J Busilacchio Electric Reed Organ
This is a keyboard organ in a suitcase, includes 4 legs which screw in to the bottom and an on/off switch. Turn it on and a fan starts pumping a cool breeze across your fingers and you’re ready to go. It has a great sound – effectively it’s a harmonium without the bellows, or a horizonal accordion. The air gets pumped over metal reeds which results in a rich sound a bit like a pipe organ with a bad cold – not as bold or clear, but with a dignified, if slightly dishevelled, air. It’s defintely more Ivor Cutler than Van der Graaf Generator, but that’s certainly no bad thing.
There’s really not a lot of information available about these – they do crop up fairly regularly in online auctions, along with similar items by other manufacturers. They are often described as dating from the 40’s, which is a little hard to believe, as they have more of a 60’s feel to them. They’re also known as Chord Organs, Fan Organs, and probably other less complimentary names too.
There are also different variations. There is what you might call the Mk1 Chord Version, which is what we use, and has a panel to the left of the keyboard allowing basic chords and bass notes to be played with one or two fingers, or there’s the Mk1 Standard, which lacks the chord buttons, but has a longer, octave keyboard instead of just octave. The picture here shows the legs detached from the organ, but they are not the original legs which are metal and almost twice as long.
Then there’s the Mk2 Chord version, which has a more modern logo and square, rather than round buttons on a black, rather than white, chord panel. The model shown here also has a different handle and lacks storage holders for the detachable legs.
Finally, there is another brand, Lorenzo, which is so similar to the Mk2 Busilacchio that it is quite likely to be made by the same firm, but rebadged. Again, this comes in a Chord and Standard version in an identical case to the Busilacchio Mk1, but with the logo in the lid of the case, and air vents reaching the whole way across the keyboard instead of stopping at the logo.
Click here to download a short sample of what the Chord version sounds like. Mick plays a few chords with the chord panel, then just bass notes on the chord panel and finally chords on the main keyboard. This is just recorded with a desktop PC microphone, so not great quality, but you can hear the keys clicking and the fan pumping.
To hear the organ in action (playing both a background drone and a lead line), pay a visit to www.lunacyboard.com where Mick can be heard playing it on “The Unofficial National Anthem”.
Note to eBay sellers: You are welcome to use the details about Busilacchio/Lorenzo organs from this page on the condition that you include a link to this page (http://www.mickbordet.com/inst/organ) on your listing so that your potential buyers have access to all the information.