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Moe Denham: A Believer in the Hammond B3

Moe Denham's license plate reads: B3 PLYR.
Moe Denham's license plate reads: B3 PLYR.

It growls. It purrs. To many ears, the Hammond B3 organ seems alive, like some sort of rare animal.

Nashville-based session musician Moe Denham has tamed the beast over decades as a sideman to some of the biggest names in jazz and blues: Count Basie and Clarence Gatemouth Brown, for example. He's opened for Ray Charles, B.B. King and The Platters. And he's performed with such diverse talents as Neil Young, Bela Fleck and Ernest Tubb.

Now he's making his own music, with just a little help from the Hammond B3. His new CD is called The Soul Jazz Sessions. (Available, for now, at Denham's Web site.)

The B3 dates to the 1950s, and it has become an object of fascination for a select group of music lovers. Only about 100,000 Hammond B3 organs were built (in 2002, the company rolled out a replica). But the original has been a fixture at churches, rock concerts and nightclubs for half a century.

The B3's contributions to rock 'n' roll are surely familiar to anyone who has ever heard "A Whiter Shade of Pale" by Procol Harum or "Gimme Some Lovin'" from the Spencer Davis Group.

Denham tells Debbie Elliott about his relationship with the B3, and how it has shaped his musical odyssey.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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