I was 14 when our band leader handed me a 45 back in ’68 that would to become the Biker’s Anthem: Born To Be Wild. I see it now as a pivotal moment in my life.
Goldy McJohn’s beastial keyboard performance on Born To Be Wild completely changed my perception of my instrument.
I listened repeatedly while pondering what I was hearing, trying to process the sounds grinding out of his Hammond and Leslie. Typically, I would play along with a new song once or twice while figuring it out and another couple to master the part. That wasn’t hanppening on this song.
I marveled at the raw emotion he was able to emit via a single E-minor chord. So much sonic complexity in a single chord that I probably listened 15 times before touching my organ.
The first step was to find the drawbar settings. Nine individual sources from the tone generators that give the Hammond organ its unique sounds.
Next, what inversions and hand pairings are being employed. Two manuals. Two seperate sets of drawbars, The possibilities seemed endless.
Third, studying the Leslie speed changes. The grind of Goldy’s Leslie was mind blowing. It was a setting that traditional technicians would have deemed objectionable and would have dialed back to an ear-pleasing level for a nice church or strip bar.
I fiddled with the pre-amplifier settings on my Hammond until I found a deliciously distorted tone. I played around a bit using that sound. I went to a standard, Summertime, for a familiar test. I shuddered as the possibilities exploded in my head. This was it. This was the way I wanted to play rock. With this sound I could compete with those blasted guitar gods.
I studied Born To Be Wild microscopically, beyond any effort on any previous song. Uncounted hours of playing, listening, playing, listening, refining, playing, listening, tweaking, listening, and finally accepting my approximate immitation.
The next step, buy the album and study every song like the Zapruder Film.
I was 15. My brain was at its absorbtive peak.
What I absorbed from Goldy McJohn had a massive influence on my Hammond Organ playing.
I am one of a legion of thousands.