The Leslie Speaker (60 mins. of music)

The classic speaker and sound that was originally designed as an an aftermarket add-on.

"Lennon told producer Martin that he wanted to sound like a hundred chanting Tibetan monks, which left Martin the difficult task of trying to find the effect by using the basic equipment they had. The effect was achieved by using a Leslie speaker." – Spitz, Bob (2005). The Beatles: The Biography. New York: Little, Brown and Company. ISBN 1-84513-160-6.

Recently, during the Deep Purple MK2 show, I mentioned that John Lord, the keyboardist for the group, used a Leslie speaker filtered through a Marshall amplifier. A reader wrote in and asked, “What’s a Leslie speaker?”

A Leslie speaker is a combined amplifier and loudspeaker, named after it’s creator, Donald Leslie. He wished to have a speaker that mimicked the room-filling sound of a pipe organ. Hammond, the premier electric organ manufacturer, did not think much of the device, and declined to purchase Leslie’s creation. Undaunted, Leslie began manufacturing the devices in 1941. After hearing it performed on broadcast radio, the speaker became an immediate hit, and was soon everywhere.

The Leslie speaker gets its unique sound through rotating speakers, the physical design of cabinet, the type of wood used in the manufacture of the cabinet and reproduction of the Doppler effect to create a sequence of frequency modulated sidebands. The sound generated is partially vented through the cabinet itself, instead of just through a front speaker.

A simplified diagram illustrating the inner parts of the famous Leslie speaker. Image courtesy of Wikipedia. 

It’s use in popular music was most felt initially in Jazz, then through R&B groups. It came to be associated with Rock and Roll through the Beach Boys Pet Sounds and the Beatles Revolver LP’s in 1966. In addition to the Hammond organ, it has also been used with vocals and guitars to create unique sound effects.

Decades after Hammond turned down their initial option to but the design, they finally purchased the Leslie brand in 1980, and is a part of their line-up of products to this day.

Our tracks this week: Title, Year, Artist, Source, Leslie Application

First Part
1. Hush, 1968, Deep Purple, Shades of Deep Purple, organ
2. Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In), 1968, Kenny Rogers & The First Edition, The First Edition, vocals
3. Cold Shot, 1984, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble, Couldn’t Stand the Weather, guitar
4. A Whiter Shade of Pale, 1967, Procol Harum, Procol Harum, organ
5. Planet Caravan, 1970, Black Sabbath, Paranoid, vocals
6. 'S Wonderful, 1957, Jimmy Smith, The Sermon, organ
7. Rosemary, 1969, The Grateful Dead, Aoxomoxoa, vocals

Second Part
8. Green Onions, 1962, Booker T. and the MG’s, Green Onions, organ (mono single mix)
9. Let It Loose, 1972, The Rolling Stones, Exile On Main Street, guitar
10. Us And Them, 1973, Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon, organ
11. Theme From An Imaginary Western, 1969, Mountain, Climbing!, organ

Finale
12. The Bomber: Closet Queen/Bolero/Cast Your Fate To The Wind, 1970, James Gang, James Gang Rides Again, guitar

To download this program, click here.

Ben “Bear” Brown Jr., owner
Ace of Spades PDX

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