The Old Organ Sound

I previously wrote about theatre organs (also known as the Unit Orchestra); I love these instruments, and nowadays modern electronics have been pretty much able to replicate the sound (if not the charisma) of a massive wind-driven instrument.

In the early days of electronic organs, however, Hammond’s drawbar and tone-wheel instruments were king, much as Wang’s word processor, before the advent of Word Perfect, was the system to have in your office. Those days are a relic of the past, but if you’re an oldster and ever went out to the ball game, you’re sure to have heard the dulcet tones of a Hammond playing “Charge!”

In homage of these famous instruments, here’s a beautiful 1950’s Hammond B3 being played at American Music World in Chicago.

As a Dreingabe[1], here is Bernd Wurzenrainer playing the Ady Zehnpfennig version of “Apache” on a 1976 Böhm organ. Dr. Böhm’s organs differed from Hammond in that his tone generators employed subtractive synthesis (like Moog) rather than additive; the sound is crisper than the Hammond, but still has that rich, fluty tone that had appeal in those early days.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1] German for ‘freebie’.

It was good then; It’s needed more than ever now.

Over at Reddit, user /r/uppyday posted this picture, with the following description: “My 15 year old attempted suicide; after 3 months in hospital, she finally came home to find this on her board, written by her 13 year old sister.”


That’s poignant in the extreme, given the circumstances.

The oldsters among us will recognize these words as part of Max Ehrmann’s “Desiderata,” published in 1927. Written not long after the close of World War I, those words seem almost incongruous for what we today consider a much quieter age than the incredible social cacaphony in which we now dwell.

As a reminder for all of us to slow down and focus on the things that matter, I share “Desiderata” again here, for my benefit as much as anyone else’s.


Text version:

“Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.”
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.”

Ehrmann has spoken; the Old Wolf has nothing to add.

Life imitating art imitating life


To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Andy Warhol’s 1962 famed work, 32 Campbell’s Soup Cans, Campbell Soup Company introduced limited-edition cans of Campbell’s Tomato soup with labels derived from original Warhol artwork. The cans were released at Target stores starting Sunday, Sept. 2, 2012.

This would be awesome for a curio shelf.

[Edit: I missed the dateline when I originally posted this – I thought it was coming up in September of 2013, but sadly – tragically – devastatingly, it all went down last year.]

Found at This Is Awesome.

Lookit me, Ma – I’m wavin’!

On July 19, 2013, the Cassini spacecraft took advantage of a total eclipse of the sun from behind Saturn to turn its camera back toward Earth. This particular event was publicized in time for people to turn out and wave at the camera, the first time that people on Earth knew ahead of time that their picture would be taken from space.

I waved from my car… if I look hard enough, I think I can see us on the road between Spanish Fork and Payson. 


The Earth and the moon from Cassini, beyond the orbit of Saturn. (Click for full resolution – the moon is about one pixel in this image)


Enhanced view of Earth and Moon

The Old Wolf has spoken.

The Old Maid and the Burglar

In 1959 or thereabouts, I was the proud possessor of a book called A Treasury of Laughs for Boys and Girls, edited by Joanna Strong and Tom B. Leonard, and published by Hart in 1948. I loved this book more than almost any other. As time went on, my copy was lost, and I mourned until I chanced to find in around 1990 (stuffed under the lowest shelf of the dirtiest used bookstore I have ever been in) another copy, which now occupies an honored place on my shelves.

One of the many pieces of wit and wisdom found in the book was the poem whose title graces this post. I reproduce it for you here – and I happened to think of it because of a verse in Lonnie Donegan’s song “Lively.”


Oh, listen to the story of a burglar bold
Who broke into a house;
He opened the window and crept inside,
As silent as a mouse.

He hoped to get some swag;
He hoped to make a haul;
But if he’d known ’twas an old maid’s house,
He wouldn’t have had the gall.

At nine the skinny old maid came in;
“Oh, I’m so tired,” she said.
And thinking that all was quite all right,
She didn’t look under the bed.

She took out her teeth and her big glass eye,
And the hair from off her her head;
The burglar had a thousand fits
As he watched from under the bed!

From under the bed the burglar crept,
He was a total wreck.
The old maid wasn’t asleep at all;
She grabbed him by the neck.

She didn’t scream or holler or yell,
She was as calm as a clam;
And all she said was “Saints be praised!
At last I found a man!”

From under the pillow a pistol she took,
And to the burglar said,
“Young man, if you don’t marry me,
I’ll blow off the top of your head.”

Old Maid

The burglar was too scared to yell;
He was too scared to scoot –
He took one look at her big glass eye
And said, “For pity’s sake, shoot!”

There are a number of versions of this poem around – another set of verses can be found at The Mudcat Cafe, and here is a version set to song by Ernest Stoneman and his Dixie Mountaineers:

Some hunting around at YouTube will find other versions still. I’m glad some of them have been preserved for future generations.

The Old Wolf has spoken.

Cocktails for Two

“Cocktails for Two” is a song that was popular in the 30’s; this version is sung by Bing Crosby:


Spike Jones

Spike Jones, however, had a lot more fun with this song; here are two versions, the first from a nightclub performance, the second a theatrical short. Both feature the vocalizations of “glugmaster” Carl Grayson, an extremely talented but tragic performer. Grayson’s writeup refers to “Hawaiian War Chant,” the last piece Jones did with Grayson’s participation[1] – you can hear it here, with the “glugging” beginning around 1’12”.)


Carl Grayson

The Old Wolf has spoken.

[1]With the exception of some later guest appearances and recordings of “Morpheus” and “Carmen.”