Here is my Wurlitzer Console Organ. It's a twenty five year old Solid State (i.e., no vacuum tubes) organ. It features: Two manuals (keyboards); an abbreviated pedalboard (25 notes rather than 32); a Leslie Speaker Unit ("Spectra-tone"); 2 amplifiers running 35W + 35W into two 12" speakers and a 6x9" speaker, with a 20W amp running the Leslie Speaker Unit.
So, how did I end up with this huge thing in my living room? Good question. Well, towards the end of first semester of the '97-'98 school year, I noticed an ad on the Lehigh University online For Sale board advertising a Wurlitzer organ for free (since it didn't work); "all" you had to do was come by and pick it up. I had an idea of how enormous this thing would be, so I ignored it, since I knew that there would be no way it was going to fit in the trunk of my car at that time, a midsized '90 Mitsubishi Galant. About a week later, a friend of mine, Ethan Biery, noticed this same advertisement, and asked if I was going to look into it. I told him how large I thought it would be and how I would be unable to move it, at least not by myself, and he very kindly offered the use of his father's pickup truck to go get the thing. Eventually I got in contact with the owner of this organ, set up a time to go over to his house with some guys and the truck to get the organ, and we brought it back. It took 5 guys to get it into my living room at my apartment at college (mercifully, on the first floor). So there it was.
Plugging it in and turning it on for the first time, fire extinguisher in hand (just in case!), we found that all it did was buzz. Loudly. Guess this might take some work. We then opened up the back and wow, what a mess of electronics!
What chance do I have of actually finding the problem? After surprising my parents with it (they didn't know about its existence until they visited me at school about a week later), my father found a web site (MITA service manuals) of a company that bought out all of the Wurlitzer Organ, Juke Box, and Phonograph Schematics when Wurlitzer was bought out/went out of business years ago. Listed there was the Technician's Manual for the exact model that I have, a 4572. He then ordered it for me. (Thanks, Dad!)
Well, the Technician's Manuals gave me a fighting chance of reparing this thing. Based on the behavior of the organ when I plugged and unplugged various sections of the inside components of the unit, I determined (correctly, as it turned out) that the main problem was in the combined power supply/power amp unit of the organ. Others postulated (again, correctly) that, based on the age of the electronics, the electrolytic capacitors in the power supply probably had dried out and were therefore at least part of the problem. Over winter break, based on the values of the Power Supply Filter Capacitors as listed in the schematics (30volt, 3000uF), replacement capacitors (50volt, 3300uF, closest match readily available) were ordered and a plan of action devised for what to do when I got back to school and could work on it again.
After returning to school, I started work on the Wurlitzer. The first items I tried replacing were the two capacitors mentioned above in the Power Supply for the main amplifiers. While I was in there, I was going to replace the Power Supply Capacitors for the "Spectra-Tone" (leslie speaker) amplifier, but when I got in there I saw it would require a lot of custom work to replace the capacitors I was planning on removing. Instead, I re-assembled the organ and tried it out, because if I could avoid replacing more items, I would. Sure enough, with the exception of a few remaining gremlins lurking around, the entire thing worked!
This organ has that "classic" sound, much like a Hammond brand electronic organ, but it is also capable of creating some surprisingly realistic pipe organ tones. This instrument would fit in anywhere from a small church (which is what it was apparantly marketed, styled, and designed for) that couldn't afford a "real" pipe organ, to a Gospel choir, to a MoTown band, to a Classic Rock band. It was often the center of attention at parties that my housemates and I had at my apartment. Dr. Salerni, Professor of Music at Lehigh University and all around great guy, played the organ for some Classic Rock and MoTown style music a couple of times, and we were all wowed at the great music he was getting out of it. On the more classical side of the music repitoire, the Wurlitzer was in the Lehigh University Philharmonic Orchestra's Spring '98 Concert for a couple of movements of Holst's Planets. I'd say I got my money's worth out of it!
Upon graduating from college, I had no place to put the Mighty Wurlitzer. So, Lehigh University Department of Music Professor Paul Chou very graciously offered to hold onto the Wurlitzer in his own garage for me. We moved it there, and he held onto it for nearly two years for me. (I really owe him!) I still could not take the organ back, but I had an acquaintance who loves pipe organs at least as much as I do. After some time, he took the organ from Paul, and so far as I know it is still entertaining another generation of Lehigh students... I'm pretty disappointed I couldn't keep the Wurlitzer myself, but that's how it goes!
The Wurlitzer Under Repair:
The Upper Manual (Keyboard) also swings up for repair. Here both the Stops and the Upper Manual are up.
Also, notice that the swell pedal is missing (for cleaning and hardware replacement) as is the pedalboard.
Other Assorted Pictures of the Organ
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11/12/05 © 1999, 2005 Thad Jaszek