Key Man: Laurens Hammond, Inventor Of The Hammond Organ

We present a uDiscover Music playlist celebrating Laurens Hammond’s fantastic invention, starring Jimmy Smith, Booker T and the MGs, Procol Harum, and many more.

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Jimmy Smith at the Hammond organ. Photo: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images
Jimmy Smith at the Hammond organ. Photo: David Redfern/Redferns/Getty Images

There was once a man who invented an automatic transmission system for cars, a type of 3-D glasses, a synchronous clock motor and infrared devices. But none of those are why he’s crossing our radar. Those of us who love rock, pop and jazz respect him most for the invention that he gave his name to. We’re talking about Laurens Hammond, the creator of the Hammond organ.

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. Hammond had won his degree in mechanical engineering from Cornell University during World War I. He worked privately on a number of brilliant technological advances, including a silent clock that encased the spring motor in a soundproof box.

Midnight Special

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To celebrate Laurens’ vital role in the advancement of popular music, this uDiscover Music playlist features some of the great tracks in music history to put his fantastic invention in the spotlight, starring Jimmy Smith, Booker T and the MGs, Procol Harum and many more.

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. In 1953, it was renamed the Hammond Organ Company.

Even by the 1930s, Hammond had a fascination for the sounds coming from the phonograph turntables in his laboratory, and 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.

Don't Want You No More

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The harmonic drawbars above the keyboard created the chance to mix millions of different tones. The organ was first manufactured in 1935, and millions of keyboard players — especially of his celebrated B-3 — have been in Mr. Hammond’s debt ever since.



  1. Mark Thomas

    January 12, 2015 at 4:51 pm

    His motivation for the orgen came from the desire to provide an affordable organ for churches that could not afford a pipe organ.
    As far as artists go …. Don’t forget Milt Buckner, Richard Groove Holmes, Rhoda Scott and Joey DeFrancesco, a couple of Jazz greats – not just pop-rocks.

  2. AQuandary

    January 13, 2015 at 2:53 am

    How could you leave out “Magic Carpet Ride” by Steppenwolf?!!

    • Dennis

      January 11, 2016 at 10:41 pm

      That was a Lowery organ

      • Rick Bilkey

        February 9, 2016 at 12:52 pm

        Magic Carpet Ride was on a Hammond organ. Model M-100 to be exact! No one I’m aware of used a Lowry (save) Joey Dee & The Star lighters. When Felix Cavaliere left Joey’s band, he (reportedly) purchased a B3/Leslie & dumped the Lowry in the East River!

        • Gregory Barrette

          January 11, 2018 at 7:12 pm

          Garth Hudson of The Band played Lowry’s exclusively. He is a complete genius, but I’ve never understood is attraction to those organs. Of course, he makes them sound wonderful.

  3. RJ

    January 13, 2015 at 4:15 am

    Picked up an M-2 @ thrift store, replaced power cord, lubed Tonewheel gears/axles. Few days later we were playing classics! Thanks Lauren!

  4. JP

    January 12, 2016 at 8:26 am

    Theres no women in the playlist.
    Here’s two names: Barbara Dennerlein and Rhoda Scott.

    • Alan

      January 22, 2021 at 12:14 am

      Also Ethyl Smith and Doris Tirrell

  5. WL

    January 12, 2016 at 6:01 pm

    Lee Michaels…??

  6. Daniel D. Kayser

    February 2, 2016 at 3:49 pm

    Let’s not leave out one of the most popular organists of the 1950’s & ’60’s—-EARL GRANT!!!

  7. Jai Winding

    January 13, 2017 at 12:12 am

    Then there is Brother Jack McDuff, Melvin Rhyne, Charles Earland, Tony Monaco, Larry Goldings.

  8. Alex Riddick

    February 8, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    That was a great selection of artists on the organ. You really did a great job and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There is some room for Shirley Scott and Rhoda Scott there not sisters but soul sisters. I have through the years loved Fats Waller’s organ work and Don Patterson on Prestige Records and the man who made the record Honk Tonk famous Bill Doggett.who popularized the organ in R&B and Soul Music. Thank you for your choices.

  9. Chris S

    July 3, 2017 at 8:27 am

    Another monster Hammond player is the great jazz/funk/ rock artist Brian Auger, with his band Oblivion Express. Saw him in Leeds UK last year. Still brilliant in his 70s!

  10. Chris

    November 10, 2017 at 7:56 pm

    Richard Wright Pink Floyd also played the Hammond organ to great effect

  11. Gregory Barrette

    January 11, 2018 at 7:16 pm

    Mr. Hammond’s top salesman, Porter Heaps, who also wrote the organ instruction book that I grew up on, was chastised by the man for hooking up a Leslie speaker to it and marketing it as a popular music instrument. He said that Mr Hammond saw it as a substitute for a pipe organ and wanted it devoted exclusively to classical music. Porter Heaps claimed to me that he responded “you want to sell organs, don’t you?” He was in his eighties when he met Leslie, who was Leslie, who was in his nineties. Leslie told him that he made him a millionaire. I met Porter when he played the organ for my church services in the 1980s in Palo Alto.

  12. Juan Rossi

    July 2, 2020 at 4:02 am

    Well, thanks to Earl Grant – whom I was aware of having been involved here in Brasil in a fatal accident, there were epoch rumours – I’ve been in love profoundly by Ebb Tide, magically transcending all music rules I knew in popular or classical realms. His renditions of this marvelously well shaped mastering of drawbars was considered, I believe, one among several Hammond delicacies to break us in a new synthesis world. From that on, also in Bebop, loved Smith’s improvises and this super slow Autumn Leaves version that still strikes us – like Earl’s timbres! From that on, abandoned a little piano in my youth and turned to a Professional 110 portable Farfisa Duo (over 90 lbs), playing it through a 100W RMS real Leslie – so good that bassists and me at organ might be reproduced with no distortion! (Yeah, in Sao Paulo, before this, I was gifted by parents with a Saema national clone – not bright but sounding well – and I indeed remember having transported this heavy furniture with two 15’X 2 passive woofers and amplifier to my first entertainment, having to hear drunk people out of notes and rhythm in my ears!) Suddenly, in 90s exploded Korgs, Yamahas and Kurzweils, along italian style synths – some of them in my recording facility – and finally these wonderful new clones: owned, and changed by a Nord Electro now, an italian dual Mojo Crumar with Hammond 20-note pedalboard. Resounding proper Leslie in an auditorium with 2 class-D active huge monitors in PA was unbelievably true to origins! Good luck to all of us – watch whether you wish my new authoral videos in

  13. Jerry Fielden

    July 1, 2021 at 9:19 pm

    I’m a guitar player but I owned a L-102 and now a CV, great tones! My inspirations are Jon Lord, Tony Carey, Don Airey, Keith Emerson, and my own keyboardist David Stone of course!

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