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Don Leslie birthday
April 13, 2011 10:01 AM   Subscribe

One hundred years ago Don Leslie was born. Leslie invented the Leslie speaker that made the Hammond organ famous. Listen to Svoogaloo by Sven Hammond Soul and the Organ grinder's swing by Jimmy Smith and my favorite Billy's Bag by Billy Preston.

On Dutch radio it was Happy Leslie day today. And Rundfunk recorded a mixtape with lots of Hammond organ songs and Leslie speakers.
posted by Waslijn (33 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Awesome, thank you.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:26 AM on April 13, 2011


Sven appears to know that although roses on your piano is good, "tulips on your organ" is even better!
posted by Greg_Ace at 10:26 AM on April 13, 2011


No wonder the sound has so much body.
posted by lantius at 10:27 AM on April 13, 2011


Sven is great, but he's cheating a bit – he has a bassist.
posted by koeselitz at 10:42 AM on April 13, 2011


h i s  i s  g o o d ! !
posted by mazola at 10:59 AM on April 13, 2011 [6 favorites]


I mean, a post about the leslie speaker is good. It's not good that Don Leslie died.

. and all that

posted by mazola at 11:00 AM on April 13, 2011


Even though it's been years since I was in a surf band, seeing the words Leslie makes me instantly think "Farfisa" and I get a bolt of joy.
posted by Brainy at 11:08 AM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


For his solo on Zeppelin's Good Times Bad Times, Jimmy Page played his telecaster through Leslie speakers. It's definitely a unique sound.
posted by rocket88 at 11:23 AM on April 13, 2011


That gorgeous ping at the beginning of Pink Floyd's classic Echoes is a grand piano being played through a Leslie.

The extremely filthy bass guitar sound John Paul Jones got on Zeppelin's Heartbreaker was also achieved with a Leslie.
posted by Ber at 11:27 AM on April 13, 2011


Everyone who loves the sound of a leslie should have to lift one into an Econoline van every night for a year. Extra credit: with a B3 organ.
posted by hal9k at 11:30 AM on April 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


The extremely filthy bass guitar sound John Paul Jones got on Zeppelin's Heartbreaker was also achieved with a Leslie.

Just a guess: were Plant's vocals leslied in (Hats Off To) Roy Harper?
posted by hal9k at 11:33 AM on April 13, 2011


The thing I love about the Leslie (aside from the sound, of course, which is awesome) is how fuckin' weird the thing looks. You look at this old concert footage from the 60s and 70s, there's all these hard-rockin' bands blowing up their drumkits and snarling about the war and saying Fuck You to the man, and all the while there's like a little Victorian hope chest squatting on the stage amid the brambles of black wires and dull metal speakers, amps and monitors, axes and aces. What the hell is that thing? It looks like it should have a doily and a tablelamp on it, like your grandma should have a dish of inedible hard candy sitting on it. It can't be a speaker, it has no front. Just those little slits along the top. That doesn't look like rock and roll. Which makes the Leslie the most rock and roll of all.
posted by shakespeherian at 11:35 AM on April 13, 2011 [9 favorites]


Coincidentally, just minutes ago I ordered a rotary electrical connector from Mercotac. I'm planning on making a rotating speaker, and when I mentioned that to the engineer there, he said that Don Leslie was his uncle. They sell these parts mainly for wind-powered generators now, and the company is a spin-off from his uncle's work.

I mentioned that in my experience the Leslie speaker always gets an enthusiastic positive reaction whenever it's mentioned.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:41 AM on April 13, 2011


Everyone who loves the sound of a leslie should have to lift one into an Econoline van every night for a year. Extra credit: with a B3 organ.

Been there more than you know.
posted by sourwookie at 11:41 AM on April 13, 2011


We had an Electrohome organ when I was growing up, and it had a Leslie speaker inside it. Normally I could only hear it, but even then I could tell it was somehow mechanical in nature. I did once get a chance to see it, though, when my dad had the organ partly disassembled to fix something. It was such a weird-looking mechanism, like something your imagination invents during strange childhood dreams, before you know how anything really works.
posted by FishBike at 12:01 PM on April 13, 2011


The Vibratone. The Earl of Whirl.
posted by StickyCarpet at 12:10 PM on April 13, 2011


Give the Leslie Some Lovin'
posted by cccorlew at 12:12 PM on April 13, 2011


Deep Purple's "Hey Joe".
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:19 PM on April 13, 2011


Everyone who loves the sound of a leslie should have to lift one into an Econoline van every night for a year. Extra credit: with a B3 organ.
posted by hal9k


Without the Leslie, your electronic organ sounds a lot like your alarm clock. Sorry if they are heavy.
posted by Cranberry at 12:29 PM on April 13, 2011


Everyone who loves the sound of a leslie should have to lift one into an Econoline van every night for a year. Extra credit: with a B3 organ.
posted by hal9k


I've done my rock'n'roll duty.

