Jan 16, 2010

More organ notes

Here's a web page about Dan Wheeler, organist and music director for the Wheeling Nailers, and a guy who infamously for got tossed out of a game for playing "Three Blind Mice" after a bad call from the refs:
In a play-off game in this first season Dan was ejected from a game for taunting the officals with the song "Three blind mice". The game was being televised in Canada and ESPN sports. The ousting from the game made front page news and was picked up by wire services nationwide, making Dan the first organist in professional hockey history to ever be ejected from a game. A letter was directed to him from the commissioner of the league warning him and the team of a $500.00 fine and a bench minor penalty. Couch Doug Sauter commented along with the local papers that Dan was a important part of the team and fired up the crowds with his music.
And here's an article from SLAM! Sports about Horace Lapp, the original organist at Maple Leaf Gardens. (Read more about the original Maple Leaf Gardens organ here.)
In the early 1950s, my dad took me south from New Liskeard to visit family in Mimico. Uncle had tickets for a Leafs-Bruins game, and so, an excited teenager's first streetcar ride was to the Gardens.

The moment we entered the shrine, I could both hear and feel Horace.

Scaling the heights to greys in a corner, I couldn't care less how bad the seats were, the girder in front of us a shared obstruction. Lapp was playing La Golondrina (The Swallow) as the teams warmed up, swooping and gliding over the ice. With the power of the Mighty Wurlitzer organ at his command, his glorious sound resonated through the very wood beneath you, shivering your timbers.

Now and forever, it was the ultimate in piped-in noise.

I recall hearing a few bars of the Skaters Waltz during a protracted brawl, an abbreviated chorus of You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby as a combatant headed to the dressing room trailing blood from a high stick to the chops. Other than that, Horace restricted himself to playing mini-concerts between periods, an early apostle of less-is-more, no surprise that one of his first gigs was accompanying silent films.

Leafs owner Harold Ballard ripped out both the portrait of the Queen and the Mighty Wurlitzer from the end zones to make way for more seats, claiming they weren't paying the freight. Pal Hal ushered in an era of on-the-cheap, amateur organists who couldn't carry Horace Lapp's jockstrap in a bushel basket.

Where once silence was golden -- the game the thing -- we now find ourselves talking about whether the loudmouths who have taken over the airwaves and the sound systems should be further allowed to distort reality, to crank up the volume to unbearable levels.

Speaking for old guys, we have the option of tuning out or turning down the sound on our hearing aids. But even your Billy Bobs from Barrie recognize aural manipulation when they hear it. I recommend as an antidote Horace Lapp's version of Your Cheating Heart between whistles.

No comments: