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Hammond B3 Hall of Fame

11 Sep

UPDATE Dec. 23, 2013  Watch the video above to learn about the freshman class of the Hammond Hall of Fame, just announced by the Hammond Organ Company USA. I put together this playlist for you guys so you can see the freshman class in action (unfortunately there isn’t video of a few of the early players, but thankfully  you can watch clips of most of the inductees.)

The post below is now almost 7 years old, and is focused primarily on jazz B3 players.  The official Hammond Hall of Fame represents many different musical genres.  Special congratulations to Gregg Allman and Barbara Dennerlein who have been supporters of

In Glen Nelson’s history of the Hammond Organ he writes:

“To get a B-3 to a gig, you would probably need a truck or a van to transport it, a dolly or three to four guys to carry it, and then a prayer that you didn’t have to carry it up too many flights of stairs. Why, you must be wondering, would any sane musician want to take this piece of furniture with them out to a gig? If you have ever heard a good B-3, you would understand. A Hammond B-3 can all at once sound like a carnival, a big band, a horn section, a small jazz combo, a funk group, a percussion section, a flute, and/or countless other things. How does one instrument manage to do all this? “

To find out the answer, read his very thorough yet concise article.

The history of organ jazz begins with Fats Waller, the son of a Baptist minister, who played church organ before playing piano. During the silent film era he was a theatre organist in New York. Fats also taught Count Basie how to play the organ and he probably had the first recording featuring an electric Hammond organ.

Fats also played and recorded on pipe organ. In fact, in Paris he played the organ at Notre Dame and in London at the Abbey Road Studio he recorded spirituals on the Compton Theatre organ.


Then came the next major figure, Wild Bill Davis, who may have had the first jazz organ trio, and was known for his “fat” chords.

And then came Jimmy Smith whose magic right hand and approach to soloing changed everything. He was a great showman and soloist with superior musical instincts, and his contribution to organ jazz can hardly be overemphasized.

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