From The Desk Of Tommy Keene: Baldwin Fun Machine

tommy-keenelogo150frTommy Keene has been playing guitar hero for more than a quarter-century, both on his power-pop solo albums (his latest is In The Late Bright, out this week) and as a sideman for Robert Pollard and Paul Westerberg. Keene, apparently weary of all the critical acclaim, agreed to dole out some of his own praise. He’s guest editing magnetmagazine. com this week and compiled a mix tape for us with a free mp3.

organ440Keene: At a Palm Springs consignment store a few years ago, I came across a Baldwin Fun Machine, an old, tacky-looking keyboard that was priced at $125. It turned out to be the best $125 I’ve ever spent. With push-button controls, you can dial up all kinds of cheesy sounds like flute, banjo and vibraharp. The main keyboard has three octaves, with a separate octave for bass and percussion. Dig these samples you can whip up: Foxtrot, Swing, Country (real, I suppose), Pop Rock and the best, Soul Rock! Every time I sit down and turn it on and start playing, an idea seems to form for a song. It might be a full-fledged number or an idea for a Bob Pollard intro tape, but I always seem to get something out of it. Songs that have sprung from one of the these sessions include “Texas Tower # 4″ from Crashing The Ether; “Late Bright,” the opening track from my new record In The Late Bright; and “Lost Upon Us” from the Keene Brothers’ Blues And Boogie Shoes. (On the latter, that’s the Soul Rock button you hear at the beginning.)

The Keene Brothers’ “Lost Upon Us” from Blues And Boogie Shoes:

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20 Comments

  1. Steve Frisbie
    Posted February 20, 2009 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

    really enjotyng these guest editor weeks, and Tommy’s especially. Great tune…I’m getting the Keene Bros record asap. Way to bring out the best in Bob.

  2. Betty Pierson
    Posted December 5, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    I have a Baldwin Fun Machine which I put into an antique organ, which enhanced the sound but also replaced the 25 amp speaker to 50 amp. But now after many years the cable from the amp box to the chord keys is no longer working. I can not find anyone who is willing to work on it .or find a new cable. Do you have any suggestion? Thank you Betty

  3. Ivor M
    Posted January 11, 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    My Fun Machine sat in a Goodwill thrift store for about a month. It was in excellent condition and the price was $125. Each time I went into the store I saw that they’d lowered the price by putting a new price sticker over the old one. I kept looking at it but decided not to buy it because I already had too many keyboards. It had been marked down 5 times and was on sale for $5.95. They kept trying to talk me into buying it. I said sorry, but no. They said “It’s yours if you haul it away.” I did. I had no idea how freakin’ cool this thing is! I love it!!! It sounds cheesy, yet in a high quality way. A very fine cheese indeed!

  4. Frank Discussion
    Posted March 10, 2010 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    Similar story to Tommy’s… I bought my FunMachine at the Angel View Thrift store on Indian Canyon Blvd in Palm Springs for $59. It’s in perfect condition and I love how I can tweak some Moog effects from this compact little keyboard. By the way, Tommy totally kills with Westerberg on the song “Love Untold” while performing on David Letterman… YouTube it!

  5. Posted March 23, 2010 at 12:40 am | Permalink

    My Fun Machine came years ago from my aunt and uncle who gave it to me when they remembered “Tommy likes music” (I’ve been a musician my entire life). Today, after deciding to pass it along to a friend, I flipped it on and got a horrible 60 cycle roar instead of lovely, cheesy, retro-consumer organ sounds.
    Opening the back revealed what looks like a separate, hard-wired signal path for every key and button. Where to start?
    Does anyone know where to find a schematic, or someone who likes to fix these things?

  6. Posted April 5, 2010 at 9:30 pm | Permalink

    LOOKING FOR USER’S OR OPERATOR’S MANUAL W/NO LUCK SO FAR… AY HELP??? THX!!! R.

  7. tin veil
    Posted May 15, 2010 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

    Just got rid of the fun machine that had been in our studio for 5 years, went to a good owner, will be missed, its funky sounds are on display within the tracks by the artists who call themselves Dead Tuna Productions….. the tracks are called “answer part 1 ” and “answer part 2″

    hear it here in full bloom@

    http://www.myspace.com/deadtunaproductions

  8. loquat
    Posted August 8, 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    I opened up my grandfathers old storage locker and found the full on organ version on which the Fun Machine is based on. I was surprised to learn that the organ went for around $8000 CAD in 1978 when my grandpa bought it. It’s no where near as convenient as the Fun Machine, but it’s got some pretty amazing sounds in it all the same.

  9. Jean Edwards
    Posted February 2, 2011 at 9:54 pm | Permalink

    I bought a Baldwin Fun Machine recently and the sound and rhythm is intermittent.
    Sometimes it is fine and other times the chord section doesn’t turn on or the upper hand goes very soft. Does any one have a trouble shooting guide book or a suggestion as what to do? I love it when it is working.

  10. Posted March 8, 2011 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    y have a trouble shooting guide book

  11. Posted June 7, 2011 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    My first keyboard! given to me by my now passed Grandma back in 1984. it has survived a house fire and a flooded basement, many moves, neglect, hot storage, and attacks from space invaders ( yep the ones right out of the arcade game from our beloved FunMachines era). well ok I may have exagerated that last part a bit but all the rest is true. reguardless it is beginning to loose some of its splender and functionality so the time has come to restore he old stove and I would pay any one good money for even a photo copy of the schematicand/or service manual. This would make heart cry with unspeakalbe joy.

    -tony void

  12. Rick Tomasini
    Posted August 9, 2011 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I have the exact fun machine as Tommy Keene that i would like to sell, but have no idea what its worth.
    The condition of this machine is 98% everything works and looks great.
    If you know of anyone interested in purchasing this machine please let me know.

    Rick

  13. Posted December 11, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink
  14. Mike
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    I bought a fun machine in ’07 for $25 at a Savers by my house. I used it all over my record Hungry Cloud. If you want to hear what it sounds like check out http://hungrycloud.bandcamp.com/track/oh-oh-i-feel-much-better-now

  15. Annette
    Posted January 4, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink
  16. T.Smith
    Posted March 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink
  17. S.Sebastian
    Posted June 18, 2012 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    We just purchased a great condition Baldwin Fun Machine at an auction for $2.50. Now we need an instruction manual. Does anyone have one to sell?

  18. Posted September 21, 2012 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    My husband came home this week with a Fun Machine Organ. It is in pretty good shape, but has a distinct “minor” twang to it. I located the “Minor Touch” key on front face and thought it adjusted, but does not move. Is this supposed to turn the minor sound on and off or am I stuck with the “minor twang” ? I need to practice church music and this is very frustrating. HELP!

  19. Dean
    Posted November 29, 2012 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    Just purchased Baldwin Caberet Fun Machine. Got it home it played fine foe a couple of hours, then quit with no lights on or a sound. What could have haplpened or is there a reset someplace? We have no manual.

  20. Posted September 30, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

    I just bought one of these on my lunch break for a little over $50! Stoked!