The Fender Contempo Organ

The Fender Contempo Organ
June 21, 2021 Max Brink
In Combo Organs

Here’s a rare and groovy piece that looks and sounds pure 60’s. The Contempo Organ is one of the lesser known combo organs manufactured by Fender in the mid to late 1960’s.

How does it sound? Well, pretty much how you’d expect a combo organ of this era to sound. It features silicon transistors, but gets a fatter tone by the use of diode clippers in the circuit. In our opinion this places it somewhere between the sound of a Vox and Gibson organ. One of the features that is unique to the Contempo is the option for both Tremolo and Vibrato, which when combined creates a really lush sound. They share an oscillator, so the fixed rate of the two effects is synced when either “Slow” or “Fast” is selected.

In the 1960’s Fender was just starting to work out the design and production of Harold Rhodes’ piano, and you can see a little bit of the carry over in certain parts (see product line promo photo at the bottom of this post). The bold red rounded mid-century lid mimics the contours of the iconic Rhodes’ lid design. The Contempo key bed was produced by the Pratt Reed company who also built the early Fender Rhodes key beds. Taking a closer look you’ll notice various hardware pieces used throughout the Fender product line as well as electronics components such as the “Blue Astron” caps (used in Fender tube amps of the same era). The organ originally shipped with chrome legs and a swell/expression pedal that was not included with this particular organ in for repairs.

We’re unaware of any specific hit songs that feature the Contempo, so if you know of any noteworthy recordings please share them in the comments below!

1967 Fender keyboard product line

 

 

Comments (5)

  1. Christopher Owen 11 months ago

    Any idea how to tune one? Haven’t been able to find anything about it and I am a novice.

    • Author
      Max Brink 11 months ago

      It has tuning coils like most other combos. The only major difference is that the coils are potted in wax and you need to heat the wax with a heat gun in order to get them to turn freely. There’s a lot more wax than Farfisa, who just used a dab, and getting them clean to turn takes a bit more work. If it’s not turning freely, don’t force it with too much torque or you run the risk of breaking the coil.

  2. Christopher Owen 11 months ago

    Thanks for responding, I’m in New Orleans and haven’t been able to find anyone with experience working with them.

  3. Forrest 2 months ago

    Contemplating the immediate purchase of a Fender Contempo with original stand. I passed along to the seller your comment regarding tuning the “coils” and the amount of wax required to navigate. Seller says, not to worry “no broken coils”. That being said what are the typical repair issues? I sense that parts, if required, are unavailable and “substitutions” would be necessary.

    Thoughts?

    …much gratitude for your expertise

    • Author
      Max Brink 2 months ago

      It’s impossible to say without sitting down with it in person, but in general a budget of $300-500 covers most basic repairs and a thorough cleaning of contacts and switches. Deeper-dive restorations may be as much as $1,000-1,500+ if there are a lot of issues to troubleshoot or replacement parts other than common electronics components that need to be replaced.

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