I thought of writing this weeks ago, and today I realized that I never got around to it – Whoops!
So who the hell am I anyway? My name is Curt Magura, and I’m the site admin/owner of the WersiClubUSA and IMMusic websites. Our main mission is to both inform you and also learn from you about the Wersi product line. But before we talk about Saturn’s, Delta’s, Spectra’s, Sonic’s, and OAX, how did we get here anyway?
It all started way back when my father built our first organ from a kit. The name of that company? Schboer Organs. Now, I was about knee-high to a grasshopper at the time and had no idea which model my dad built, but no question, that was the start of it all. I can say that we did have the “Schober Reverbatape Unit.” I remember it well. Quite the piece of technology in its day. It used a magnetic tape loop that would record and then playback what it recorded a short time later, as in “reverb.” WOW! (Or would that be OUCH?)
Along the way, we were able to meet Jimmy Boyce and play the Mighty Wurlitzer Pipe Organ located at the Alexandria Skating Rink in Alexandria, Virginia. As it turns out, my parents met each other at that skating rink. You know – when I was just a wink in my dad’s eye! 🙂
Keeping with the Wurlitzer theme, my parents purchased a Wurlitzer 4500 console organ. This was a big step up from the Schober. It had two 61 note keyboards and a 25 note pedalboard. It even had two presets per manual! You were not able to pick what the preset did, and they were mechanical. When you pushed the preset, the tabs would physically move. It took a bit of pressure to actually push in the preset “button.” Still, quite magical at the time. The one feature I remember the most was “Shh-Boom.” This was a precursor to automatic rhythm units. It gave you the ability to add a bass drum and cymbal sound to the pedals and also a cymbal sound to the lower manual. You could mix and match those sounds via rocker switches located over on the left check block. Man, we are rocking now! Of course, it all was based on your ability to play a rhythm “in-time” using your left foot and left hand and at the same time play a melody line with your right hand. Dad never got the hang of “shh-booming” it…
A few years later and it’s time to move out on my own. My first apartment and a new organ! Sadly, I don’t remember the model, but it had an “automatic” rhythm unit along with a small third keyboard – the “Orbit Synth.” You can’t really see it in this picture, but it was there and had a whopping 25 notes. (Note, three manuals… more on that later). One thing that you can see on the lower right cheek block is the built-in cassette recorder. Wow, we could record ourselves and even play it back right on the organ. We now had rhythms called Latin, March, Band, and I’m sure a few others. No more “Shh-Boom.” Dad still had trouble following along with the automatic rhythms – 🙂
One thing for sure. I missed those two 61 note keyboards and a 25 note pedalboard that we had on the Wurlitzer 4500. Time for a new organ! This time we jumped ship and went from Wurlitzer to a Conn 644 “Martinique.” And of course, we had to add the Conn Electric Band to use as what else? A third manual. 🙂
Oh yea, I Can’t forget my days playing keyboards in a rock band. Here we are playing my Hammond M100 with the Conn Electric Band added (there are those three manuals again) and a Farfisa model “???” electric piano off to the side. Wow, now we are at four manuals! Look just to the organ’s right, and you can see the Heathkit amplifier we built and were using as part of the setup (Hint – building things from kits). I still had the Conn 644 at home, but it was a tad heavy to carry around. Not that the Hammond was much lighter, but it was small enough to fit in the back of a van with the other band equipment. I think we paid $500 for that Hammond and sold it for $500 after a year and loads of “Band Fun” later. That also tells you how long I was in the band.
Back to the opening few paragraphs about my dad building our first organ, the Schober, from a kit. As a kid, I watched my dad build several electronic things from kits. Who remembers a company called Heathkit? Like father like son, I built a ham radio, a color TV, and a stereo, all from Heathkit. Flipping through a magazine one day, I see an ad for Wersi Organs… Hey Dad, check this out. These things come in kits that you can build!
Pack up the car; it’s time for a road-trip to Wersi Music located in Lancaster, Pa., where we’re introduced to the Wersi Galaxy, Ralph Conti, and Ric Iannone. (Hey, this Ric guy can play pretty good. More on that in a second). Wow – Now, this was it! Not only three manuals (see, I told you that would come up again!), but they were all “built-in.” No more of this adding something on top of the organ. That being said, this thing was truly massive. No question about it – Had to have one. Not sure, but I guess the fascination with three manuals all started when I got to play the Wurlitzer Pipe organ years earlier?
Well, it turns out we never did get that Galaxy, but dad did build a Saturn. At the time, I still had the Conn 644. A big heavy horseshoe-shaped full console organ. Dad had this cool contemporary looking Saturn with Chrome posts separating the console from the pedalboard and a set of external speakers. This wasn’t going to end well for my bank account. Next thing you know, I ordered my own Saturn and started building it.
We are plugging away and on kit pack #4, maybe 5, don’t really remember, and Wersi announces a new line of “digital” instruments – The flagship model, the Delta DX-500. Ok, I got to have one of these! Cancel the rest of the Saturn kit packs and order a Delta. What a difference in building the Delta vs. the Saturn! Those who have gone down that path will understand.
A few years later, the CD line is introduced, and of course, we have to have one. Hey Ralph, let’s work a trade! This time around, the flagship is the Spectra CD-700. We also built our Spectra and went through all the various upgrades adding “Memory Tower,” “Livestyle,” and “Golden Gate” as those upgrades were introduced. Without question, the Spectra was the finest instrument we had ever owned. We no longer replaced the organ when the latest model came out. We were able to update the one we had as Wersi introduced new features. When the Pegasus was introduced, we added that to our collection, which also included a Wersi Piano at the time. For a while, we had all three in the “music room.”
By this time, I had a “big boy job” and worked for IBM as a programmer. Mix in my real-life job with the many things you could do via “programming” on the Spectra. What else could you ask for? Well, maybe just one more thing, and that thing was called MIDI. Guess what? The Spectra had MIDI ports. This opened up a whole new world.
Enter that Ric Iannone guy again. Wersi fans in the states know Ric well, and the man must have 20 fingers vs. the 10 the rest of us have. Let’s just say he can play the hell out of any style of music you like. One day I’m in Lancaster hanging out at Wersi Music, and I say, Ric, check this out. I show him the steps to record a bass line he played, and we “record” it on a laptop computer connected to a Spectra via MIDI. Next, we playback that bassline, and Ric plays along with it. We record that as a second track and then record and add in a third track of drums. Hmm, now this could get very interesting. Remember the comment above about the cassette recorder that was built into that Wurlitzer Spinet? Little did I know at the time where the concept of recording and playing along with yourself was going to take me.
A few months later and a small company called IMMusic is born. IMMusic produced several “Play-Along” MIDI disks and put on many workshops at the Dutchland Keyboard Show where we presented various topics on the Wersi CD line and how you could incorporate MIDI connected devices into your musical world.
Over the next few years, things got pretty busy with kids, little league baseball, yard work, and there wasn’t much time left for music. We missed out on the move from the CD to the OAS line of Wersi instruments. Actually, other than in pictures, we have never had a chance to see, much less play, an OAS based instrument.
That all changes in October 2016 as we get our hands on a new OAX 700. The kids are grown and out on their own. The job is now called “Retired.” We have plenty of time to dig down inside of OAX, play with it, learn about it, what it can do, and sharing that with you as we go. Join us for the ride – it’s going to be a blast!
We would love to hear about your musical journey and what you are learning about OAX.