With better timing and a bit of luck, Belleville could have been known for being much more than just the friendly city. The next time you listen to such songs as "A whiter side of pale" (Procol Harum); "Black magic women" (Santana); "Blinded by the light" (Manfred Mann); "Smoke on the water" (Deep Purple); "Born to be wild" (Steppenwolf); "Fly like an eagle" (Steve Miller); "Green-eyed lady" (Sugarloaf), be sure to make the distinct comparison of each of these songs. They all use the melodic sounds of the Hammond B3 Organ. All of these songs could have easily played on an organ invented and produced in Belleville. How cool would that be?
Frank Morse Robb (inventor) born 1902 Belleville, Ontario dabbled early in life as an inventor. As young as eleven years old while experimenting with some of his ideas, gave his father a mild shock and with another, ruined a pair of pants. He would attend McGill University between 1921-1924 and after his studies returned to Belleville. He always had a fascination with Pipe Organs and with the idea of recreating the grand sound of these magnificent instruments, but on a smaller scale. By 1926 he began research on his electronic organ and by November 1927 had created a working model. His electronic organ worked on the concept of twelve shafts, each representing a note on the chromatic scale. On each was mounted sets of tone wheels or discs. The shafts and discs rotated before tiny coils and magnets. Different speeds were producing different pitches. By 1928, Robb received a patent and with much excitement looked for financial support to mass create his invention. By 1931, Robb signed an agreement with Organ manufacturer, Casavant Freres, but the depression caused the company to back out of the deal.
With help from Lady Flora Eaton (Eaton Department Store) Frank Morse created the Robb Wave Organ Company in 1934 located on Sidney Street. He produced less than twenty working models. Lacking further financial support, Robb discontinued his project by 1938. The Robb Wave Organ was taken off the market by 1941, selling only thirteen units. The Depression, lack of financial support and competing against the much cheaper Hammond Organ was its ultimate demise. The Robb Wave Organ predated the Hammond by seven years and many at the time said it was equal to or superior to the Hammond.
Instead of Jon Lord from Deep Purple playing a Hammond, it could have easily have been Jon Playing Smoke on the water using a Robb Wave. Just think the waves it would have made in Belleville, had History made a different turn.
Surprisingly, Frank Morse Robb is not listed on Belleville's Wikipedia notable citizen list.
Note: There is believed to be only one working model of the Robb Wave Organ located at the National Music Centre Calgary shown below.
Frank Morse Robb - Born 28 Jan 1902, Belleville, Ontario. Death 5 Aug 1992, Belleville, Ontario
Spouse - Edleen Harriet Rose - Born 16 Apr 1903 Sidney Twnshp. Death 21 Oct 1988, Belleville, Ontario.
Son - Skye Robb - Born 1938 Belleville, Ontario. Death 5 Mar 1987, Belleville, Ontario.
Father - William Doig Robb - Born 23 Sept 1857, Longueuil Quebec. Death 23 June 1947, Montreal, Quebec.
Mother- Catherine Haggard Black - Born 16 Apr 1861 Quebec. Death 29 Dec 1937, Montreal, Quebec.