspirations. Previously, I had been hanging a mic inside a piano and pounding away but that had it's limits with chipped keys, bad tuning, etc. So I bought the little Karn reed organ which is now over 100 years old. I wired up some mic buttons inside it and ... rocked on! The Karn was a folding reed organ which was, I'm informed, very popular (the port-a-sound of a century ago) and was produced in the southwestern Ontario town of Woodstock. Actually, I soon abandoned that for the bass but our lead singer played the Karn (some feat: play the keys and pump the bellows while singing!): somehow that evolved into a career for him playing 'real' keyboards. After about 5 years, it was superseded by one of those now classic 'Italian' combo organs and so on. So in the midst of spring cleaning what to my wondering eye should appear - the Karn! not in best shape, but the patient could be saved! To my surprise it still works and has a fuller and more melodious sound than I remembered, a rich sound that my modern keys can't touch - what's up with that? Having done some browsing I find that there's a cohort of aficionados for reed organs, so I'm wondering who they are. I saw the Lovin' Spoonful live when they first broke and they actually used an amp'd reed organ for some of their early hits (played by the great Canadian Zal Yanovski). One of the interesting things is that there is slight de-tuning between the front and rear reed ranks which actually adds richness and a little vibrato to the sound.
 
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May 11, 2020
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Very cool -- and different! (That's what makes it cool...)

My old neighbor had an old pedal-driven reed organ. She was shy and reclusive, but every once in awhile she'd want to hear it so she'd allow me into her parlor and I'd play on it for half an hour or so. She's gone now... (and I moved a few years ago), I wonder where that ended up...

Old No7
 

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