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Jerry & the Chamberlin

A bizarre clip featuring Jerry Lewis demonstrating an obscure keyboard from the '60's. Because the Chamberlin was known for it's 'universe' of sounds, it seems fitting that the Nutty professor himself explores it's possibilites. The 'Chamberlin' is an electro-mechanical keyboard instrument that was a precursor to the Mellotron. It was developed and patented by Iowa, Wisconsin inventor Harry Chamberlin from 1949 to 1956, when the first model was introduced. Various models and versions of these Chamberlin music instruments exist. While most are keyboard-based instruments, there were also early drum machines produced and sold. Some of these drums patterns feature Harry Chamberlin's son Richard on them. Harry Chamberlin's idea for inventing the instrument came from his recording himself playing an organ. He formed the idea of playback music coming from an organ as a source of entertainment. He soon set about designing the first Chamberlin instruments as early as 1949. The intention was for the instrument to function as a home entertainment device for family sing-alongs, playing the Big Band standards of the day. The Chamberlins use as a commercial instrument in rock (or rock and roll) music was never given consideration, as Harry Chamberlin generally resented rock music and rock musicians. The basic Chamberlin has a piano-style keyboard. Underneath each key is an individual magnetic tape playing mechanism. Each tape is pre-recorded with various musical instruments or special effects. When the player presses down a key, a pressure pad pushes the tape on to a tape head and a pinch roller beneath the key catches the tape and pulls it forward into storage box, (or on to a roller mechanism). As this occurs the sound of the tape is heard through an amplified speaker. When the player releases the key, the sound stops, and the tape rewinds by either metal spring rods (as on the early Chamberlins) or by a return roller mechanism (as on the later M1 models). Each tape is only a few seconds long (8 seconds on many units). To learn more about Chamberlin visit your local library.