Old-time music blasted from a cargo trailer during Open Streets Lyndale on June 2. Only this music wasn’t coming out of speakers or even from a live orchestra.
The music was coming from a band organ that Kenny resident Tom Logan built himself over a period of 12 years. Logan, an engineer, spent 3,000 hours building the machine, which functions like a self-playing piano, only with pipes that mimic the sounds of different instruments.
“It’s making pressure in the bottom that blows the pipes,” Logan said. “Then there’s the bellows on the top that makes the vacuum and that breathes the holes and makes the music.”
Logan said he became interested in band organs after attending a band-organ rally in 1996 in Fort Wayne, Indiana. He said he was talking to some guys who had built their own band organs and said to himself, “I could do that.”
He bought plans and woodworking equipment to build the machine. He said he had enough woodworking equipment by the time he finished that he could make all the parts himself.
His Wurlitzer 105 band organ was originally manufactured in 1928, according to Musical Box Society International. It has 97 pipes, with different pipes mimicking instruments such as a flute, a trumpet and a violin. It also has a snare drum, a bass drum and cymbals attached to it.
The machine would have been attached to a small- or medium-sized merry-go-round, Logan said.
Logan said his favorite part about having the band organ is sharing its music with others. He started taking it to rallies around the U.S. after completing it in 2008 and has taken it to the Fourth of July parade in Spicer, Minnesota, each year. He’s also brought it to the State Fair parade the last 10 years.
“The little kids are just mesmerized by it,” he said. “They’ll watch it, and then they’ll start to figure out what’s going on. They’ll start explaining to me how it works. It’s really neat.”
Logan said older folks love the machine, too, noting how one man teared up at the site of it.
“He turned to me and said, ‘You’ve got to show this to people. You just don’t see mechanical stuff anymore,’” Logan said.
Logan keeps the band organ in his trailer year round. He said he once received a good offer from someone interested in purchasing the machine but that his oldest daughter wouldn’t hear of it.
“She said, ‘If you’re going to sell it to anyone, I’m the buyer,’” Logan said, “So it’ll stay in the family.”