A Baldwin Interlude Organ with Fun Machine (Model 127W) dominated a corner of the formal living room in the house I grew up in on Bunker Hill Drive. The golden velvet curtains paired well with this wooden-veneered 1970s creation. The bench storing sheet music specially made for the Fun Machine offered a new treasure trove of cartoon illustrations and wacky 70s fonts to explore.
Creating music felt accessible, even to a little girl like me who hadn’t even started kindergarten. When I learned how to read, these retro songbooks taught me terms like foxtrot, bossa nova, polka and rhumba – and I played them all on the Fun Machine. A cute little cartoon man guided amateur musicians through the books of easy-to-read instructions.
The Fun Machine featured split-level keyboards and lots of buttons, switches and knobs allowing the player to instantly transform the sound to be guitar, banjo, flute, trumpet, piano and, of course, organ, among others. This kid-friendly instrument offered a way to make a rhythm back beat, like tango, waltz, samba or rock-and-roll.
In 1977, Johnny Burnett sold cars for Cliff Peck Chevrolet. Many nights he plopped himself on the Fun Machine’s wooden bench and pounded out a fancy song. And that’s how I knew — daddy’s home! I’d be in the back of the house, playing with toys and I’d be triggered by a sound. I could name that tune.
When I heard daddy playing the organ, my ears perked up like it was the ice cream man serenading me from down the street, beckoning me to come forth with my quarter for a sweet orange Creamsicle. I’d run to the living room and stand beside him as he played and sang his song to me.
“More…than the greatest love the world…has known,” he’d begin to sing. “This…is the love I’ll give to you…alone.”
From the many songbooks, daddy memorized one song in particular, “More,” which was listed as the love theme to the 1962 “shockumentary” Mondo Cane. I tried to sit through a VHS version when I came across the obscure title in the 90s, but I wasn’t ready for it.
Daddy loved to play “More” using different variations with the organ’s sound effect settings. For each verse, he’d change the sound or the tempo or the back beat. Sometimes, I’d stand beside the organ and play the keys near me, smiling up at him, looking him in the face for recognition. This was something we shared together because my little brother wasn’t even born or just a baby, and mom was usually cooking dinner. Maybe she knew this was our thing and left us alone.
“ I…know I never lived before….and my heart is very sure….no one else could love you more,” daddy sang away, smiling down to me.
And that’s why I selected the song to be performed at his funeral.