Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Joey DeFrancesco Sits Down For Killer B3

Until you have to do it, you cannot imagine what it's like to coordinate your no budget production schedule with the greatest musicians in the world who are traveling non-stop.
Joe DeFrancesco plays his rare Corina Blonde B3
So far, we have traveled to just shy of a dozen cities.  To start the new year, we headed to Scottsdale, Arizona.  There, Joey DeFrancesco and his organ playing dad graciously opened their homes, archive of photos, and personal memories to us.  

Getting to Scottsdale started out as a cold journey.  Before leaving Tampa, the ground crew at Southwest Airlines had to de-ice the plane.  No joke!  I don't know how cold it got that morning, but it was cold enough for us to scrape frost from the car with a spatchula.  Don't judge.  When we get frost in Florida, we scrape with whatever flips our eggs best.
Joe took this picture of the plane being de-iced at Tampa International Airport
We spent about two days in Scottsdale.  I have been to the area a bunch of times, Joe hasn't been since he was a kid.  We both were blown away with the lay of the land.  First, we couldn't help but notice the mountains.  They are not big, but distinctive.  We felt like we were on the set of a John Wayne movie.
One of the amazing Cactus' we saw sprawled throughout the desert.  This thing was at least 15 feet tall!
Secondly, the varieties of cactus' is incredible.  Some grow close to the ground in a cluster.  Others are well over 15 feet tall.  Their limbs grow outward like arms with a bent elbow.  They reminded me of a giant pretzel, like the ones you buy in the food court at the mall for five bucks.
A shot of me and Joe in the desert
After checking in to the hotel, we made it to Joey DeFrancesco's house around three o'clock in the afternoon.  With a hug and a smile, Joey greeted and treated us like family.  Our first stop, his garage.  There he has enough Hammond organs for a starting basketball team spread around in what he said will one day be his studio.  He has a bunch of Leslie Speakers too.  A couple of them were passed down to him from the late great Jimmy Smith, Sr. 

Of all the Hammond organs Joey has, one in particular is breathtaking.  It is probably why he has it sitting in his living room, just steps from the front door. 
Joe DeFrancesco plays his rare Blonde B3
Joey has a Corina Blonde B3.  Yep, that's right, a Blonde B3.  We had never heard of one.  I guess out of the couple hundred of thousands of B3's made, less than a hundred were Corina Blonde.  In all his time around Hammond organs, Joey told us, he has only seen three Blonde B3's.  While Hammond made plenty of other model organs in Corina Blonde, they were very selective about building B3's with this look. 

Golden in color, it is obvious why this rare beauty is called a Blonde B3.  Joey said, back in 50's, Hammond used to leave some organs unfinished to accommodate any custom orders.  It was not an advertised style available to just anyone.  You had to be special, and you had to have some extra bucks.  Joey said his Blonde B3 is by far his favorite of his Hammond organs to play.
Joey D plays talks about his 1957 Blonde B3
Walking around Joey's home is like a journey through a musical museum.  There aren't many people that have a trumpet passed down from Miles Davis.  And if that's not enough, he also has several organs and Leslie Speakers passed down from Jimmy Smith, his mentor and friend.

Joey was hand picked by Miles Davis to join his band at the age of 17.  He proudly showed us a horn Miles gave him with his signature bent mouth piece.  The horn sits proudly in a nook near Joey's living room.  Joey said, Miles was his inspiration to start playing the trumpet.  Today, Joey routinely plays the trumpet during many of his gigs.

On day two of of shoot, we spent time with Pappa John DeFrancesco.  Pappa John has a great history on the Hammond too.  Just hours before our flight back to Tampa, we had just enough time to visit him at his home in nearby Maricopa, Arizona.
Just minutes before our interview, I had a few laughs with Pappa John DeFrancesco at his home in Maricopa, Arizona
At 71, Pappa John is still recording great music.  We were listening to his 2010 CD, A Philadelphia Story, in the truck. 

