Imagine riding a merry-go-round without music, or some other form of music that isn't the thunderous, infectious sound of a band organ. As you spin around and around, the merry strains of a march or waltz fade in and out as you pass by the pipes and percussion belting out a tune. A carousel without a live band organ, regardless of the horses, carvings, paintings or anything else shall always be incomplete and second rate to one with live music.
The Wurlitzer 165 is often considered America's favorite carousel organ, and why wouldn't it be? The organ is extremely versatile in registration, percussion and has a range of notes making almost any piece of music possible to arrange. It sports a magnificent facade with intricate carved ornaments, paintings, and swell shutters adding further expression to the already great creative potential in registration.
To date, there are 11 known Wurlitzer 165s in existence, 3 of which still being in public view.
Below are 3 other 165s, each of these residing in private collections.
"Deep Purple" (Fox-Trot)
"Love Is All" (Waltz)
"Where'd You Get Those Eyes?" (Fox-Trot)
The Wurlitzer 153 is the most common style of organ on any American carousel. With its attractive facade featuring ornate carvings, paintings and in many cases lights, just looking at it gives reason for its immense popularity! The brilliant sound of the organ is due to its unique array of pipework, cleverly fitting in the somewhat compact case perfect for the center of a carousel. Learn more about Wurlitzer 153 Band Organs
Another American manufacturer of band organs was Artizan Factories. Lasting only through the 20's, this firm produced a variety of pressure-operated organs.
On Left: This organ was converted by Artizan to rolls from pinned barrels and has a bright, peppy sound. The music playing is from the B.A.B organ company who continued to make Artizan music into the 70's.
On Right: One of a handful of Artizan XA-1 band organs, this one residing at the DeBence Museum in Franklin PA. The organ showcases Artizan's skilled pipe design having robust wooden trumpets.
"Too Fat" (Polka)
"Our Director" (March)
"Petersburg Sleigh Ride" (March)
"Through Night To Light" (March)
On the right is a style 33 Ruth currently traveling with Kissel Entertainment: a traveling carnival serving many fairs and events through the Midwest. Below are other fine examples of German band organs.
German organs are prolific at playing marches, waltzes, and overtures arguably over any other type of organ. Their powerful, commanding sound can be attributed to the unique style of arranging as well as high-pitched mixture pipes able to simulate a German military band.
The organ on the left is a Gebruder Bruder style 107 which plays alongside the Kremer carousel at Knoebels Amusement Resort in Elysburg, PA. Imported by Louis Berni: dubbed the 'band organ king', (though his firm really just imported foreign organs) this is one of many German and French band organs brought to the US, coming here in the days before Wurlitzer took over the American market.
"Soldiers In the Park" (March)
"The Merry Widow" (Selections From)
Brass trumpet band organs, unlike all other instruments on this page were originally intended for roller skating rinks rather than carousels. In the early 20th century, roller skates used wooden wheels and when these were used by many individuals in a confined space, the sound could be almost deafening! Music somehow had to be louder, so depending on the size of a rink, an appropriately sized trumpet band organ was generally purchased. Regardless of volume, the sound of a trumpet band organ can be absolutely magnificent simulating the sound of an American brass band!
On the right is a Wurlitzer 148 Band Organ which often travels to band organ rallies across the United States. The organ plays American marches splendidly and other later music well. You can almost imagine skating in time to a waltz or fox-trot, not necessarily to a march though!
"Come On Papa" (One-Step)
"The Jolly Cobbler" (March)
"Hiawatha's Melody Of Love" (Waltz)
"Americans We" (March)
On the left is a closeup of the Wurlitzer 175 Band Organ, this being the only example of this model to have been built. The design of this organ later inspired the Wurlitzer 180 (below) which was Wurlitzer's largest band organ. Note the similarity in pipework, only expanded further in the Wurlitzer 180! (Below)