Kentucky Electronic Organs

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At almost any single period during the years 1970-1985 there were over 45 brands of new electronic organs on the UK market: Between them they managed to produce, 183 models under £1000, 137 models between £1000 & £2000 and 201 models over £2000+

Kentucky Electronic Organs

Postby Mike Bracchi » 15 Jul 2013 14:16

    Anybody remember these .... The Kentucky organs were as solid as a brick-built ***t-house, heavy and just like the Rover cars of the day, had 'bolt-on' side panels :wink:


The Kentucky organ came in 3 flavours, the Adventurer, Challenger and the Petit and I think that there was another model but cannot recall the name ... perhaps Andy or Bill will remember :wink:

Kentucky was a British company and operated around the early 70's from premises on the south coast of England .... the brand name was a play on the developers name - Ken Tuck :wink:




    Peter Butler, Kentucky's General Manager
    showing some visitors around the factory.
    (circa 1972)


Would be interesting if anyone owned or has had any experience of them, I only ever saw a couple over the years and they were both Challengers that we took in px against something or other ... I do remember it had a real smooth and rich flute sound :D


Kentucky Organ Company: Music magazine advertisement (circa 1972)
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Re: Kentucky Electronic Organs

Postby andyg » 19 Jul 2013 17:17

The three models stocked by Vince down at Southwick were Challenger, the original one, then the Explorer and finally the top of the range Adventurer. I can't recall ever seeing a Petit.

Sound-wise, Ken Tuck did a brilliant job of voicing them. Flutes were easily a match for Lowrey, and the other voices were a cross between Lowrey and Thomas. They had Ken's own design of rotary speaker (that saved them paying Leslie for an OEM unit but probably cost them more!) and an appallingly bad drum box, even for that era.

The modular construction was novel, with the bolt-on panels but there is a little story behind this. The organs were built on a metal frame, a bit like Dexion (remember that?). I'm told that my old boss, Peter Butler, ordered up a whole batch of these square metal tubes but when they were delivered, they were found to be too short! Kentucky's error, so they were stuck with them and they were still in the warehouse when the company stopped making the organs.

I don't think they sold that many of them and an Adventurer from Southwick managed to make its way across to the White Horse Inn in Rottingdean, where Jackie Brown and I used to play at weekends at one time. Jackie wouldn't play it, preferring the Lowrey Holiday that was also there. I did give it a whirl and was suitably impressed. I can remember Jackie and I doing some duets in the short time that the Kentucky was there. he'd taught me so much that it wasn't surprising that there was a lot of Jackie in my playing, our duets were interesting. I got told off for playing 'his' twiddly bits "better than him" - as if!!
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Re: Kentucky Electronic Organs

Postby Mike Bracchi » 19 Jul 2013 19:20

The three models stocked by Vince down at Southwick were Challenger, the original one, then the Explorer and finally the top of the range Adventurer. I can't recall ever seeing a Petit.


Hi Andy,

Apparently it was called the Petit 4 and it was produced in 1971 .... I cannot find anything about it other than a brief mention in a note authored by the late Bill Greenhill on the Kentucky, Bird & Burgh organs.

I may have a go at a more thorough search this weekend :)

The Kentucky Explorer .... that's the one I couldn't remember - thanks Andy :D
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Re: Kentucky Electronic Organs

Postby VinceB » 19 Jul 2013 19:58

Hi all

Yes I remember the Challenger, Explorer and the Adventurer, but cannot recall seeing nor hearing anything about the Petit.

I do remember Jackie Brown though, and his hatred the Kentucky. He said all they did to make the bigger ones was to add more bad sounds..... Well that's the more polite version of what he said! Anyone who knew Jackie well will be able to fill in the more accurate words he used.

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Re: Kentucky Electronic Organs

Postby electrosim2001 » 18 Aug 2013 08:35

I bought a Challenger and it was a decent sounding organ, nice looking, and well-built too. It's rotary speaker actually rotated if I remember correctly which caused a problem in that the rubber band used to drive the rotation snapped on my organ. I bought my Challenger from Wagstaff's Music Shop in Llandudno. I think the brand name, Kentucky, was a poor choice of name though. Might have done better had they been simply known as Ken Tuck organs, or better still used another name altogether.
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Re: Kentucky Electronic Organs

Postby Mike Bracchi » 13 Dec 2014 20:34

This 'Challenger' found it's way to Australia - Caulfield is a suburb of Melbourne.


