The Chamberlin – The Worlds First Sampler

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The Chamberlin – The world’s first sample playback keyboard.

[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”2223″ css_animation=”appear” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”800×541″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]The Chamberlin was the world’s first sample playback keyboard developed in America between 1949 to 1956 by inventor Harry Chamberlin. Born in Iowa, Chamberlin worked his way around the midwest, putting in time in an Electronics factory in Milwaukee and selling and installing heating and refrigeration equipment in Illinois. He formed his own 8-peice dance band, had a nervous breakdown at 25, designed his own motorboat that won several races and invented an early version of the windshield washer but didn’t get it patented.

In 1949 he brought an instrument he’d always wanted an organ and decided to send a recording to his parents, who had moved to California. In the only full length interview he did in April 1976 when he was semi-retired at 74 he said “If i can put my finger down and get a Hammond organ note, why can’t i pick a guitar note or trombone note and get that under the key’s somehow. As long as i know how to play the keyboard i could play any instrument. If I can make a recording of myself playing, why not build a machine that plays recordings” of various instruments”.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_column_text]Chamberlin’s idea was a simple but totally unique concept for the time. To put a miniature tape playback unit underneath each key so that everytime a note was played, a tape of ‘real’ instruments and special effects could be played back. When the player releases the key, the sound stops, and the tape rewinds back to the start position. Each tape had a playback of about 8 seconds long.

The instrument was originally intended as a home entertainment device for family sing-a-longs playing the popular Big Band standards of the day. He never envisioned it would become such an important instrument and tool for Rock music and he was known to generally resent rock music and rock musicians.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2197″ css_animation=”appear” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”684×764″ img_link_large=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]He spent months at his own home experimenting with sound in different room’s throughout the house until he found the right acoustics to record the instruments. To record the sounds Chamberlin used the latest state of the art recording equipment and the still popular Neumann U47 microphones. All of the sounds were recorded with very little compression and a very clean output. Many have heavy vibrato true to the style at the time and the dynamics were kept true to the recordings. All of the recording’s were exclusively performed and contracted by members of the Lawrence Welk Orchestra in the late 1940s and throughout the 1950s.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2204″ css_animation=”appear” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”800×600″ img_link_large=”yes”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2205″ css_animation=”appear” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”800×600″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]In 1956 he created what was his first real commercial model and took this new 6 instrument unit that year to the annual “National Association Of Music Merchants” (NAMM) in Chicago. “The whole hotel was buzzing” said Chamberlin…We got so many orders we didn’t know what to do. Productions and sales began but problems soon followed. The Union began to hear about the unit and feared it was so good that if it was to be successful it would beat all the musicians out of business.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”2207″ css_animation=”appear” img_link_large=”yes” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”650×496″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]The American Federation Of Musicians originally banned the device fearing the Orchestral and real sounds it produced would threaten the jobs of musicians. Dick Moore their spokesman at the time said “We recognise the use of tape instruments as long as they are not utilised in order to displace another musician. Such use in any recording studio might constitute a contract violation and ground’s for shutting down the studio” The union later ruled that the “Chamberlin” could be used in cocktail loges as lounges as the keyboardist received the wages of three musicians.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]That proviso dampened sales although Chamberlin insisted that a cocktail lounge’s business would pick up by 50% if his instrument’s were used. Chamberlin persisted in improving his unit, and went to NAMM convention yearly until 1967. It was Chamberlin in fact who inspired most of the keyboard’s toys and instrument stimulator’s now in use. Mattel Toys, brought assets from Chamberlin’s design and created a talking doll and their Optigan keyboard which used the pre-recorded loop designs by Chamberlin, they also hired him as a consultant for two years.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Because of economics and union pressures, Chamberlin stopped making what was the Rolls Royce of his line the $10k M-4, which featured four keyboards and 32 instrument / voice / sound effect and rhythm tracks. Incredibly but not surprising for the times the union banned it totally. According to Chamberlin the union’s banning of his most sophisticated machine held little water. “Actually i was told by authorities that if i sued them they wouldn’t have a chance. But i didn’t have the money to fight those guy’s you know. They would just keep going and going until you were broke…I mean i could start in and go again. But im retired now and i dont want to go back”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_video link=”″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1”][vc_column_text]In 1965 “We had a salesman for us for about a year,” Chamberlin recall’s “And all of a sudden he took his demonstrator and we never heard from him again” The salesman was “Bill Franson” who posing as the inventor sold the rights to English company “Bradmatic” based in Birmingham and disappeared with the money. Chamberlin only found out about it when the newly formed company “Mellotronics” came to the NAMM convention with a Mk1 seeking a distributor (They went on to sign a deal with Dallas-Arbitor)

After lawyers were called in Chamberlin negotiated a deal for £32k what was for the the mid 60’s a huge amount of money. He agreed the Chamberlin would only be sold in America and the Mellotron’s would stay in the UK. After meeting with each other after the deal they agreed to share technical data and exchanged some tape sounds.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2198″ css_animation=”appear” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”600×800″ img_link_large=”yes”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/2″][vc_single_image image=”2216″ css_animation=”appear” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”600×800″ img_link_large=”yes”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]In New York “Barry Frederick” who possessed the only Chamberlin in the city advertised his machine for rent in the Village Voice. In 8 months he made a healthy $8k renting it to the top pop artists and unknown groups who wish to inject their demos with some class and to advertising agencies who were making jingles. Fredrick, 25, a keyboardist and songwriter came up with the idea as a business and vehicle to take him into the music world, paving the way for his own career. He explained “If i’m not playing on the session, they pay me $150 for 24 hours rental. You figure how many musicians you’s have to pay. Union scale is at least $100 for three hours each player” So if you have one guy playing Cello, one playing violin and one flute that’s at least $300 for three hours (or $2400k for 24 hour’s)[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_single_image image=”2230″ css_animation=”appear” img_link_large=”yes” img_link_target=”_self” img_size=”798×423″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Chamberlin Models.

There were approximately 500 – 700 units were made of both the keyboard-based instruments as well as drum machines.

* Chamberlin 100 – produced between 1948 og 1949. 4-10 were made.
* Chamberlin 200 – produced between 1951 og 1959. 100 +/- were made.
* Chamberlin 300/350 remotes – produced between 1960-1969. 200 +/- were made.
* Chamberlin 400 – produced in 1961. 1 was made.
* Chamberlin 500 – produced in 1961. 2 or 3 were made.
* Chamberlin 600/660 – produced between 1962-1969. 200+ were made.
* Chamberlin 25/35/45 Rhythmate – produced between 1960-1969. 100+ were made.
* Chamberlin 20/30/40 Rhythmate – produced between 1975-1980. 10+ were made.
* Chamberlin 800 Riviera – produced in 1970. 2 were made.
* Chamberlin M1, M2, M4 – produced between 1970-1981. 100+ were made.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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