Extra extra credit if you had to load/unload said B3 into a practice space that was on the third floor of a building with no elevator.
posted by mazola at 1:07 PM on April 13, 2011


Is this something Tony Banks used before he completely squandered his amazing talent with post-Gabriel Genesis [spits]?

I love this sound -- thanks for this post to honor its origin.
posted by theredpen at 1:18 PM on April 13, 2011


Born To Be Wild, Steppenwolf. The bass is run through a Leslie, as well as the organ. Near the end, you can hear the speed selection change.
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:41 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd have to believe Procol Harum did that too. Magnificent effect, no evidence.
posted by nj_subgenius at 3:10 PM on April 13, 2011


just minutes ago I ordered a rotary electrical connector from Mercotac. I'm planning on making a rotating speaker, and when I mentioned that to the engineer there, he said that Don Leslie was his uncle. They sell these parts mainly for wind-powered generators now, and the company is a spin-off from his uncle's work.

They are called slip rings, and have been used for signage for many years. One of the largest manufacturers, IIRC, is Moog (formerly Litton) in Blacksburg, VA.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 3:23 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just saw Al Kooper a couple of weekends ago...
posted by mikelieman at 3:31 PM on April 13, 2011


Everyone who loves the sound of a leslie should have to lift one into an Econoline van every night for a year. Extra credit: with a B3 organ.
posted by hal9k


I lasted about a summer of loading/unloading both for a friend. The B3 sat in his mother's basement for years and he decided to take it on the road. Good times.
posted by Sailormom at 3:37 PM on April 13, 2011


Electromechanical instruments are my favorite examples that human engineering is not evolutionary. "I know, we'll take a mechanical oscillator idea developed for radio, slow them down to audible frequencies, put a half-dozen in a piano case, and use additive synthesis to get a few octaves, and pipe the result through a spinning loudspeaker. Brilliant!"
posted by KirkJobSluder at 4:35 PM on April 13, 2011


Lee Michael's Stormy Monday. Enough said...
posted by Pressed Rat at 4:44 PM on April 13, 2011


To explain the doppler effect for my physics class in high school, I tried to build a leslie speaker. I found a website that sold replacement parts of the top horn and glued it to a portable record player.
posted by DeltaZ113 at 10:27 PM on April 13, 2011


To explain the doppler effect for my physics class in high school, I tried to build a leslie speaker. I found a website that sold replacement parts of the top horn and glued it to a portable record player. I placed a speaker underneath it for the sound.
I spent all night working on it and brought it to class the next day without trying it. I played two octaves (440 and 880) at three of the speeds (33, 45 and 78). It worked like a charm and even I was incredibly amazed at the sound. As far as I'm concerned, Don Leslie is a genius.
posted by DeltaZ113 at 10:30 PM on April 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Which makes the Leslie the most rock and roll of all.

This is true. Leslies are how you create the awesome piano effect at the start of Pink Floyd's Echoes.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 10:23 AM on April 14, 2011


...slip rings, and have been used for signage for many years. One of the largest manufacturers, IIRC, is Moog (formerly Litton) in Blacksburg, VA.
posted by Benny Andajetz


Why is a Mercotac rotating connector superior to a slip ring?

I don't know where this fits in the product line, it's not used in the classic designs. It has a liquid mercury bearing, as did old lighthouses, on a somewhat grander scale. The smaller, two-conductor, unit is relatively cheaper. I was told that is because that one was mass produced in Japan for musical purposes.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:48 AM on April 14, 2011


The use of a Leslie speaker was instrumental in producing a number of key effects in The Beatles' oeuvre. This is probably the most famous example. Their producer George Martin fed John Lennon's vocals through a Leslie to create the effect of him singing from a high mountaintop. (SLYT)
posted by theartandsound at 9:17 PM on April 14, 2011


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