I'm kinda surprised as I didn't think that Kentucky were sold anywhere but the UK - My guess is an emigrating family shipped it there with their household possessions :D
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Re: Kentucky Electronic Organs

Postby andyg » 14 Jan 2015 23:54

Whilst recalling an evening when I hung one of Kawai's big leslies on a Lowrey Holiday, it reminded me that at one point someone, maybe Vince(?) put the biggest model Kentucky into the White Horse Hotel in Rottingdean, where Jackie was playing that same Lowrey some Saturday nights. I'd occasionally go along to listen and inevitably Jackie would ask me to cover for him while he went for a, er, 'refreshment' break! We'd usually play some impromptu duets, I'd learnt many of Jackie's arrangements and we could 'share' them quite well. Well, as Vince said, he wouldn't touch the Kentucky when it was there and told me to play it. I did, I quite liked it and I can remember him asking me "How the heck (nearly the right word!) did you get that to sound like a Lowrey?" He kindly said I had a knack of getting good sounds out of anything he sat me down at - silk purses and sow's ears, or something like that. Remembering what many organs' voices were like back then, it was a useful skill. How did we get away with two bars of Stranger on the Shore on a tinny 8' Clarinet and convince buyers that they'd sound like Acker Bilk? :D
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Re: Kentucky Electronic Organs

Postby Wally Gator » 15 Jan 2015 00:18

It sounds like maybe the owner of the company liked Daniel Boone. He settled in Kentucky and was a Challenger, Explorer, and Adventurer. :D
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Re: Kentucky Electronic Organs

Postby Mike Bracchi » 15 Jan 2015 15:00

Hi Andy,

I spent quite a bit of time trying to find more info out about Kentucky organs, there doesn't seem to be information recorded about them - all my attempts lead me back to one company, Sydney S Bird of Poole in Dorset.

According to the info I have picked up the story goes something like this ....

Ole Sydney Bird was a forward-thinking chap in his day, and it is believed he had connections with John Logie Baird, inventor of the television, it is also held that Bird helped Baird establish the Baird Television Company.

Sometime before the outbreak of WWII, Bird wanted to get into the 'Toy' making business but back then Toy manufacturing in this country required a government licence to do so ... to save time Bird simply 'bought' into the toy business by acquiring two companies already established as toy manufacturers ... this was around 1932 and the companies were Prestico and Morthan (no, not MoreThan Insurance :wink: )

Prestico, made 'meccano' like construction kits that required no nuts and bolts, every piece just clipped together (maybe Peter's Kentucky frames started life here :) ), and Morthan made scaled down sewing machines, cookers and washing machines that operated by batteries.

After the war Bird acquired more companies, Airspace Radio Condensers of Tring was one of the firms targeted by Bird's growing empire ... this enabled him to design and manufacture the 'turret-tuner' which enabled the old BBC-only TVs to be converted to receive the then new independent TV channels, it was demand for this product that led to Bird relocating to Fleets Lane, Poole, in 1953 ... up until this point Sydney S Bird was located on the A10 Cambridge Road, Enfield.

By 1957, Bird was the Poole's largest single employer of labour, having some 1,000 people on its staff. A chap by the name of Richards was in charge of sales of all 'Cyldon' electrical products manufactured at the Bird factory - this included the famous 'Cyldon' door chimes later known as the Morphy-Richards Cyldon.
Other products produced by the company included cine reels up to 35mm and recording spools. All toys were sold under the "Vulcan" trade mark. Sydney S Bird became a public company, and about 1962 the company merged to become Astaron-Bird, a holding company comprising three firms: Sydney S Bird, Astaron Electronics and Morthan Ltd.


By the early 1960's the Bird organ was on the table at Sydney Bird and around 1964 they launched a new range of amplifiers and two new organs, one was futuristic and for professionals, the other for home use, called somewhat unimaginatively the 'Home Bird'.

Astaron Electronics concentrated on a new radar, called Raymarc, and echo sounders which were being fitted to trawlers and ships all over the word. Secret government work was also part of its remit.

From what I can gather at some stage during the late 1960's Ken Tuck joined the Bird company during which time the entire group was acquired by Brocks early in the 70's. The Kentucky Organ Company seemed to rise from break-up of the Sydney Bird emplre, but I can't be sure about that as the trail goes cold about the time Brocks took over ....

Maybe there is more to be uncovered in the future - who knows :D

Mike
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Re: Kentucky Electronic Organs

Postby Facebook & Youtube Feed » 03 Apr 2015 19:06

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