Key Man: Hats Off To Hammond Organ Inventor Laurens Hammond

Our tribute to Laurens Hammond, the creator of the Hammond organ, whose fantastic invention features on some of the great tracks in music history.

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Rod Argent of the Zombies plays a Hammond organ in concert in 2007. Photo: Yani Yordanova/Redferns
Rod Argent of the Zombies plays a Hammond organ in concert in 2007. Photo: Yani Yordanova/Redferns

He invented an automatic transmission system for cars, one type of 3-D glasses. a synchronous clock motor and infrared devices. But rock and pop music devotees love him for the invention that he gave his name to. We’re paying tribute to Laurens Hammond, the creator of the Hammond organ.

Our Hats Off To The Hammond playlist features some of the great tracks in music history. It ranges from Jimmy Smith to the Spencer Davis Group and from Deep Purple to the Allman Brothers Band, to put Laurens’ fantastic invention squarely in the spotlight.

This pioneer, born on January 11, 1895 in Evanston, Illinois, already had numerous inventions under his belt by the time he perfected the musical instrument that would go on to adorn so many great records. He had won his degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University during World War I. He then worked privately on a number of brilliant technological advances, including a silent clock that encased the spring motor in a soundproof box.

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Hammond’s automatic transmission system was turned down by Renault. But he went on to develop the synchronous motor that would be the basis of both his clock and organ discoveries. By his early 30s, he’d formed his own Hammond Clock Company, which later became the Hammond Instrument Company and then, in 1953, the Hammond Organ Company.

Even by the 1930s, Hammond had a fascination for the sounds coming from the phonograph turntables in his laboratory. He started to explore the idea of producing musical tones by electric synthesis. By 1934, with John M. Hanert, he’d come up with the design for what became the Hammond organ. This was a machine with 91 small tonewheel generators, rotated by that synchronous motor of his.

The harmonic drawbars above the keyboard created the chance to mix millions of different tones. The organ was first manufactured in 1935. Millions of keyboard players, especially of his celebrated B-3, have been in Mr. Hammond’s debt ever since. He died at the age of 78 on July 3, 1973, but what a legacy he left.

Don't Want You No More

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  1. j herbert jr.

    July 4, 2014 at 12:09 pm

    Hier is de grootste en méést volledige encyclopedie te vinden over Laurens Hammond en al zijn uitvindingen; er is tot nu toe bijna 6 jaar aan gewerkt, en behelsd zo’n 3500 pagina’s en foto’s:

  2. Joker Jay

    July 4, 2014 at 8:51 pm

    You can’t forget about Graham Bond! John Lord said “Everything I know about the Hammond, I learned from G.B.”

  3. John Shoemaker

    July 4, 2015 at 5:31 pm

    I hauled a B-3 around for a number of years in the 70s & 80s.. great instrument, even went through a flood in 1972. I rebuilt it and hauled it around a few more years. I now use a Hammond SK1-88, it sounds great, but there was something about sitting behind that huge B-3 and letting it wail… Thank You Laurens!

  4. Joe nostra

    July 5, 2015 at 10:30 am

    True all of the above – but what about the track Liquidator? That is one of the greatest Hammond tracks of all time.

  5. Rolls Ross

    July 3, 2016 at 4:56 pm

    Great playlist demonstrating versatility of the instrument and the incredible talents across all genres! Long live the Hammond.

  6. Gary Cornelius

    July 3, 2016 at 5:13 pm

    Let us not forget the legendary organist Mike Finnigan….. his prowess on a Hammond is over the top.

  7. Scott the Organfreak

    July 3, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Nice summary article, but I must object to the picture at the top. None of these great players, especially Jimmy Smith, would have been caught dead playing the model pictured! It’s not as if pictures of a real B-3 are hard to find!

  8. Tim Sullivan

    July 30, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Great Spotify list. May I add one more:

  9. Jeff Fowler

    July 4, 2019 at 8:43 am

    Tony Kaye of Yes was my favorite Hammond player. Prominently featured on the first 3 Yes albums. Yes. Time and a word. The Yes Album.

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