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Ruth 36-X Band Organ

Band Organs

The Soul of the Carousel

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 - after all, every heart needs a soul!

Band Organs and their 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.

The Wurlitzer 157 was Wurlitzer's answer to the changing music tastes of the Roaring 20's. These are a half octave higher in pitch than the Wurlitzer 165 and have a characteristic sound with its clarinets and several ranks of violins - likely inspired by Gavioli. It excels at playing popular fox-trots and has an impressive range with the top 2 trombones an octave lower than the others. There are very few examples left of this rare organ, only 4 remaining in original condition.

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 bright array of pipework, cleverly fitting in the somewhat compact case perfect for the center of a carousel. 

Learn more about Wurlitzer 153 Band Organs in this blog post.

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.

Ruth-Artizan Band Organ; B.A.B Rolls
Too Fat Polka - Ruth-Artizan Band Organ
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Artizan Style XA-1 Band Organ; DeBence Museum
Jerry - Artizan XA-1 Band Organ
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Gebruder Bruder Style 107 at Knoebels Amusement Resort

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 mixture pipes playing several different harmonics designed to simulate a German military band.

 

The 'Berni organ' 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.

Petersburg Sleigh Ride - Gebruder Bruder 107
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Out of the Night and Into the Light - Gebruder Bruder 107
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This next organ is a style 33-A Ruth, a roll-playing organ with a rare duplex roll system. Last is an example of a style 38 Ruth. In the early days, these could be found in elegant beer gardens and traveling shows through Europe. Moving figures and elaborate baroque carvings made these fine works of visual excellence as well as in sound. Pictured below are other examples of fine German organs.