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!