Pappa John and his wife of 50 years, Lorene were so gracious to us.  Pappa John told us how his son Joey's name became synonymous with organ music.   Simply put, he said Joey would practice Jimmy Smith's music all day and everyday.  What ever Joey heard, he could play it.  As a kid, the only way to punish Joey was to stop him from playing the organ, he said.

During our more than 3 hour conversation, Pappa John told some great stories about Joey, the organ and the music legends they have  brushed elbows with.  Surprisingly, Pappa John doesn't take much credit for Joey's talents.  He said, Joey did all the work himself.
Pappa John DeFrancesco tells us candid stories about his son, Joey and other organ greats
Two stories really stick out.  First, the story of what 7 year old Joey did to meet Jimmy Smith, Sr. for the first time.  Both father and son remember it well.

When Joey was 7, he found a phone number to the Jimmy Smith Supper Club.  It wasn't hard, the number was printed directly on a the cover of a Jimmy Smith album as part of the artwork.

Disguising his voice, Joey not only called the number, but he left a name and number on the answering machine.  Young Joey didn't leave his name, instead he said he was Stanley Turrentine.  Yep, the  7 year old passed himself off as the saxophone great.

Perplexed and flattered by the call, Jimmy Smith returned "Stanley Turrentine's" message.  Lol.  Joey D and Jimmy Smith eventually became musical collaborators and close friends till Jimmy's death in February of 2006.
(L) Pappa John DeFrancesco, Lorene DeFrancesco, Joe Bamford, Murv Seymour
The other story that had us cracking up was when Pappa John talked about one night he had to load his organ on stage for a gig. Of course, he had to load it up a steep staircase.  Every organ player has a story like this, but Pappa John's story was uniquely funny.

Keep in mind, a B3 weighs every bit of 400 pounds.  Using skills that rival McGyver, Poppa John said he and the band had a plan.
Pappa John DeFrancesco sits and talks with us at him home in Maricopa, Arizona
One musician tied a rope around the B3's sporty legs.  While Pappa John is saying this, me and Joe were already laughing.  Lol.  I'm laughing now just thinking about it again.  Lol.

Pappa John and another musician figured they would push the organ, while the other musician pulled.  Suddenly, the musician pulling said he couldn't hold the rope any longer.  Both Pappa John and the other band member had no choice, they took off running down the steps.  I imagine a scene like the one in Indiana Jones, where Indiana Jones was chased from a cave by a giant boulder.

Pappa John and his band mate were quickly followed by the barreling organ.  He said the organ was popping light fixtures as it made its way toward the bottom of the stairs.  They barely got out of the way, Pappa John said.  He said the organ flipped end over end before coming to rest.  They changed out some broken tubes and clicked the organ to the on position.  Believe it or not, It worked.  The organ fired up!  They performed the gig as scheduled.  But he said, they were docked pay for each of the light fixtures they took out.  He said he told the owner of the club to get an elevator.

After our talk, Poppa John treated us to a little of his playing.  Man,  he knows how to swing that organ!

Big thanks to the DeFrancesco's for making our trip to the Phoenix area so great.
Pappa John DeFrancesco plays a little blues after his interview
See you next time.  Check out our Youtube channel, we're always adding new clips.  Don't forget to like Killer B3 on facebook.  You can also visit our website @ for the latest on KB3.  Happy New Years again everybody!

Murv & Joe
Producers, Killer B3


  1. Hi! i'm a keyboard player and also filmmaker from Argentina. I've just discovered your proyect which I happend to find absolutely amazing. I wish all the best for this movie and If there is anything I can do to help you from this lands, I'll be very glad. I'll be in touch. PS: I invite you to visit my own blog on Black Music.

    1. @tonysoulman, thanks for stopping by! If you can help us spread the word about Killer B3, this would be awesome. Send em to

      We will definitely checkout your blog too!

  2. Actually, the B3 weighs in a just a bit over 300 lbs. As for Joey, it's anybody's guess.