Sunday, March 9, 2008

A Hammond Electric Organ

Pretty much all his working life, my father worked two jobs, For years he moonlighted as a short order cook, then as an organist in several lounges.

He had a knack for musical instruments and at various times taught himself to play the accordian, piano, and electric organ by ear. Around 1959, he and his second wife, Pru, visited some friends one evening. The husband proudly displayed his new Hammond electric organ, and my father was entranced. While he was at work a week or so later, a truck showed up at Dad's home, carrying . . . right, an organ for delivery. This was a complete surprise to Pru, but she took it in stride. I imagine this was the first time either of them had made a $1,500 purchase without telling the other. A week later he got home from work and there was a brand new Buick in the driveway.

Dad set about teaching himself to play, and things went smoothly. During this learning process he mentioned to a colleague at work that he had bought the organ. The colleague owned a restaurant and bar and asked if he could call on Dad to play in the lounge on those occasions when his organist didn't show up, and Dad said, "Any time."

That night he got the call. Several years later he told me that he went to the lounge, headed for the bar, and had two quick doubles.

This led to a Friday and Saturday night gig at a restaurant and lounge in Amesbury, the 110 House (now defunct - as a matter of fact it was a car wash the last time I drove by there). He played there during the late 1960s and for much of the 1970s. I often drove up there on a Friday or Saturday night, most frequently with Dee. One anecdote from there:

Dee and I were there one night and the lounge was packed. One table away was a party of six, a couple of whom we knew. In that party was a woman in her fifties and her mother - late seventies or early eighties. You know how every once in a while in a crowded place there'll be a moment when everyone but one person stops talking, and that person can be heard all over the room? Well, during one of those . . .

80ish Mom: "I'd give a million dollars for the feel of a man's hand on my belly again."

50ish Daughter: "Mama!"

80ish Mom: "Well, you know what they say: 'When you're too old to cut the mustard you can still lick the jar.'"

50ish Daughter: "MAMA!"

Customers: (Much laughter and a smattering of applause.)

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