Craig Stahl
615-578-9175


Music Maker of the Month

This Month’s Music Maker of the Month is Murph Wanca. Murph is the owner of Nashville Pro Hammond located in Soundcheck Studios in Nashville, Tennessee. If you own or play a Hammond B-3 or any other type of Hammond organ you either know Murph, or need to know Murph. Murph is THE man when it comes to rebuilding, servicing or renting B-3 organs and Leslie Speaker cabinets. His Vintage Organ and Leslie Speaker Cabinet selection is unmatched. Murph grew up in the Youngstown, Ohio area where he got into playing music in the local Youngstown scene. Murph moved to Nashville in 1985 and spent the next 19 years playing, writing and producing music in the Contemporary Christian market. Murph was a staff writer for music publishers and got into producing many artists for different record labels in Contemporary Christian Music. About 10 years ago a local Nashville church asked Murph to repair their organ, and soon only by word of mouth advertising, Murph became known as the “go to guy” when you had problems with your Hammond B-3 Organ. In 2004 Murph made it official and opened Nashville Pro Hammond Organ Service, or NPH for short. In the beginning most of his clients were churches, now churches are still a big part of his business, but the resurgence of the B-3 organ sound in today’s popular music has made Murph a very busy man. If you are a keyboard player and ever experience playing one of Murph’s rigs you will never want to play any other. Murph is a true craftsman and a perfectionist when it comes to his B-3’s. Murph’s motto at NPH is “When you turn your organ on, does it return the favor?” I’ve had the pleasure of working with Murph the last few years at the CMA Awards TV Show. If you see a B-3 organ on stage at the CMA’s it belongs to Murph. I really enjoy hanging out with Murph at the CMA’s, although when the load out starts I kinda wish we were lifting and packing harmonicas or fiddles instead of HEAVY Hammond Organs! For those of you who don’t what a Hammond Organ or a Leslie Speaker is, the following is from an article in Recording Magazine about them and featured Murph.

  

“ I’ve always loved the sound of a Hammond organ. A B3 and a Leslie tone cabinet can produce a greater variety of sounds than any other analog instrument, including the electric guitar (which depends on added effects for most of the more outrageous sounds). The monster rock tones created by Jon Lord on the old Deep Purple records, Jimmy Smith’s swinging jazz approach, and the mighty B3 on Aretha Franklin’s gospel records—it’s all great.

Jon Lord of Deep Purple in 1970 Jamming on the B-3 (Photo by Jordan Angel)

Hammond and Leslie

The Hammond tone-wheel organ was introduced by Laurens Hammond in 1935 and the Leslie cabinet was built by Don Leslie in 1940. “Leslies” are speaker cabinets made of solid wood with “louver” slots to let the sound out top and bottom, and with rotors that spin and throw the sound out into the room.

Don Leslie offered his design to the Hammond Organ company, but Laurens Hammond didn’t like the sound of his organs through a Leslie cabinet. In fact, he was so against it that for a number of years, Hammond dealers were prohibited from also selling Leslie cabinets (the prohibition was, naturally, widely ignored).

Despite Hammond’s dislike (or perhaps because of it), by the ‘50s what most people considered to be the sound of the Hammond organ included that of a Leslie cabinet. The Leslie with its spinning sound managed to turn stuffy parlors and bars and small chapels into illusionary halls and cathedrals—the moving sound had something majestic about it. And it still does.

   

Combinations

Most enthusiasts consider the ultimate Hammond/Leslie combination to be a B3 and a Leslie 122, but like so much related to this instrument, that ain’t necessarily so. With Hammonds, for instance, the only difference between the B3 and C3 is the cabinet—all the electronics are the same. Other organs, like Hammond’s A100 and the RT3, all have the characteristic sound of a B3. And other models, like the B2 and C2, are essentially the same except for percussion, which can be added with an aftermarket box like that made by Trek II. Even some of the spinet models like the ‘L’ and ‘M’ series organs, though smaller, can achieve some of the characteristic Hammond organ sound.

        

                                   Booker T- One of the Masters

Leslie cabinets are kind of the same way—dozens of models have come and gone. Whatever the specific model, most Leslies you’ll encounter share a general concept—that there is a rotating high-frequency horn (the upper rotor) as well as a low-frequency speaker mounted above a rotating drum that deflects the sound outward. The high and low frequencies are divided by an 800 Hz crossover. If you look into the top of a Leslie cabinet, there are two horns on the upper rotor, but only one is pushing out the sound of the high-frequency driver—the other is a dummy providing a counterweight.”

    

                       One of Murph's Vintage Hammond B-3 Organ


        Vintage Leslie Speaker Cabinet




Name / Place of Residence / Family

 Murph Wanca, Nashville Tn. Wife, Julie, 2 boys Andrew, 25 & Pete , 17.

 

 
Profession/Occupation

Self employed since 1974. Road musician, moved to Nashville in ’85. I worked for 19 years as a player/producer & writer for a few publishers and record labels.

 

   

                                                          Murph at Work


 Current Gig / How Long?

