My world of Hammond (6)
After an exciting and exhausting week, I feel like I came back a wiser and richer – knowledge of course, not moneywise – man. Chicago, what a city: beautiful architecture, the impressive Lake Michigan and a pleasant atmosphere. The city is an early example of the America that we still (kind of) know. They are tolerant, have opportunities for everyone and the society there consists out of many different nationalities. In the twenties and thirties, Chicago was the cradle of jazz – which is also the spirit of times in which Laurens Hammond came up with his inventions. Of course the beautiful weather and the notorious windiness that arose later that week helped us getting into that holiday spirit.
Like stated in my previous blog, my research in the Research Centre of the Chicago History Museum was the reason for my visit. How doing so would exactly turn out and what I would find was still a big surprise, especially since I’m still an inexperienced scientist when it comes to these kinds of things. However, it turned out to be quite a relaxed experience since my dear Monique (‘Mo’ to friends) was allowed to serve as my research assistant this week. This turned out to be of great help considering we had to get through an enormous amount of information.
In total, there were 62 overly packed boxes with archive materials waiting for us. Per request you could order 3 of them, which we could then pick up from the archive using a trolley. I already got a small description per box of what would be inside, but in reality the content turned out to be considerably more extensive (and disorganised). So imagine a box with hundreds of original press releases and newspaper clippings from the 1930s; a box with stacks of technical notes, experiments, logs described by Laurens Hammond and his master designer John Hanert himself; boxes filled with original patents, reports of board meetings, financial annual reports from the twenties – when Hammond was still a clock builder, shares, multi-year plans and strategies for dealers, education, organ clubs; Hammond courses, plans for the development of new factories, correspondence between all kinds of industry leaders and overseas importers, internal memos; a proposition by a glove manufacturer about the potential acquisition of the Hammond Company, the Federal Trade Commission report from 1938 allowing Hammond to use the name ‘organ’; I could go on and on, there’s just too much to mention!
One thing that became really clear from going through all this information is that the decennia between the 20’s and 80’s were all about change for Hammond. Starting as a clock manufacturer but eventually ending up with creating a new market in which he was a market leader is not just anything. Hammond made sure that by the 80s, the world looked completely different from a technical, economic and social point of view.
Via director Jan Kok of Hammond Suzuki Europe, a visit to Hammond USA was prepared as well. There, I spent a day with their team in order to exchange ideas about the future of Hammond, the American market, their artist strategy and to hear many great Hammond stories that are normally just for insiders (lucky me). The basis of the brand being American, from Chicago even, was becoming more clear and clear during my visit: they are incredibly proud of the brand, and they got every right to be. They were very interested and gradually enthusiastic about my research; European education developments at conservatory level in collaboration with Hammond Europe; and positively surprised by my New Hammond Sound Project videos and music, which will be released soon. Borders have been crossed, gates have been opened, and I think that this can provide for positive input for development in various areas.
Of course, our visit to Chicago also included a concert. Local Hammond celebrity Chris Foreman, a blind Jimmy McGriff-inspired organist, often performs in the Green Mill so we went there. The Green Mill is one of the oldest jazz-club where Al Capone was a regular guest in the thirties, or at least that’s how the story goes. Chris was a very nice guy who played in the American Hammond tradition, thus including an organ trio and tenor sax. One of the fun parts was that he found a stage behind the bar and decided to perform from there. Could’ve been me.