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Microphone Month 3

Combo Organ

If any instrument truly defined the 1960s, it was the combo organ, beginning with the first Vox Continentals being built in England in the very early ’60s. Designed for the stage rather than your Aunt Dorothy’s living room, the Continental’s “mod” look made it the perfect keyboard for the booming British Invasion. Actually, Vox originally called the Continental a “transistor organ,” while Lowry and other builders of thee compact keyboards called them “portable organs.” By the mid-’60s, the term “combo organ” began to be used to define this particular design, and keyboard players could choose from about 30 different models that ranged from the Vox and Farfisa to the Ace Tone Top 5 and Domino Combo King. These were available in a veritable rainbow of colors, including red, white, blue, orange, tan, turqoise, green, and black. But as fast as they initially found favor, by the early 1970s the organ of choice became the Hammond with its signature roar and spinning Leslie speaker. Bands like Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Procol Harum; Deep Purple; and Yes began to rule the airwaves and except for a brief renaissance in the late ’70s with the introduction of so-called “New Wave” music, the Combo Organ’s fate was sealed.

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