​Almanac: The Hammond organ

On January 11, 1895, the inventor of the musical instrument - who reportedly couldn't play a note of music himself - was born.

Hammond USA

And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: January 11th, 1895, 120 years ago today . . . a noteworthy date by any measure.

For that was the day Laurens Hammond was born in Evanston, Ill.

A mechanical engineer by training, Hammond was a lifelong inventor. Among his early creations: a tickless spring-driven clock; an early 3-D movie; and a bridge table that automatically shuffled and then dealt the cards.

But his biggest breakthrough came in 1934, when he patented the organ that bears his name.

Thanks to a device known as the tonewheel generator, the Hammond organ produced sounds to rival those of a full-size pipe organ.

The Hammond quickly became a big seller, embraced by amateurs, churches, radio soap operas, and countless pop musicians through the years.

It was a Hammond heard in Procol Harum's psychedelic hit, "Whiter Shade of Pale" (1967).

Keyboardist Keith Emerson, of Emerson Lake and Palmer, famously manhandled his Hammond on stage.

And a Hammond played an indispensable role in one of the biggest hits ever by Bob Marley and The Wailers.

No Hammond organ, no "No Woman No Cry."

Laurens Hammond died in 1973 at the age of 78, with more than 100 patents to his credit.

And Hammond organs continue to be sold to this day, though now they use up-to-date digital technology.

Not a bad legacy for a musical pioneer who reportedly couldn't play a note.


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