I backed into repairing Hammond Organs & Leslie Speakers around 2000. A local church asked if I could fix their rig, which I did. That began a long, slow, word of mouth process.  I pulled a business license in 2004 and named my little enterprise Nashville Pro Hammond Organ Service, continuing to serve churches. A few guys I knew from my days involved in Contemporary Christian Music began to call. From there it kind of cross pollinated into the country side of things. Gradually studios started calling, along with more & more session players. I still take care of all those clients and serve a lot of national touring acts as well. As NPH has grown, I’ve taken in quite a bit of mail order repair & sales as well.

             

 

 

 Who else have you worked for?

I’ve been self employed my whole life except for a few years out of high school.

       

                                                   I Wonder Who's Driving?


 Instruments played 

Hammond Organ. Why would you even ask?! Keys in general, but absolutely no acoustic piano.

        

 

 Do you write songs?

I used to. I wrote for Lorenz Creative Services & BMG when I was involved in Contemporary Christian Music.


Place of Birth?

Youngstown, Ohio. You gotta problem with that?

 

 

 Where did you grow up?

Struthers, Ohio and Poland, Ohio

 

 Who were your musical influences growing up?

The Beatles, nobody else until Chicago came out. I suffered terrible musical tunnel vision.

           

 I asked Murph to supply me a photo of him onstage.....he sent this and said he was on the far right!

 

 

 Who was the first live musical performance you experienced?

 My own little band with some friends in Youngstown.

   

                                This is how Murph gets those Organs so Shiny


 What do you remember most about those performances? 

Just how cool we really weren’t.

 

 

 Best live performance / concert you have attended? What made it special?

Chicago at Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pa.  THAT SOUND!

 

    Chicago II Before They Got Sissy                                       Civic Arena a Roadie's Nitemare!

 

 What music is in your CD player or I-Pod right now?

None, I listen almost exclusively to Nashville Public Radio, AM TALK.

 

 

 Tell us how you got into show business.

I saw the Beatles on the old Jack Paar show, long before they made it to Ed Sullivan. I was hooked.

 

 

 Murph Played B-3 On This Glen Campbell Record

 

What advice can you give to someone who is trying to break into show business.

You need lots of love and a very thick skin.

 

 

 What factors and strengths have made you so successful at your craft?

I expect from myself what I expect of others. I try to do my job “as unto the Lord”.

   

                                                Murph and the MagicTones


 What has been your favorite job in show business?

Besides the Hammond thing, years ago I used to tour a little bit around Eastern Europe before the Berlin Wall came down with a Christian artist I used to produce. It was very humbling to be with some of those folks over there. We’d always take some gear to give away.

 

 

 What is your favorite music venue?

The Ryman is still very cool. Only been there a few times, but I really enjoy a show there.

 

 

 What is your favorite city to visit?

Prague, Czech Republic

 

 

 What are your future plans?

 To keep getting better as a Hammond tech, I’ve got a lot of people that really rely on NPH & trust me. I would love to get some time off and take my wife Julie to Europe. I have never been to Italy and really shouldda been born Italian. I’d like to park it there in a small town or village and live as a local for a month or two.

    

                                                          Murph and Jules

 

 

 Take us through a typical day on the job.

C’mon, typical? Ok, how ‘bout “hurry up & wait”?

I try to get in the shop by 8 AM. I get most of the bookwork done in the morning between 8:00 to 8:30. It seems I’ve always got plenty of in shop repairs to do by virtue of my location at Soundcheck.  Today I had 4 separate Leslies to repair by 5PM. Around noon I got an emergency call from one of my clients at the Rukkus Room Studio, so I ran over there and did a fix. Came back & took a couple of mail orders (which I forgot to fill). Then another touring act that stores their gear at Soundcheck popped in to request repairs. And I spent probably 2 hours total on the phone doing tour support. Everybody is out right now.

      

                                                          Murph Takes This

      

                                                         And Turns it in to This


Bonus Question: Do you own any real estate?

Yes, our home in Sylvan Park. Almost 20 years there. For some reason we’ve always fought the temptation to move to the ‘burbs. We’re very glad we did. We love our neighborhood.

                  


Tell us a funny showbiz story.

I was down in Guatemala years ago, doing a concert with a CCM artist. Our host gave us a handout telling us a little bit about the country, customs, food etc. It made mention of how that area was very volcanic, which accounted for it’s mountains . It also mentioned that earthquakes, while not major, are common and if we felt a tremor, to try and get under a table or in a doorway.  Me and the guy I was with had to share a very small room with 2 twin sized beds. I was almost asleep when this rather big guy somehow slid out of his bed on his belly and grabbed the foot of my bed, shaking it and lifting it up a little. Well, I ended up spread eagle in a doorway of this hotel, in my drawers holding on for the ride of my life. The guy I was with just laid on the floor and HOWLED! I had 2 heart attacks.

 

Thanks Murph!

If you have any interest at all in Hammond Organs or Leslie Speakers go by Soundcheck and visit NPH at 740 Cowan St. Murph will be happy to show you around and answer any questions you have about his products and services. Murph is a miracle worker at taking an old organ or Leslie speaker and bringing it back to life. He is a great guy to know whether you need a tune up on your gear or you are in the market for new gear.

Nashville Pro Hammond Website
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